Tag Archives: jrotc

An Open Letter to Sports Network International (SNI)

Before we begin, the results: positive. See you inside the Ocean Center this year.

Some Background
When I was stationed in Netherlands in the early to mid 1990s, I was trained in visual adjudication by two expert staff members of WGI who flew over and spent time with me and other prospective judges for Color Guard Nederland, the Dutch offshoot of WGI. I spent hours reading, quizzing, watching videos and making recorded commentary and then spent the next couple of indoor (Marching band-type) color guard seasons judging General Effect.

In 2009, I began writing books for the Military Drill World (MDW). My second book was an adaptation of Winter Guard Internationals Adjudication Manual that I adapted for the MDW with WGI’s permission. While I was writing it, I was also explaining it the best I could on a couple different forums with one of those forums belonging to SNI. In that forum I’m sure that I came off as a know-it-all to the owners and staff of SNI and also other forum contributors and readers. That was not my intention, but at the time, I did not know how else to relay the information that I had.I thought I could help others see what I saw, even if it ruffled some feathers at first.

I not only ruffled feathers, I insulted SNI’s the owners and staff by what I wrote in the forum- with the intention of explaining how the adjudication system I wrote would serve the MDW much better than any other system. Now, while I still believe that, I could have come across much better and even waited until I finished writing the manual and even sent complimentary copies to SNI’s staff for their perusal.

My insults to the National High School Drill Team Championships judging system was a slap in the face to Justin Gates and Samantha Ste.Claire. and Justin took appropriate steps by removing me from the forum and banning me from SNI events. I forced you into taking steps that, in the eyes of some, made you the bad guys, when it was my fault all along.

And the Main Point
sni_nhsdtc_logoIt is embarrassing to write this, to admit I was very wrong in my approach to something I have been so passionate about for decades. However, sin must be called sin and as a Christian man, while I may never live up to, Jesus, the Model set forth by God, I must strive to reach that goal and ask forgiveness when I fall short and boy, did I fall short.

Justin and Samantha: I sincerely apologize to you both and to the others who I may have offended on the SNI forums or elsewhere concerning this issue. Hindsight may be 20/20, but sometimes it takes some time for an incident to come into focus.

Yes, I would like to be allowed back into SNI’s competitions, but I know that it may not be the right time yet, that is up to Mr. Gates and Ms. Ste.Claire. I do not expect open arms and embraces any time soon, but maybe one day I can sit down with you both after a long Nationals weekend and we can laugh at how stupid my actions were.

I have never wished SNI, the owners or staff any ill, I only hope the best for them all. After all, a Nationals weekend is something that lives on in the memories of thousands of former cadets across the Drill Nation.

The Not-so-New Problem for JROTC DrillTeams

Canadian Air Cadet DTNumbers and attendance. It’s nothing new to JROTC or some other high school activities. However, when it happens during your four years of school, it seems like a brand new problem has popped up. Over the years, I have received pleas from cadets who so badly want to march on their school’s drill team, but cannot seem to generate enough interest in the program among other cadets.

I received two messages within two days last week, one through Instagram and one through Kik, about drill team practice attendance numbers dropping.

I posted a question on Instagram and Facebook and received some interesting replies like these:

  • More community service hours opportunities are given in reward.
  • I started with a squad and did an exhibition routine with them and presented it to my Battalion. After they saw the things that we could do, it encouraged them to join.
  • I think drill teams should do more small performances in middle schools ms elementary schools. They should do basic stuff within the routine but still look super sharp and cool. They should also wear a nice beat uniform. Appearance attracts also

There are lean years where the extra-curricular activities in JROTC are scraping to get by and then there will be several years of more than enough cadets to fill all of the positions. Many schools experience this phenomenon almost cyclically.

I began to see a pattern, though, with the complaints of instructors not being fully involved tying in with poor attendance at drill team or color guard practice. For those who said their numbers were dropping, I asked if the instructors were involved and received these comments:

  • Not really. [Drill team is] mostly cadet run. It just seems commitment with the new cadets and seniors is just non existent.
  • Our instructors are not really there when we are training. They’re never there during drill. They do however get involved in certain functions, but I don’t really see them as being heavily involved, which is what we really need.

Lack of instructor involvement is an issue that needs to be addressed. But, here is what I see as a possible culprit to this issue: lack of drill and ceremonies awareness. When it comes to senior NCOs and CPOs, they are more management than anything else. While some do have experience with being a Drill Instructor, many do not and, even so, competitive military drill is very different when it comes to advanced training requirements. JROTC instructors who do not have drill experience are more likely to want to stay away from the drill pad when it comes to a drill team because of a lack of knowledge in this area. Something that I truly hope to change through my books and educational clinics.

