The Essence of Judging Military Drill

DrillMasterCommentary, Drill Teams, Instructional, Judging 1 Comment

What is military drill really all about?

  1. To move a military unit from point A to point B.
  2. To establish esprit de corps (a positive “spirit of the body”; the unit), build confidence and teamwork and help soldiers (small “S” meaning all service personnel) react immediately to the command given.

How is this type of drill taught and graded?

It’s taught in Basic Training for each service. Each trainee is taught the what and how of each position and movement. It is graded on a “Go/No Go” (pass/fail) basis.

What about the service honor guard units?

These are specialized elements in each military service designed to execute a specific job which has many parts to it:

  1. Render honors at military funerals
  2. Render honors for State functions
  3. Public interaction/recruiting (i.e. drill teams, Spirit of America performances)

It’s about the why

Moving out of what we can call the “Standard Military Drill Paradigm,” (military drill used only for the above), we enter into the world of JROTC/ROTC/Cadet drill. For the purpose of this article, we can call this “The Competitive Drill World.” Drill in the Standard Military Drill Paradigm, does not teach the intricacies of “how” nor the “why” of placing your foot this way, or moving your hand that way. The Competitive Drill World is intensely focused on this.

The Cadet Drill World is a world of highly trained Drillers: armed and unarmed. The Regulation Drill (RD) Phase of competitions (everything from the service manual) has been perfected to the highest degree in many cases giving judges a difficult time of almost splitting hairs when it comes to singling out the best of the top performances.

Exhibition Drill (XD) is where thinking opposite of RD comes in handy. Many cannot do this and base their XD routine on “fancified RD” which does not communicate well. Still, some teams across the country have been able to create jaw-dropping routines with innovative ideas.


For today’s drill meets the Go/No Go grading is just out of the question, but what about 1-10 for each movement like the RD sequence? This is better, but has it’s limitations. What about dividing the 1-10 into thirds? Much better! This at least gives a written visual idea as to what is good/better/best. This thirds idea has been borrowed from when I first came out with my score sheets for the World Drill Association Adjudication System, but I do not mind. It’s a good idea- more power to you.

What are these “limitations” mentioned before?There are two of these limitations:

  1. Judge training
  2. No written standard

Judge Training

If you know me personally, you know that this is my big issue with judging drill meets. While it helps to be a Drill Instructor, Training Instructor and/or honor guard member, these positions do not train you to judge past the Go/No Go level because you don’t need to know more than that since it does not serve the interest of the military. As a judge, you need training. I’m not talking about being briefed on how to use the score sheet a half hour before you begin judging. Nor am I talking about watching a couple of videos and having the score sheet explained to you in detail the day before. That is better, but it does not meet the requirement of professional adjudication.

The training required needs to give you the information of how to rate each performance (assign a score), rank each performance (assign placements), what the score means (based on a written standard), what score spreads mean (the point distance between each ranking) and more. All of this is given to you in the World Drill Association Adjudication System.

No Written Standard

What does a score of 380, 1200, 73 or 128 mean? Nothing. Even if you go to three different drill meets in the same city, the score you received at one meet has no bearing or relation to the score you receive at the other two meets. Why? Because it has not been an issue before. I’m making it an issue, because it needs to be an issue. Look at it this way:

If you do not know what you do not know,
then you do not know that there is something better or even to ask questions.

The original and only written standard for military drill is in the World Drill Association Adjudication System.

Nowhere else will you get the complete training required for judging any kind of military drill competition. Cadets around the world practice day-in and day-out trying to perfect their routines. Don’t you think that they deserve the best possible adjudication system to give them feedback as to what works or does not work and why? I think so, so I created the WDA System.

Study and become a Certified WDA Adjudicator. Study and become a Certified DrillMaster. Study and have the knowledge of how to create better, more effective routines. Get the books, begin the program. Learn and do a better job doing what you enjoy.

Comments 1

  1. Pingback: Point Spreads and What They Mean | The DrillMaster

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *