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Drill Team Drama

July 1, 2014 in Commentary, Drill Teams Unarmed Drill TeamDrillMaster,

My JROTC unit recently formed a drill team but there is so much drama, no one is happy with anything. Is there any advice you could give me so that I can end the drama and continue drill without having to leave upset?

The commanders are busy with color guard the cadet in charge is as childish as all the others and it doesn’t help that I’m the only girl. I don’t want to quit because I love it but at this point I don’t know what to do anymore. We all argue so much that we barely practice and we have a competition in about a month I really want us all to do well.

~Cadet P

Hello Cadet P,

Teenagers = drama, in general. Who is the Commander? Leadership is required here to establish what happens at practice, etc.

My website,, has tons of good info for you as well as my books. The team’s leadership and the team members need to educate themselves as to how to practice, where to begin and how to create a routine.

Communication is necessary. Go to my site, read about how to create a routine and then go to the downloads page and print out some routine mapping tools and anything else you’d like. Take the info in to school and show the team members that you have a desire for success.

Any questions you may have, please let me know.


jrotc, exhibition drill, drill team, how to write drill, how to create a drill routine

Color Team: This Position is not Authorized for any Service Branch

June 17, 2014 in Color Guard/Color Team, Commentary, Honor Guard, Instructional

Color Team: This Position is not Authorized for any Service Branch

Colors- Never Parade Rest

Never should a color (a color is a flag attached to a flagstaff) be pushed out like a guidon when at Parade Rest or Stand at Ease. The position pictured here is ONLY for a guidon bearer.

guidon, color guard, color team, honor guard, jrotc

Where’s the Power?

June 10, 2014 in Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Instructional

Where's the beef?Several years ago, the Wendy’s restaurant chain had a commercial with some older women asking, “Where’s the beef?” suggesting that Wendy’s competitor’s beef* patties were comparatively small. (*You would be surprised at the contents of fast food burgers.)

While I do not advocate fast food at all, I do advocate asking questions and learning. Hence the title of this article, “Where’s the Power?” But what is this, “power”?

Knowledge is power and, if you’ve read my website for any length of time, you will know that my books and articles are geared toward educating anyone with an interest in military drill.

The military services do not teach past the ‘marching a unit from point A to point B’ paradigm. This is exactly what they need so why teach beyond that? Sure, there are a few specialized units that require a higher level of knowledge of drill and ceremonies, here, though, we speak of the general everyday Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman: they all graduate their service’s Basic Training with a certain level of knowledge of marching. When it comes to competitive drill, the paradigm shifts to a much higher level of required knowledge.

In another article, The Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine, I wrote about dividing the time a soloist or team spends on the drill area. It is helpful to understand the time spent in these different sections. It is also helpful to understand the geography of a drill area and the gravity each area contains.

Drill Area Diagram

Powerful vs. Weaker Movement
Movement that is inward, forward and sometimes outward (think of a team in a circle at the center) can be powerful. Movement that take the team or soloist away from the audience is seen as ‘weak’.


The Weak Areas
These areas are not meant to be avoided! One must us as much of the area as possible, but when creating a routine powerful movement on the sides might be lost by the audience. The arrows also show that moving backwards or away from the audience is also considered ‘weak’. Drill and equipment movements here can help build tension and have that tension flow through to:

The Strong “Push” Area
Here we can see that moving toward the audience communicates strength so it is beneficial to create a strong sequence here that moves the team/soloist forward. A word of caution: moving forward too soon or too often can create tension too early or too many times in the program, leaving the audience tired from watching or even flat at the end of the performance. Which leads the team or soloist right into:

The Power Area
In this area, we see that this is where strong, powerful move and sequence communication is best: the team/soloist is closest to the audience and movement articulation is clearest. The area does not extend to the front edge because one can be ‘too close’ to one’s audience, it depends.

jrotc, exhibition drill, drill team, how to write drill, how to create a drill routine

So, you want to be a drill team Instructor?

June 3, 2014 in Commentary, Drill Teams, Instructional

Drill Team Instructor CoachIf you are like me, you love to work with students and teach them everything you know so that they can go off and maybe do the same while building on the foundation you’ve given them. There is another side to working with children/young adults: protecting them and even yourself against evil.

I’ve never thought about this kind of danger since my motives have been to educate. It was a shock to go through youth protection training and see that not only are children in danger from predatory adults and other children, but I was possibly in danger as well. Guarding the youth I work with and guarding myself have been part of my philosophy ever since I began teaching, but now, I have the tools with which to be more effective at it.