Click here for all of the articles with the tag, Drill Team Training.

Relevant articles to this issue:

Team Training Difficulties
How to Restart a JROTC Drill Team
Drill Team Drama
My Drill Team Needs to Get Better!

I’ve written articles with suggestions on how to try to conquer this problem (listed above), but here I offer another, very different, suggestion: a community drill team and/or color team (see why I put “team” there instead of “guard,” here). Even partnering with a local Civil Air Patrol, Sea Cadet or Young Marine organization is an option.

The Community Drill Team
Here is a possible situation: You have a certain number of high schools in your area with maybe 5 or 6 cadets who are really interested in forming a team, not enough members for a team from that school, but pool those members into one team and you have a district or community team ready to march in competitions and parades.

There are several issues that come to mind from the beginning:

  • Where to hold practice?

Rotate between schools or hold practice in a central location.

  • How to get to practice?

Car pool to the central location

  • If different services, what manual to follow?

The senior service takes precedent in this order: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force & Coast Guard

  • What uniform?

Having a squad of each service would work well. It’s different, but then so is this whole situation.

  • Who is in charge, instructor-wise?

This could rotate on a weekly basis.

  • Who is in charge, cadet-wise?

As with the service honor guards, rank will always be respected, but the most competent of the members, regardless of rank, should be in charge. Is there more than one cadet who could lead well? Then have different formation commanders for phase of the competition: exhibition, regulation and inspection.

There are probably more questions to answer based on your unique situation, but I think you get the idea.

Could this work? I believe so, with patience and a willingness to work together, all hurdles can be surmounted.

Exhibition Drill Application Levels

Performance Measurements
Drill Application LevelsThere are five standard levels (“Boxes”) with corresponding number grades and definitions for each box that the World Drill Association Adjudication System grades, for each class: Junior, A and Open. The labels for each box represent the achievement of the performance: Seldom, Rarely, Sometimes, Frequently and Constantly. For WDA World Class, there is a sixth box which is labeled, Sets New Standards. For this example, though, we will simplify the measurement standards and use, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced.

When a Driller or team performs, there are four aspects of a performance that should to be measured.

The level of education, training and skill is evidenced in a performance. You need to ensure that your solo or your team’s performance has all of the following aspects locked in at your team’s level of performance.

Performance Aspects

  1. Drill: the choreographed design of what you march; your position in the drill area and the direction you face.
  2. Body work: whether you are marching armed or not, you must consider incorporating your body in movement, or even keeping your ‘cross’- I assure you, others will.
  3. Footwork: how your feet fit in with your performance. Do they accentuate certain moves? Or are they just there to keep you from falling over?
  4. Equipment Work: rifle, sword/saber, swing flag (for the Cali teams) or guidon, what you spin needs to be a seamless extension of your body.

Measurement Examples

Drill Application LevelsWhat I see in the majority of solo performances that I judge is displayed here at left. Drillers concentrate so much on their equipment work (rifle or sword/saber), that they tend to forget, or they don’t know about, the other aspects of a performance.

This is not necessarily a bad thing- one has to begin somewhere and the process of improving the performance begins with knowledge.

Drill Application LevelsAs another example, some drill teams will have a performance that looks like the picture at right. An unarmed team might look like the picture just below.

Drill Application Levels (3a)You can see how each performance aspect is at a different level. This makes the performance unbalanced and not as effective. Communication from the soloist/team to the audience, including the judge, is not clear. Clear communication is the standard to meet.

Disparities like these two examples show that training is unbalanced- either because the team does not know of each aspect, or because the team does not know how to address and improve the different aspects that are lacking.

The Sum of the Parts- Greater than the Whole

Drill Application LevelsThis image at left is, obviously, what you want. The synergistic affect of all of the performance aspects coming together at an advanced level gives the team that intangible feeling of performance perfection.

But how do you achieve it? Through the different techniques used in precise Training and then Practice and Rehearsal.

A trained judge can see training and practice come through in a performance.

What about the Team that cannot make it to the Advanced Level?
Drill Application Levels (4a)This is a great question! It is OK, to attain a certain of proficiency and remain there.

January: Drill Season is Here!

While some JROTC units have a busy first semester that includes drill meets, for many across America January is when the competitions begin. Some states, like Florida, do not have any drill meets until the end of January, leaving the first semester to Raider meets.

Drill O-clockMaybe, like the school where I teach, Merritt Island High School, you have been having a once-weekly practice to get your first-year cadets up to speed with standing manual and the manual of arms or, as in MIHS’s past, you might begin that work on the first day back to school in January- that is a tough way to begin; having to wedge in enough training to give the cadets their foundation to then start practice. If that is the case, you may already be behind the power curve or eight-ball , as the saying goes. Time is working against those who are unable to begin training at the beginning of school, or better yet, before school starts in the summer. Click here for more on the differences between Training and Practice and here for Rehearsal.

Maybe you need to restart your team? Click here, then.

In any case, military drill season is here! Do you have a training plan? Do you have a schedule to follow with schedule checkpoints along the way? Get going!

The Difference Between Practice and Rehearsal

It may seem strange, even silly, to define practice, training and rehearsal down to the “nth” degree. However, there are JROTC units that do not have the luxury of an experienced drill coach. Many JROTC instructors have never marched much past their Basic training days and that’s OK. Our military jobs came first and for many, marching was a thing of the past. Even with some JROTC instructors having marching experience, we now come into the competitive marching world which is a whole new ball of wax for just about everyone and defining our terms helps everyone learn.

I wrote about the difference between practice and training here. Please read this very important article. Here is a quote from that page to refresh your memory:

“We train to learn a new skill and then we practice that skill over and over.”

Now let’s look at something you may not have considered.

drillteam practicePractice
Everyone needs to practice their skills, those in the military and the civilian workforce practice all of the time and when it comes to a sport or a hobby than one is passionate about, practice can make all of the difference.

Our “hobby” is military drill: exhibition, regulation and/or ceremonial and when we practice our skill(s), we cement that action, through muscle memory into our actions so that we can perform that skill (a flag fold or a certain segment in an exhibition routine, for instance) almost exactly the same each time.

Let’s look at an exhibition drill routine. During practice, we can maybe feel that something is not quite or that if the rifle rotates another half-spin and it is then caught while the body is rotated to face this direction, then we can… I think you get the point. Practice helps us refine our skills that we learned during training and also helps us explore new options that we may not have considered before when we were just beginning to learn that skill. Practice and training can be interrupted again and again until the manual’s or our level of perfection is achieved, depending on the skill.

drillteam practice1Rehearsal
It is not just for dancers or musicians. If it isn’t already, this term needs to be incorporated into your preparations for a performance. You may already be doing this, but you are just not aware of how different this term is from the others previously mentioned.

A rehearsal is when, after training and much practice you run through your performance (posting the colors, a regulation sequence, etc.) from start to finish without stopping. Here, you can look at timing and boundary issues, if there are any. Rehearsing over and over is very necessary to create both muscle and visual memory and it helps to ensure that the team knows exactly what happens before, during and after the performance.

So, you knew about rehearsing? Excellent! I’m glad that you and your team have time allotted for that aspect of your training program. You didn’t know, or you kinda-sorta knew? That’s fine, everyone learns and now you can all pass along this vital information to the rest of your teammates to ensure that your program flourishes for years to come!

When in Doubt, Salute!

The title of this article served me and many others very well for many years. If you don’t know, a salute won’t hurt. If you don’t salute, you could get an ear-full.

“That’s Disrespectful!”
SaluteSaluting with the left or right hand has nothing to do with being disrespectful. The salute, in and of itself, no matter which hand is used, is respectful. The US military uses the right hand for a reason and that reason is utilitarian, not an issue of respect. Here is the history of the American military’s salute, courtesy of the US Army Quartermaster Historian.

No one knows the precise origin of today’s hand salute. From earliest times and in many distant armies throughout history, the right hand (or “weapon hand”) has been raised as a greeting of friendship. The idea may have been to show that you weren’t ready to use a rock or other weapon. Courtesy required that the inferior make the gesture first. Certainly there is some connection between this old gesture and our present salute.

One romantic legend has it that today’s military salute descended from the medieval knight’s gesture of raising his visor to reveal his identity as a courtesy on the approach of a superior. Another even more fantastic version is that it symbolizes a knight’s shielding his eyes from the dazzling beauty of some high-born lady sitting in the bleachers of the tournament.

The military salute has in fact had many different forms over the centuries. At one time it was rendered with both hands! In old prints one may see left-handed salutes. In some instances the salute was rendered by lowering the saber with one hand and touching the cap visor with the other.

