And thus completely mess up alignment and spacing!
Now, no one wants to do this, but some Drillers do this and don’t understand how to fix it. I’ll explain the problem, show the negative results and tell you how to fix it. Easy!
Below is a properly executed flank movement. As you can see, when you march, you are actually creating two invisible lines that your feet march along- this is especially so when you are marching in a formation- you are either following along lines created by those in front of you, or creating lines for others to follow.
The image below points out a typical problem with some Drillers. In this case for a flanking movement to the right, the left foot moves too far to the right at the pivot point. This means the driller’s body has already begun to move to the right before turning. This creates an immediate alignment problem with the line from where he is marching since he is already too far to the right and after he turns, he will not be centered on those behind or in front of him since he will also be too far to the right. He has also created a distance issue and is now too close to the Driller in front of him.
This next image shows a compounded problem for the flank- flanking inside both lines, along with the problems listed above, our Driller has created a distance issue not only to the front of him, but also directly to his right and left.
So, it pays to pay attention to the small details of the execution of each movement.
What is Half Step? Here is what each service manual has to say:
Use the following procedures to execute the 15-inch step, forward/half step.
a. To march with a 15-inch step from the Halt, the command is Half step, MARCH. On the preparatory command Half step, shift the weight of the body to the right foot without noticeable movement. On the command of execution MARCH, step forward 15 inches with the left foot and continue marching with 15-inch steps. The arms swing as in marching with a 30-inch step.
b. To alter the march to a 15-inch step while marching with a 30-inch step, the command is Half step, MARCH. This command may be given as either foot strikes the marching surface. On the command of execution MARCH, take one more 30-inch step and then begin marching with a 15-inch step. The arms swing as in marching with a 30-inch step.
c. To resume marching with a 30-inch step, the command Forward, MARCH is given as either foot strikes the marching surface. On the command of execution MARCH, take one more 15-inch step and then begin marching with a 30-inch step. d. The Halt while marching at the Half Step is executed in two counts, the same as the Halt from the 30-inch step.
e. While marching at the Half Step, the only commands that may be given are: Mark Time, MARCH; Forward, MARCH; Normal Interval, MARCH; and HALT.
Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard/Merchant Marines
HALF STEP. The purpose of half step is to march forward at quick time taking 15-inch steps. It may be executed when halted at attention or marching forward at quick time. While marching it may be given as either foot strikes the deck. The command is “Half Step, MARCH.”
1. At the Halt
a. On the command “Half Step,” shift your weight to your right leg without noticeable movement.
b. On the command “MARCH,” step off forward in quick time cadence with 15-inch steps. The ball of each foot should strike the deck before the heel. At the same time begin swinging your arms 6 inches to the front and 3 inches to the rear.
3.13.1. The command Half Step, MARCH is given as either foot strikes the ground. On the command MARCH, the airman takes one more 24-inch steps followed by a 12-inch step (measured from heel to heel) in quick time, setting the heel down first without scraping the ground. The Airman maintains coordinated arm swing and continues the half step until marched forward or halted.
3.13.2. To resume a full 24-inch step, the command Forward, MARCH is given as the heel of the left foot strikes the ground. On the command MARCH, the Airman takes one more 12-inch step with the right foot and then steps out with a full 24-inch step with the left foot.
3.13.3. The halt executed from half step is similar to the halt executed from a 24-inch step. The half step is not executed from the halt nor are changes of direction made from the half step. It is executed only in quick time, and normal arm swing is maintained.
STOMP, STOMP, STOMP!
So, if I read these paragraphs correctly, nowhere does any manual say to stomp your feet! Everyone, stop stomping your feet when at Half Step, please! What I call the “Half Step Stomp” comes from a flat foot hitting the ground and laziness. Use all of your muscles the Good Lord gave you to bring your leg up and place it down and you will eliminate the stomp.
Notice how the USN/MC manual specifically states that the ball of the foot should strike the ground first? For the Army and AF that means the Half Step is supposed to be the same technique as the full-size step; the heel hits the ground first. None of the services are supposed to have the full-foot stomp that is rampant in JROTC Regulation Drill performances.
Step Size Matters Greatly!
