Military Drill Judging

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For decades the only requirement to be qualified to judge a military drill competition was graduation from a service’s Basic Training. That’s it. You’re now able to rank and rate and assign a score to what you see on the competitive field. And what’s better is if you are a Drill/Training Instructor or on an honor guard. Somehow, you are then better able to know all yo need to judge a competition. “Well, we show videos to the judges and explain what they need to know for the competition that will begin in the morning.” At least that is better than the judge arriving at the competition the morning of and being given the score sheet and being told how to fill it out! Still, there is something that doesn’t sit right with me. At what time did any of the military services begin training any of their members how to judge anything?

In Basic there is the “Go/No-Go” of task evaluation (I can clearly remember that from my time at Fort Knox, doning my gas mask and taking apart and reassembling my M16, etc.) but this is not helpful for a drill competition. So then, what is it that makes a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coastie able to judge a drill competition? That person marched and possibly called commands! Is that it? Pretty much, yeah. Hasn’t this been enough? Hasn’t it worked? Enough? Not really. Has it worked? Yes, but it has been extremely limited. Think of it this way: when one does not know what one does not know, then one is unaware improvement is necessary or even possible.

When we in the military complete Basic and other training we are called “heroes” and “America’s finest,” etc. These statements are true and one should be proud to be a member of America’s military (this is aside from all political discussion- this is not the place). This gives a well-deserved confidence boost, but should not translate into being a subject matter expert in everything military. Marching is a staple in the military and teaches several key skills that are necessary once you wear the uniform. But marching alone is not a judging qualifier and neither is teaching others how to march. Why? Because there are very specific goals in Basic and Honor Guard and none of them deal with Overall Effect, Composition Analysis, Equipment or Movement or judging any of these visual captions.

“You mean to tell me ‘my NCOs’ cannot handle judging?!”

“‘My NCOs’ cannot handle judging more than one thing at a time?!” Yes. No one can.

I’ve heard these arguments and it is from someone who does not understand, at all, what the four captions of visual adjudication are all about. You see, there is only one judge per caption and that judge looks at ONLY that caption. Why be so specific? Because focusing your attention on one aspect means the judge will miss less, take in more and be able to better adjudicate that aspect of the performance.

The biggest problems with today’s judging:

  1. Judges are not trained
  2. All of the judges look at the same thing
  3. The scores are ‘meaningless’
  4. No feedback for Drillers/teams for improvement

Each judge reacts in what is most likely a “I like that” or “I don’t like that” frame of mind. If I am a drill team coach, I couldn’t care less about what one likes or dislikes, I want to know how my team did compared to a written standard and the other teams not which one was the “bestest.”

This is where The World Drill Association Adjudication Manual comes into play. Over 230 pages of complete adjudication information for the military drill world. I wrote this in 2009/2010 and based it off of the Winter Guard International Rule Book with WGI’s permission, only I put it through the “military filter” to make it apply to all types of military drill competitions.

The breakdown of judging into captions gives the Driller and coach a whole new world of information that may not have been considered before. In-depth analysis from four completely different aspects is exciting!

Speaking of exciting, a score that finally means something is exciting as well!

Regulation and Exhibition Drill are fully explained. It is a complete adjudication system.There are even new WDA-specific phases for Drill teams! WDA Open Color Guard, WDA Open Regulation Drill and the WDA Ultimate Inspection.

Are you interested in becoming a judge? The WDA offers judge training and certification! See here. Do only judges need to read this? No! Every Driller and instructor should read this as well. An educated military drill world is my goal.

What is Continuing Education about? It takes you through the rest of what all adjudicators need to know. Based on papers written by my adjudication mentors, Shirlee Whitcomb and George Oliviero, both of whom are well respected judges and educators for WGI and Drum Cops International.

Are these books everything a Driller and instructor need to know? By all means, no! There is so much more and the road to an educated drill world is a little long, but not impossible. Once these two books and my others: Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol I and Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol II are more mainstream, more Drillers and teams will be able to reach their potential instead of floundering and wondering how to get to the “next level.”

Another issue I deal with: “Who are you to come along and say everything has been wrong?”

You can read my resume here. I’ve not said that anything is “wrong,” I’ve said there are big problems and those problems can be remedied.

Currently, there are people across the US who are training to become certified WDA judges in the caption of their choice. Are they all active duty Drill Instructors? No, military retirees, active duty military, active duty firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical service personnel and former JROTC students who were Drillers after high school.

Judging is not something you can just gain by exposure to an activity, it is something that is learned and studied. If a prospective judge has a background in drill, great! If not, the studying can be a little more difficult.

Now, get trained and certified to judge military drill competitions by the Drillmaster and the World Drill Association!

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