The following explanation of the origin of the hand salute is perhaps closest to the truth: It was a long-established military custom for juniors to remove their headgear in the presence of superiors. In the British Army as late as the American Revolution a soldier saluted bv removing his hat. But with the advent of more cumbersome headgear in the 18th and 19th centuries, the act of removing one’s hat was gradually converted into the simpler gesture of grasping the visor, and issuing a courteous salutation. From there it finally became conventionalized into something resembling our modern hand salute.

As early as 1745 (more than two-and-a-half centuries ago) a British order book states that: “The men are ordered not to pull off their hats when they pass an officer, or to speak to them, but only to clap up their hands to their hats and bow as they pass.”

Whatever the actual origin of today’s hand salute, clearly in the tradition of the US Army it has always been used to indicate a sign of RESPECT – further recognition that in the profession of arms military courtesy is both a right and a responsibility of every soldier.

When and Who to Salute
Protocol requires a salute to the following:

  • President of the US
  • Commissioned and Warrant Officers
  • All Medal of Honor Recipients
  • Officers of Allied Foreign Countries

Render a salute for the following:

  • US National Anthem, “To the Color”, “Hail to the Chief”, or the playing of any foreign national anthem
  • When national colors are uncased outdoors
  • Reveille and retreat
  • Raising and lowering of the flag
  • When honors are sounded
  • Pledge of Allegiance – outdoors
  • When reporting
  • When turning over control of formations
  • Arrival and departure ceremonies for state officials

Authorized Left-Handed Salutes
Left SaluteDid you know that there are only two authorized salutes for the American Military? Along with the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps drum major, Boatswain’s Mates are authorized to salute with their left hand when piping a senior officer aboard a ship in either the Navy and Coast Guard. The pipe is held in the right hand when played, and the salute is rendered with the left hand.

Left Salute Fife Drum MajorThe Drum Major as well as the unit he leads, follows Revolutionary War standards of drill and ceremonies. That’s why the left-hand salute and the fact that his salute has the palm facing forward.

No one else is authorized to render a left-handed salute, but is there an exception? Yes. Any veteran missing their right arm is not going to be lectured as to the “proper” way to render a salute.

What about the “Latte Salute”?
While each American President is most likely briefed on how to properly render a return salute, it is not something a President is supposed to do. Actually, any civilian is not supposed to return the salute. President Ronald Reagan began returning the salutes rendered to him (he had a great deal of respect for the military) and it has continued since.

But, what about Exhibition Drill?
There is no such thing as an “authorized” move or position in exhibition drill. Judges: in the case of exhibition drill, please put away your perceptions of “right” and “wrong” that are based on what you have learned through the military. Cadets: have fun creating, but don’t allow something that someone else has created to become “absolute law” for you or your team- JROTC cadets have a great tendency to never pick up the manual and only learn by observation. Hence, what one sees must be how “it” is accomplished and no one can tell them any different.

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Programming, Continued

Dropping the BaseApparently “dropping the base” can have something to do with describing how one creates a routine and, while that may have some sort of relevance at the moment, this description could very well have lost its meaning in a short time. I’ll stick with terms that designers have used for decades.

Below, are the Seven Parts of and Exhibition Drill Routine from the article I wrote of the same name. See that article for an in-depth look at each part. This will help you break down a routine in the creation process.

  1. The Opening Statement
  2. Up to the Report-in
  3. After Report-in
  4. The Routine Body
  5. Before Report-out
  6. After Report-out
  7. The Closing Statement

See also the article, Where’s the Power and put the two pieces of information together for a better understanding of what should happen and when.

Note: being able to only enter and exit from one specific area severely limits the mixing of the above identified seven parts and the power areas of the drill deck (area, floor, pad).

Variety in Programming Creates Intrigue/Excitement
A routine that has one tempo will not hold the audience for very long. Visually speaking: highs and lows; excitement and rest are necessary to create effectiveness in your routine.

There are three types of effect (from The WDA Adjudication Manual):

  • The intellectual aspect of effect is reflected in the range and quality of the design.
  • The aesthetic aspect of effect involves the ability to capture and hold the audience’s attention through the manipulation of familiarity and expectations (think: “surprise”). Aesthetic effect may resonate with a larger percentage of a general audience.
  • The emotional effect is the planned response to stimuli that is designed, coordinated and staged for the purpose of evoking a specific, planned reaction.

