The small details (read: Sweat the Small Stuff) are what build up from one tiny aspect to a whole routine and when you pay attention to these small details it helps create greater effect and better communication and team cohesion.
Feet seem to be an afterthought in military drill, but that is changing. In exhibition drill, if you have not coordinated your footwork into the routine along with every other nuance of your performance, you have not completed the design process and it will show. The same goes for regulation drill, but it’s different.
The Open Toe Method
In regulation drill, we stand at Attention and Parade Rest with our feet at a 45-degree angle and when we begin to march… Ah, there is the afterthought!
If you have not addressed this with your team, then you probably have some members marching like this (improper):
And then some on your team marching like this (the proper method):
If you have variations in how your team members march, that’s not a good thing and no, it is not a personal preference that everyone just has to deal with. There is a proper and improper way to step and halt.
So, why does this happen? Easy, one of my favorite sayings, “Practice make permanent.” What you do in practice you will do in a performance. But what if someone has never practiced marching before, like a first-year cadet in JROTC? Oh, but they have! It’s called, “Walking”. From when you were a little child, each time you walked, you have been practicing marching. If, when walking, your gate takes your feet pointing out or rolling inward or any other kind of improper variation, that is the way they will march. And that goes for walking properly as well.
When I was about nine-years old or so, my mother noticed that my toes tended to point outward while we were on a walk, “Point your toes straight, John,” was all I needed and I’ve striven to keep them that way ever since. I do, however, have an issue with the muscles in my right hip, they are a little tighter than should be so my right toes angle out just a bit when I am not concentrating on it.
Physical differences, like the muscle issue I mentioned above, are either overcome or dealt with as they are as there may be a medical issue that inhibits a team member from creating a proper step. The team deals with medical issues and works on improving how someone learned how to walk improperly.
To make the transition from a halt with the feet at a 45-degree angle to pointing forward when marching, simply point the foot of the lead step straight forward and then the foot of the trail step. It seems easy enough, but not everyone does it and you need to make sure your team is fully aware of this.
The Transition Back
While the team is marching, the team will eventually hear the command to halt and that is when the second transition comes into play.
Address with your team, the transition from marching with feet pointing straight to halting with feet at a 45-degree angle. Plant the lead foot (left/right) after the command, Halt, at 22.5-degrees to the outside and then bring the trailing foot (right/left) along side the lead foot, heels touching and also at a 22.5-degree angle in the opposite direction of the lead. That is how one halts with one’s feet at a 45-degree angle.
The same transitions go for Mark Time, when either beginning or halting; when marching in place, the feet point forward, when you halt, the lead foot planted, points at 22.5-degrees outward and the trail foot planted then points 22.5-degrees outward in the opposite direction making up 45-degrees.
Feet Together for Exhibition Drill?
You don’t have to concern yourself with any of the information above if your team uses the Closed Toe Method. The Open Toe Method is mandatory in regulation drill, though.