Breath Control

DrillMaster Drill Teams, Instructional Leave a Comment

Does a Driller need to control his/her breath while performing?

Yes, breath control is a skill every serious Driller should learn! This is part of what Equipment Judges adjudicate and what Jedi Knights rely on constantly!

Phrase = drill moves (equipment and/or body movement) put together in long and short strings like sentences.

Equipment = rifle, sword, saber, flag or guidon.

The motion of the equipment and/or the body will is usually affected in a phrase without breath control.  Exhaling on a release generates better momentum, holding your breath will vary your toss height consistency. A phrase, fast or slow, with breath control looks controlled and flows well.

From the World Drill Association Adjudication Manual:

FLOW: Use of breath impacts the flow of energy significantly and impacts changes in the quality of the flow of tension; Equipment moves from free and open to bound (controlled by the degree of, or release of, tension in the arms and upper body.) The “going with the flow” of equipment movement we call free; the restriction of the equipment flow we call bound.


BREATH is crucial to motion not only to bring more oxygen to the body but also to give equipment and body motion fluency and harmony.
– Breath will impact on the specific quality of motion.
– A phrase of motion “with breath” has a controlled extension in time, a clear beginning and end no matter how fast or how slow it is. It moves with freedom and harmony.
– A phrase “without breath” looks stiff and mechanical (no breathing space).


All About the Shoulder Cord

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional 3 Comments

 How to Attach a Shoulder Cord or Aiguillette

What’s a Shoulder Cord?

Modesto 2016 (30)

Just a standard braided rope that fits onto the shoulder either underneath an epaulet (picture below, #452) or above the epaulet on the outside shoulder seam (picture below, #484SL). The cord above was specially made for the Modesto Fire Department Honor Guard by Shoulder Cords Unlimited. Glendale Paradestore also customizes cords to suit your needs.

The enlisted Air Force uniform has the ‘problem’ of not having epaulettes on the shoulder any more and still many JROTC units use the older style ropes that fit underneath the epaulette and are fastened to the epaulette’s button. The newer AF uniform does not look good with the old style rope, since the rope was specifically made for having a button there on the shoulder. The solution for JROTC units is the “Shaker Knot” cord (picture below, #484SL) not hiking the standard shoulder cord up underneath the uniform’s collar.

What’s an Aiguillette?

Pronounced “ay-gwee-et.” An aiguillette is a more ornate shoulder cord. A standard shoulder cord as many call them does not have a tassel, while aiguillettes have one or even two tassels. They can be quite ornate with multiple cords on the inside and outside of the arm, as well.

In this picture above, #638R is the USAF Enlisted Aiguillette. Unfortunately, in this picture directly above, Glendale has this cord improperly placed as it never goes underneath the epaulette (it’s an enlisted cord, only). The USAF Officer’s Aiguillette (#638RO, which is my design, by the way) does go underneath an epaulette, since the officer uniform is the only one to have epaulettes. The picture below shows a friend of mine from when we were on the Spangdahlem Air Base Honor Guard. This is how to properly wear the USAF Enlisted Honor Guard Aiguillette.

A shoulder cord or aiguillette is worn on either shoulder, check with your unit. It is also completely up to your unit on who gets what and what color is used.

Pinning the Cord and the Tassels (“Nose Pickers”)

Standard Shoulder Cord: Pinning is not really necessary since there is not much slack in the cord when one moves.

“Shaker Knot” Cords: You really need to pin this type of shoulder cord from the inside of the blouse (“jacket” for all of you non-honor guard types) or shirt. Pin at 9 and 3 o’clock. Pinning any lower will make the cord bend inward; you want it to hang straight down.

how to pin a shoulder cord

The Tassels: Pin the knot of this rope from the inside of the blouse/shirt. Whether on a “Shaker knot” or standard shoulder cord, make sure it is hanging straight down and pin it. This will make sure the thing doesn’t knock your teeth out!


Did you know? shoulder cords are made by macrame a form of knotting. All macrame is knotting, but all knotting is not macrame.

Christmas Gifts For the Driller

DrillMaster Commentary, Drill Teams, DrillCenter News Leave a Comment

There is always the question of what to get someone who likes military drill (drill team or honor guard member) when Christmas or their birthday comes around. Here are some suggestions:

Number one on the list is equipment for practicing. Ya’ just gotta have this stuff!

The newest items for the military drill world are the Glendale DrillAmerica M1903 Replica Rifle. Whether you get the black of chromed version, this rifle is just beautiful and the upper band has a bayonet lug! If you have a ceremonial unit, the chromed version is a must! Click the picture to get to the Glendale website.

The DrillAMerica M1903 Replica

Glendale Parade Store Has 100s of great items, click and see.

Next is stuff to wear. If the Driller in your life has been there, but doesn’t have the T-shirt, then there is something missing!