When, where, how and why effects occur successfully, involves:

  • Manner of presentation (how the effect was created — equipment, staging, movement alone or combined)
  • Pacing (the “when” factor of planned effects. How far apart, how often, how large is the effect?)
  • Continuity (the development, connection and evolution of planned effects)
  • Staging (where each effect is placed on the stage–highlighting, focus, interaction of effects, etc.)
  • Coordination (how all elements work together to heighten the effect)
  • Impact points (the beginning of important visual ideas)
  • Resolutions. (the completion of important visual ideas)

There is so much more to programming that everyone should know, pick up a copy of The WDA Adjudication Manual and read, read, read! Educating yourself will give you the edge you need to create the most effective routines!

How to Restart a JROTC Drill Team

drill team traiing: XD Cover 2AExhibition Drill for the Military Drill Team
The First Book for Drill Team Training: XD Cover, Exhibition Drill for the Military Drill Team

I received this question over the summer of 2014. It is always relevant, though!

Question: I’m a freshmen going into my sophomore year, also to my let 2 year in JROTC. I was wondering if you can give me tips and/or advice for starting up an exhibition team. Because in my freshmen year, at my school’s drill meet, I conducted one routine for alternative arms. It was OK, but I knew we could have done better. It was very last minute, unorganized and stressing. My team only practiced for not even a whole week, and the meet was on Saturday. Yes, I know… But that’s why, I was wondering that, maybe with your help and expertise, you can maybe help me start up exhibition again in my school. By the way our JROTC program hasn’t seen a drill trophy in years. Seriously, anything you say will help.

DrillMaster’s Reply: You have this summer to prepare for this coming school year and three more years of school which is perfect! Here is what I recommend.

1. Always first is educating yourself and your teammates.
2. You must have a plan to effectively move forward with your individual and team progress.
3. Put that education into practice. You must begin much earlier in the year.

First you and your team MUST download and read the latest edition of your service drill and ceremonies manual. Go to my website, www.thedrillmaster.org, and click on the Downloads tab. There, you will find all kinds of downloads, including all three of the latest D&C manuals. You and your team must perfect regulation drill, unarmed and armed. Once you have accomplished that, then move into exhibition drill.

There aren’t any exhibition drill manuals except for my books. which are here, http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/drillmaster. I do have many articles for drill teams on how to create effective routines, what to do and what not to do when it comes to marching, but the books have so much more. This summer I’ll be publishing two more books specifically on how to train others in regulation drill and color guard- you are actually the first to know about these two books!

The Guidon’s Two Different Salutes

While each service (Army, MC/Navy/CG and AF) has a slightly different way of having the guidon render a salute while in formation, there is another salute rendered by a guidon that each service requires when outside of a formation when the guidon bearer is on his/her own.

The only authorized giudon bearer salute  when in formation for each service ends up looking like this:

Guidon Salute

When a guidon bearer is not in a formation (either walking somewhere or standing and holding the guidon) and is approached by an officer, there is only one authorized salute, which is different from the salute pictured above. This salute is not authorized while in formation.

Guidon Bearer Individual Salute

Having a Complete Plan for a Performance

0649c73c-787d-4f6c-982f-39fb4d710402.jpgThis information applies to any performance: presentation/posting of the colors, solo exhibition or drill team routine. The key is acting with nothing but professionalism the whole time.

Before: Arrive at least an hour early. No two performances are the same and the more time you have to set up and rehearse, the better. Speak with your point of contact as soon as you arrive and ensure the timeline .

The service honor guards and installation honor guards travel and rehearse at performance site in their travel uniform which consists of the ceremonial or Class A trousers and a lightweight jacket- even in summer. About 20 minutes before the ceremony, the team changes into their ceremonial/Class A blouse and sets up for their entrance.

During: Perform, giving it your utmost!

After: Here is the sticking point for some. For installation honor guard units, it is permissible to remain in the ceremonial/Class A uniform if invited to a celebration, etc. because many people like to have pictures taken with those in uniform and the ceremonial/Class A is much more appropriate. If the team is going to be in the area and have time to partake of the county fair (for instance), it may be a good idea to stay in the performance area for a time for pictures, head back to transportation to change into the travel uniform and put equipment away. Then the team can go back and have some fun.

This is the “sticking point” I mentioned above: some, especially in JROTC, seem to think that once the performance is finished, the uniform can be treated however some cadets seem fit to treat it: no cover, shirt untucked, etc. This is unacceptable.

Have a plan, develop a standard and enforce that standard. It only takes on person acting inappropriately just one time to give your organization a bad name. Don’t let that happen.