The truth is, there is evil in our world and it is possibly right next to you. Evil hides well. For a while. It is then discovered, but only after something terrible has happened. Guard yourself against it, become aware and know the signs of evil against children/young adults.

BSA-logoBoy Scouts of America Youth Protection Web-Based Training

Create an account, take the training and save the certificate. It’s also a good idea to keep your certification up-to-date at least every two years if not annually.

Become a Certified DrillMaster
Nothing communicated that you know what you are doing like certifications. Almost every field has some sort of certification process and military drill is no exception! For complete information on obtaining certifications, click here.

Complete local requirements
Contact the school where you would like to work. Volunteer in the beginning, if necessary. Many good job begin as volunteer opportunities. Find out as much as possible about the courses that are offered either through the school district or at a community college and make every attempt at finishing the following before the first practice date.

  • Completion of an 8-hour Fundamentals of Coaching course.
  • Completion of a Concussion in Sports course.
  • Completion of an approved CPR course issued by the American Red Cross, The American Heart Association or similar entity.
  • Completion of a 4-hour Sports Medicine or Sports Safety First Aid course issued by the American Red Cross or similar entity.
  • Any other required courses/documentation that the school district may require.

Show initiative!
Working on your certifications and completing required course work through the summer will show the staff that you mean what you say: you are the best person for the job, bar none!

The Registration Application Works!

May 24, 2014 in Announcements, Commentary

The DrillMasterYes folks, I was finally able to get the code and my friend at Dave Becker Design to finally make things work. It’s difficult being a one-man band while maintaining the site, writing articles, teaching, writing books and all of the others things necessary in life. But, God is good and gracious and I was able to connect with Dave and have him take care of a long overdue job.

Please register and begin the discussions in the forum, comment, inform and learn!

jrotc, honor guard, cadet, guardsman, training, exhibition drill, regulation drill, color guard, color team, drill team, firing party, pall bearers, casket bearers, firefighter, fireman, police, sheriff, law enforcement, ems, first responder

Creating Check Points When Training

May 20, 2014 in Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional

Defining and Creating Check Points

A check point is a moment in time and space where synchronized movement takes place. Let’s take a look at a simple hand salute:

Check Points- Hand Salute

Hand Salute

Check Point Begin

Check Points- Hand Salute

Hand Salute

Check Point 1


Hand Salute

Check Point 1&

The positions are approximate


Check Points- Hand Salute


 Check Points- Hand Salute

Hand Salute

Check Point 2

Hand Salute

Check Point 2&

 Hand Salute

Check Point 3


For honor guard units, we have a three-second hand salute. We count it this way: “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.” In the picture sequence above, the six images to illustrate the salute movements and we can count it in a similar fashion but break it down like counting dance or music like this: “one and two and three.” Yes, “Begin” is a check point. When you are dealing with a team, you must ensure that everyone is in the same position for initiating the movement. The pictures are from my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

Now, let’s talk about equipment. For military exhibition drill, equipment is defined as a rifle, sword, saber, and guidon and for San Fransisco JROTC drill teams, this also includes what is called a swing flag (a shorter flag, about the length of a rifle). In the (marching band) color guard and winter guard world, we use three standard pieces of equipment: flag, rifle and saber. This equipment comes from military color guards and how marching bands and drum corps had many musicians and marching instructors that were veterans returning from WWII. Flag presentations were part of every performance. Eventually, the young ladies in the color guard incorporated more and more dance, layered underneath equipment use, and now what we have today is more of an athletic-dance-color-guard with military roots.

The advancement of movement and equipment use in (marching band) color guards has far surpassed military drill since the late 1970s and early 1980s and now military drill is catching up- but we need to educate.

Synchronized equipment work creates a powerful visual effect and it is the goal of a team to be in sync and we do this through check points. The equipment, in this case we will use the rifle, must be at a certain point/angle at a certain time.


How to spin a rifle- start



How to spin a rifle- count 1


How to spin a rifle- count 1&



For the pictures above, I am executing a single-handed front spin with my left. Start at Port, drop to horizontal and push with the right while lifting with the left to create the spin.

Sets of Eight
It is always a good idea to break sequences down into smaller sets to work on the fine details, master those details in that set and then move on so that when you get into more technical work, you can begin counting in sets of 8 and create check points through that set. The following video gives an excellent illustration of this point. Though it is based on spinning a (marching band) color guard saber, it applies perfectly.

exhibition drill, regulation drill, drill team training, jrotc, honor guard

Flag Drill Teams: Making Lemonade out of Lemons

May 13, 2014 in Drill Teams, DrillCenter News

The reason some of the drill teams in San Fransisco and other areas of California use swing flags instead of rifles is due to anti-gun sentiments for many years. According to their website, “The Flag Team, or FT (formerly Boys Drill Team, or BDT) descended from the Rifle [Armed Drill] Team, which was discontinued in 1994 by the San Francisco Unified School District. So instead of using rifles, the Flag Team drills with metal poles with flags. Both the Flag Team and the [female Unarmed) Exhibition Drill Team perform in various parades and the Annual Spring Review Competition [among other drill meets].”

This is Washington High School’s Flag Team.

Many moves similar to exhibition drill performed with a rifle.

This is the female Exhibition Drill Team.

Quite a bit of singing/chanting with unorthodox movements.

And something very unique, what the JROTC units in the area call a “Drum Corps” (actually a marching percussion section)

The drum major’s use of the military signal baton isn’t exactly “regulation,” but he gets the job done nicely.

jrotc, exhibition drill, unarmed drill team, flag drill team, drill comptition, drill meet

Who do you Support?

April 16, 2014 in Commentary, Drill Teams, Honor Guard

Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps

Who do you Support?


I was wearing one of my drum corps shirts one day (the one on the right is my shirt from the Bluecoats of Canton, OH.) not too long ago at the exchange on base near where I live and an Airman walked up to me and said as he passed, “Thank you for supporting drum corps.” I turned with a big smile and asked with what corps he marched and he told me Phantom Regiment in the late 80s. We didn’t get a chance to speak any longer than that, but it reminded me that I, in my small way, contribute to the entire program. I help young men and women from around the country march with a drum corps each year. Yes, just by purchasing a T-shirt. And that’s why organizations sell things- for support and to advertise. Which brings me to the military drill world.

You are a Driller or a member of an honor guard. What are you sporting each day, some mega corporation’s logo or a T-shirt of your team or unit? Do you know that the DrillMaster has T-shirts and other items for Drillers and honor guard units? Click the Store tab above. If you are a member of the military drill world, do you know about For the Art Clothing Company? If not, now you do.

What does wearing a T-shirt of your (favorite) team accomplish?

  1. It supports the team directly through a purchase.
  2. It advertises for the team.
  3. It helps people with like interests, find each other, building a community around that interest.
  4. It supports jobs for T-shirt manufacturers, printers and delivery industries.

Your purchase has a big impact on the activities you like. Now, go browse FTA and see the cool stuff offered there.

Ask the DrillMaster: How to handle a bad JROTC Instructor

March 25, 2014 in Ask DrillMaster, Commentary

jrotc, exhibition drill, drill team

A Good JROTC Instructor, Image courtesy

Question: Our JROTC instructor doesn’t work with the drill team. He spends all of his time in the classroom, even after school and he won’t look up any information to take us to drill meets. What can we do?

Answer: I have received several questions like this over the years. There are good and bad people in all walks of life and we have to deal with them. These kinds of situations need to be handled as professionally as possible. While you may be upset at your instructor’s inaction, as a cadet, you need to be respectful at all times, not only because of your instructor’s rank, but because he/she is an adult as well. There is no excuse for disrespect as it is improper and will only hurt your efforts for change.

How to create change
Write. Write down your grievances (be respectful and professional) and bring them to your instructor(s). After making them aware, if the instructor(s) don’t respond positively, you have the right to go up your school chain of command; the next level would possibly be a vice or assistant principal or even the school principal. It is also possible to involve parents. Again, everyone involved needs to be very professional.

What happens when things don’t change?
You have two options: 1. Keep at it and deal with the instructor(s), learn from the bad leadership that is displayed as “what not to do”; 2. Leave JROTC. For some, this may seem like the only option.

Something to keep in mind
I have dealt with and worked with JROTC instructors who are less than desirable. Those who are great instructors take the time to work with their cadets in all kinds of extra curricular activities: drill team, color team, rifle team, Raiders, model rocketry, academic club, etc. Others, in general, tend to shirk responsibilities.