Then there is DrillMasterWear

Give Blood, Drill Bladed

Drill Hard, or Go Home

Last comes other stuff like stickers, posters and mugs. This is gift giving at its best for Drillers and honor guardsmen.

Got Drill? Bumper Sticker

Drill Life Bumper Sticker

Peace, Love Drill Sticker

Plus a whole bunch more!

Definitive POW/MIA Flag Info?

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard Training, Instructional, Protocol and Flag Leave a Comment

pow/mia flag postingDepending on where you live in the US, you can count on strong feelings as to whether the POW/MIA flag should be marched in a color guard for a parade.

Pertinent POW/MIA Flag and Table Articles

The only information that I have been able to find, of which Mike Kelley (DrillMaster002) reminded me, comes from AFI 34-1201, Protocol, :

2.11.10. The POW/MIA flag will always be the last flag in any display.

2.11.11. The POW/MIA flag will always be the last flag in any display, except on the six national observances for which Congress has ordered display of the POW/MIA flag. On these days it is flown immediately below or adjacent to the United States flag as second in order of precedence (however it still would be flown after other national flags). The six national observances are National POW/MIA Recognition Day (third Friday of September), Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. The POW/MIA flag is not carried or displayed in parades or reviews, however is authorized to be carried at official military funerals.

The other services do not specifically refer to the flag for a color guard, which can be taken just like bayonets, swords, and sabers- not authorized (the MCO does specifically band bayonets, however).

I know, this is information from the USAF for Airmen and no one else must follow it. The other services do not have information and nothing else exists as far as guidance for veteran organizations, first responders, and citizens. However, military color guards do not (are not supposed to) carry it except during funerals for former POWs and that’s it. Color guards should not carry the POW/MIA flag inside or outside the formation.

Got Squeaky Shoes?

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Drill Teams, Honor Guard Leave a Comment

While wearing your shoes (low quarters/boots/civvy shoes), move your feet back and forth and side to side to try to pinpoint from where the squeak is coming. Once you find the area that is squeaking, sprinkle it with corn starch or baking powder, inside and out. This will help to absorb noisy moisture and reduce or even eliminate noise.

See also the article, Shoes for the Driller and How to Shine Them.

That’s it.

The Citadel 2017 Bulldog Drill Meet

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Commentary, DrillMaster Performance Critiques, Judging Leave a Comment

I had the privilege of judging Freshman Color Guard at the Citadel today. I enjoyed myself a great deal and learned a bunch from the instructor from Airport High School AJROTC. My DrillMaster Performance Critiques are linked below.

For these files, I’m trying something new. Instead of uploading to my separate server, I’ve uploaded to my website and loaded them here. You can play the files and download them as you please.

  1. North Charleston Freshman Colors
  2. Beaufort Freshman Colors
  3. Ft Dorchester Freshman Colors
  4. Clover Freshman Colors
  5. Grove Town Freshman Colors
  6. Battery Creek Freshman Colors
  7. Wando Freshman Colors
  8. Airport Freshman Colors (Talked with the instructor and learned!)
  9. Myrtle Beach Freshman Colors
  10. Irmo Freshman Colors
  11. Sumter Freshman Colors



Protocol for the Thin Line Flags

DrillMaster DrillCenter News Leave a Comment

The Thin Blue Line and the Thin Red Line.

Hi there–I am a funeral director and have recently made funeral arrangements for a retired police officer. He is not a military veteran, but the family would like to drape his casket with the thin blue line flag (the black and white flag with the blue line representing police officers). I know with the American flag being draped on the casket, nothing can be placed on top of the flag (ex: flowers, medals, pictures, etc.) Would this etiquette still be followed for a police officer thin blue line flag? I just want to make sure I am following the correct protocol and do not want to upset anyone regardless if they were military, police, firemen, etc. Any advice would help!


What a great question! And, I love the idea of draping the Thin Blue Line flag on the casket. Very appropriate. Let’s create protocol right now since there really isn’t anything written to govern the use of the Thin Line flags.

We know that nothing goes on top of the following flags that can be draped on a casket: American, tribal nation, state, city. The Thin Line Flags could be treated the same since the flags represent the first responder family. Out of respect for what the flag represents, just like the others previously mentioned, I would say no to placing anything on any flag. I’m quite sure you are aware of a small table placed near the casket that serves to hold a picture and military paraphernalia. For this officer, you could do the same.

The one thing that sticks in my mind is that the flag comes in 3′ x 5′, but an interment flag is 5′ x 9′. Are you going to use something else to make up the couple of feet at each end of the casket?

There is also the fact that the Thin Line Flags that are a version of the American flag, actually go against the Flag Code. Just FYI. I recommend the flag with the black background and the vertical blue line in the center.

I hope this answers your question adequately. Thank you for wanting to provide the very best for a fallen Thin Blue Line hero.


How to Call Commands

Your Command Voice

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional 2 Comments

Have you considered your command voice? Have you looked at your service’s manual and actually read about what it says on the proper way to call commands? No, it doesn’t say monotone is OK, it doesn’t say the gravel-in-your-throat style is a good style, it says use inflection, be clear and more! Read! Don’t rely on a senior cadet to tell you what you need to do (as with EVERYTHING else!)- read it for yourself!

“Well, I call commands like this.” “At my school we, [fill in the blank here].” Ever hear of standardization? That is what the military is about, standardizing. Your personal style, what you may think is really cool, does not matter. Stop it.

Click here to listen to some examples of commands in MP3 format and how to call them.

Also read this article, “Root Step” and Command Pronunciation.

When calling commands your voice should have inflection and NOT be monotone (some Navy cadets do this and I cannot figure out why). You should also enunciate each syllable and not leave off the first or last letter or substitute letters:

  • There is no such thing is “Righ, HACE“.
  • The USAF does allow, Forward, HARCH, (it’s in a picture, not text) the other services use MARCH.
  • There is no such thing as “A-Ten-Hut”, or any other number to bring a formation to Attention.
  • There is no need to growl your commands- that means you are calling from your throat. Stop, or you will have problems later in life.
  • There is no such thing is “Orward, ARCH“.

Here is a snippet from my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

•The ability of your voice to reach whatever distance necessary without undue strain.
•Voice is focused on the person farthest away.
•Assume the position of Attention, breathe properly, relax throat, open mouth and push the air out of your lungs from the diaphragm (place your hand on the top of your stomach, just under your ribcage and try to make those muscles tighten when giving commands).

Distinctness (Clarity)
•Distinct commands are effective; indistinct commands cause confusion.
•Clearly enunciate; use tongue, lips, and teeth to form words and word parts.
•Develop the ability to give clear, distinct commands. Practice giving commands slowly and carefully, prolonging the syllables. Gradually increase the rate of delivery to develop proper cadence, still enunciating each syllable distinctly.

Note: Honor Guard cadence is slow; approximately 90 beats per minute

•The rise and fall in pitch and the tone changes of the voice.
•Starting at a normal speaking voice, pronounce the preparatory command with rising inflection.
•A properly delivered Command of execution should have no inflection.
•Command of execution should have a higher pitch than the preparatory command.

•Expresses confidence and decisiveness
•Expresses knowledge of commands and proper execution
•Commands are called at the proper time and in the proper manner

So, now that you have the info, straight from the manual, you will be able to properly call commands!

Happy drilling!

The Logical Separation of Colors

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard Training, Instructional Leave a Comment

While I’m sure that you are completely mesmerized at my drawing abilities, I hope the illustrations help get the idea across.

First: know the difference between posting and presenting the colors. Posting the colors is when the colors guard/team enters, renders honors and then places the colors in the stands. Presenting is when the colors team enters, renders honors and departs (called a “Show-n-Go”). This article is about the former, posting the colors.

The following is guidance for a DrillMaster Certified Ceremonial Guardsman.

Where to Post

Location. On stage at the back, in front on the floor, together, split. It’s up to you for your situation. You are educated and trained in various techniques to handle different situations, rely on that and as long as the American flag receives the utmost respect during the ceremony, you will be fine.

Together or Split? Again, that depends. Here is some guidance.

As long as the American flag is in the position of honor the whole time (in front or to the right of the other flags), aesthetics and visual balance are the big factors when considering separating posted flags or keeping them together (audience, camera angles, etc.). Position the stands with uniform separation either all together or in groups.




“You Got Odds, I Got Evens.”

You decided to split post, so now let’s consider the number of flags to post.

An even number of flags is simple to group when split posting, 50-50.

An odd number of flags is a different issue. How does one separate an odd number? In the example image below, we have a three and two split. Look at your flags with a logical view of how to group them. The example below might be all that you need.

American | State | City                                      Organization | POW/MIA

What to Post

Post all of your flags. Try not to have one or more flags preposted and then carry in two for presenting and posting. If this might be the case, it would be better to prepost all of the colors (e.g. American, state, City, & Organizational) and then present the minimum (American and state).

The minimum for the color team is four members, two flags and two rifle/axe guards. Two armed guards are the standard for the military and paramilitary (LE, fire, EMS) organizations, but not scouting programs, colors only for them. Rifles or axes are the weapons and the flags are

  1. The American flag
  2. Non-national flag
    • Uniformed service flag
    • State flag

Additional flags – the above is the minimum for first responders. Additional flags would be next: city, service (LEO, fire, EMS). Here is information on the POW/MIA.

How to Post

See the article, All About Posting or Presenting the Colors.