All step sizes in the US military are measured from heel to heel (notice the USAF even spells that out? My foot, plus my shoe (depending on shoes style), averages 11 ½” to 12″ in length. That means that if I am marching with an AF unit, my feet will look like this when Half Stepping:
If I am marching with any other service’s unit, or if the Army is part of the formation, everyone half steps like this:
Citadel Drill Team photo courtesy of Flickr.com, foot images, copyright The DrillMaster
The Army and Navy/Marine Corps use this phrase or something very similar:
“On the preparatory command, shift the weight of the body to the right foot without noticeable movement.”
Nothing like being vague, but in all honesty, marching for each service only facilitates orderly travel from Point A to Point B and the services’ manuals don’t have to be exact. Having said that, if you’re reading this blog, you want to be exact. So what about shifting your weight? Does that facilitate forward movement? Yeah, kinda.
There is a Better, More Specific Way!
The mechanics of marching do not require shifting weight from side-to-side (unless flanking, and that’s about momentum as well). Marching, and specifically, the first step, require weight distribution from the center of the body, forward. So your weight should shift forward from center when given the command of execution.
While marching or standing still at Attention, the command, Mark Time, MARCH is given and, beginning with the left foot, raise your feet so that the ankle comes half way up the calf.Straight up and straight down. The ankle bone should trace the center line of the opposite leg’s calf; do not bring the foot in front of or behind the opposite leg. Your upper body (from the waist up) should not move- you should not rock back and forth. All movement should be smooth. Arm swing is normal unless you are marching with suspended arm swing, then the arms remain straight down and do not follow the thigh going up and down.
(Cadets) Same information from above except that the Army brings the toe up 2”, the Marines, navy and Coast Guard bring the toe up 2: and the heel 4”, and the Air Force brings the tow up 4”.
If you are with an honor guard unit, you can pause slightly at the bottom of each step, when both feet are together and on the ground, to create the position of Attention in between the raising of each foot.
Never speed up when Marking Time (or Half Stepping, for that matter), keep your original tempo.
Important DrillMaster note! Thanks to LTC Schmotzer, an AJROTC instructor in Wyoming who helped me realize that I have two distinct audiences: JROTC cadets (along with ROTC and all the other great cadet programs out there) who need to know the small details of Regulation Drill (RD) and how to execute those details exactly and the other part of my audience, honor guard units (military, first responder, veteran and fraternal organizations, etc.) who also need exact details. However, those details can be different as with this article and the pictures. The pictures are for honor guard units and those honor guard members need to have their ankle bone come half way up the opposite leg’s shin (a four-inch distance from the ground to the toe). However, RD requires cadets and those not on honor guard units to Mark Time like this:
Army: Foot is raised 2” off the ground (most likely measured from the toe)
Marines/Navy: Toe is 2” and heel is 4” off the ground
Air Force: Toe is 4” off the ground
Thank you, LTC Schmotzer, I must keep this in mind with each article I write!
Your hips should move up and down: up as your leg comes back during your stride and down as your leg extends forward. Your spine and hips should not rotate forward and back. The image at right, from walkinghealthy.com, shows proper hip alignment on the left side and improper hip rotation on the right side- the image is the top view from the hips down, direction of march is down the page.
The picture below shows the steps as I count them: without pivots. See your service manual for specifics, but you get the idea from this which is much easier to digest: pivots are pivots and steps are steps. This would apply to the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.
This applies to the Army: one half-flank and, while keeping distance and alignment, march in an arc.
The Army Description (TC 3-21.5)
To change the direction of a column, use the following procedures:
a. During a column movement, the base element is the squad on the flank in the direction of the turn.
b. To change the direction 90 degrees, the command is Column Right (Left), MARCH. On the command of execution MARCH, the base squad executes the movement as in squad drill except that the squad leader takes one 30-inch step and then takes up the Half Step (Army and Air Force execute half step with the heel hitting the ground first -DrillMaster). The squad leader continues marching with the Half Step until the other squad leaders come
abreast. The other squad leaders, while maintaining correct (offset) interval, execute a 45-degree pivot and continue marching in an arc. As they come on line (abreast) with the base squad leader, they take up the Half Step. When all squad leaders are abreast, they step off with a 30-inch step without command. All other platoon members march forward on the
command of execution and execute the column movement at approximately the same location as their squad leaders and in the same manner.
The Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard/Merchant Marines Description(MCO P5060.20)
9021. TO CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF A COLUMN
1. The purpose of this movement is to change the direction of march of a column. It may be executed when the platoon is halted or marching in column at normal or close interval. The command is “Column Right (Column Left, Column Half Right or Column Half Left), MARCH.” The base element during the turn is the squad on the flank in the direction of the turn. The leading member of the base squad, excluding the platoon commander and guide, establishes the pivot for the movement.