Throughout my USAF career I came across experts in all kinds of career fields and other areas of interest that people were very interested in. There is a phrase in the Air Force, and most likely all of the others services, that applies to non-commissioned officers (NCOs) at all levels: “As an NCO __________” and one can fill in the blank with just about anything. I’ll give you an example of how it is used: As an NCO, you are a leader and responsible for the troops you supervise. As an NCO, you must be highly proficient in your job-related duties. As an NCO, you are responsible for knowing drill and ceremonies since it is an NCO’s job.

This last statement, while very true, is not fulfilled by every NCO in the service. Understandably, drill and ceremonies is very low on the list when it comes to the responsibilities of service members because of their job, their wartime skills, etc., etc. This brings up the issue of an NCO retiring from the service, being interviewed and hired at a school, attending their service’s JROTC instructor course and then beginning their new career of high school teacher and its responsibilities. Some schools have 3 and 4 instructors, but most have just 2.

Some men (women not so much) try to cover up that they do not know drill and ceremonies all that well by avoiding the issue (so you don’t find out that they might be a “failure”- they aren’t, though) and still others will embrace a volunteer coach (my interaction with the AFJROTC instructors at Melbourne High School here in Florida) and try to learn everything they can so that they can step up and teach drill. MSgt Greene at Melbourne High always said to his cadets, “There is a big difference between knowing/doing and teaching.” He’s correct, teaching a certain subject takes a certain skill, just like judging a certain subject.

Ego can get in the way
‘We don’t need a coach, we have a former drill instructor here.’ Great! However, being a DI or TI means that you can train recruits for your service which, among many other things, includes drill and ceremonies. When working with recruits, DIs and TIs do not have time to break down proper step technique, balance, posture, or even rifle spinning techniques and a myriad of other very necessary steps that must be taught to drill teams. Being a retired DI/TI is a great asset to a JROTC unit, just like having honor guard experience, but it’s only a foundation. Cadets are not recruits and do not require that type of training.

Make an effort to educate and, again, be respectful. Show your instructors this website, there is tons of info here. Send me a message through my Contact page and I can help you find a coach.

The Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine

February 11, 2014 in Commentary, Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Instructional

Canadian Air Cadet DTThe Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine

In the article, How to Keep a Drill Team Going, I briefly mentioned the seven parts of an exhibition drill (XD) routine. Here, I will expand on and explain those parts.

These parts are a good way to break down the routine into digestible parts when programing (creating).

The information provided below is for a soloist, tandem, tetrad (4 or 5) or full team (9, 12, 16, 25) in competition.

1. The Opening Statement

  • Before you enter the drill area, this should be no are than around 10 seconds long
  • Butt slams, chants and high tosses are examples of great ways to get the attention of your audience.

2. Up to the Report-in

  • This includes the report-in
  • This part of the sequence can be all high energy work or it can have peaks and valleys
  • The report-in should be within the first 2 minutes
  • Block, staggered and wedge formations work well here for the report-in formation.

3. After Report-in

  • The transition away from the report-in and the head judge, around 30 seconds to a minute
  • This is separated from the Routine Body because it matters how the team moves away from the report-in- different is a good thing

4. The Routine Body

  • This is the majority of the routine, (2-3 minutes for a drill team)
  • Visual peaks of high intensity work and valleys of relatively low intensity work are a must
  • Display a wide vocabulary of
    1. Drill moves
    2. Body (head, torso, arms and hands) and foot work
    3. Equipment (flag, rifle, sword/saber and/or guidon) work

5. Before Report-out

  • It also includes the Report-out
  • This is the transition toward the the head judge, about 30 seconds to a minute, the report-out should be within the last 2 minutes
  • This is separate from the Routine Body because, again, it matters how

6. After Report-out

  • This is the build up to the closing statement
  • A high energy build up is a great way to to create intensity for a powerful report-out

7. The Closing Statement

  • Us this time even if judging stops when the team crosses over the line
  • Your last chance, with an exclamation or an understatement, to “wow” your audience, no more than around 10 seconds long
  • Exclamation: High Energy- creates a clean, powerful ending
  • Understatement: Low energy- leaves the audience wanting more

Choose your distance
Some big moves look great from far away, but when viewed from close up, they lose their impact. The same goes for smaller, more intricate work- usually this work requires he soloist or team to be closer to the audience. These aspects should be taken into consideration during the creation process.

exhibition drill, drill team, armed drill, unarmed drill, fancy drill, precision drill, jrotc

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