2. When marching, the commands of execution are given on the foot in the direction of the turn. On the command of execution “MARCH,” the leading member of the base squad takes one more 30-inch step to the front and then pivots 90 degrees to the right (left) on the ball of the left (right) foot. He/she then takes one 30-inch step in the new direction before beginning to half step. At the same time, other members of the leading rank execute a right (left) oblique. They step in this direction until they are on line with the new line of march (normally two, four and six steps respectively) and then execute a second right (left) oblique. The original interval is maintained while in the oblique. Stepping out of the second oblique with a 30-inch step, they begin to half step as soon as they are aligned on the base squad leader. When all members of the same rank have come abreast, everyone in that rank resumes a full step. Ranks in rear of the leading rank execute the pivot movements on the same points and in the same way as the leading rank.
3. When halted, at the command of execution “MARCH,” the leading member of the base squad faces to the right (left) as in marching and takes one 30-inch step in the new direction with the right (left) foot. At the same time other members of the leading rank step off in the right (left) oblique. Members behind the lead rank step off to the front as in forward march. The remainder of the movement is executed the same as in marching.
4. During column movements, the platoon commander and guide execute either an oblique or a 90-degree pivot (depending on the direction of the movement) on the command of execution. After completing their turn, they adjust their line of march so that they are in front of the appropriate squad.
The Air Force Description (AFMAN 36-2203)
4.11. Column Movements:
4.11.1. Column Right (Left) Normal Interval (Marching). The commands are Column Right (Left), MARCH and Forward, MARCH.
22.214.171.124. On the command Column Right (Left), MARCH, the fourth (first) element leader takes one more 24-inch step, pivots 90 degrees to the right (left) on the ball of the left (right) foot, and suspends arm swing during the pivot. Following the pivot, step off in a 24-inch step and resume coordinated arm swing. Beginning with the second step after the pivot, take up the half step. Each succeeding member of the fourth (first) element marches to the approximate pivot point established by the person in front of him or her and performs the same procedures as the element leader.
126.96.36.199. The third (second) element leader takes one 24-inch step, (maintaining coordinated arm swing throughout) pivots 45 degrees to the right (left) on the ball of the left (right) foot, and takes two 24-inch steps prior to pivoting 45 degrees to the right (left) on the ball of the left (right) foot. Continue marching in 24-inch steps until even with the person who marches on the right (left). Then begin half stepping and establish interval and dress. Each succeeding member of the third (second) element marches to the approximate pivot point established by the person in front of him or her and performs the same
procedures as the element leader.
188.8.131.52. The second (third) element leader takes one more 24-inch step, (maintaining coordinated arm swing throughout) pivots 45 degrees to the right (left) on the ball of the left (right) foot, and takes four 24-inch steps prior to pivoting 45 degrees to the right (left) on the ball of the left (right) foot. Continue marching in 24-inch steps until even with the person who marches on the right (left). Then begin half stepping, and establish interval and dress. Each succeeding member of the second (third) element marches to the approximate pivot point established by the person in front of him or her and performs the same procedures as the element leader.
184.108.40.206. The first (fourth) element leader takes one more 24-inch step, (maintaining coordinated arm swing throughout) pivots 45 degrees to the right (left) on the ball of the left (right) foot, and takes six 24-inch steps prior to pivoting 45 degrees to the right (left) on the ball of the left (right) foot. Continue marching in 24-inch steps until even with the person who marches on the right (left). Then begin half stepping, and establish interval and dress. Each succeeding member of the first (fourth) element marches to the approximate point established by the person in front of him or her and performs the same
procedures as the element leader.
220.127.116.11. The guide performs the pivots and steps exactly as the fourth element leader. Following completion of the pivots, the guide continues in a 24-inch step until he or she is ahead of the fourth element leader. The guide pivots 45 degrees to a position in front of the fourth element leader; then he or she pivots 45 degrees again toward the front and begins half stepping.
The “Straight Leg” Technique* is used for marching bands/drum corps and could be used for a military drill team. The leg barely bends at the knee while the foot rolls from the heel to right behind the ball of the foot, the foot does not roll to the toe as in a normal marching step. The reason for this technique is to ensure the stripe down the side of the leg does not bend and the one marching looks taller the whole time.
*The knee still bends, it’s not truly a straight or stiff leg.