Readability describes something that we can easily read. We get that. When we pick up a newspaper or look at a magazine article, we find it easy to read and comprehend, in general. We can read a master’s degree thesis and find complex words, phrases and sentence structure. On the other hand, we can look at a child’s first paper and see that it is very difficult to read and not just because of the child’s inability to draw the letters well. The same goes for a visual performance.
The three types of drill in the military are, regulation (RD), ceremonial (CD) and exhibition (XD). All require readability, but XD is where it comes into play since this type of drill is strictly performance-based. For ease of explanation, I will talk about RD, but it can be applied to CD and XD.
It’s about Communication
Take a look at the picture above. Notice the stripe on the skirt/trouser leg, cover (hat) and the white gloves. These make certain movements and positions stand out. Look at the hand positions, leg angles and the height of the feet. We see mostly the same positions with a small variation here and there. This is fairly clear communication or, readability. This means we can see what the team is doing and we can understand and appreciate it. This is a picture of one moment in time. Now let’s use our imagination.
Envision yourself executing the following sequence: you execute a Right Face and let your hands swing out a little as you use your shoulders to help you (a common new Driller move). Your shoulders and hands moving create movement that hinders communication, clarity and sharpness.
Now, envision this: you are at Port Arms going to Order. You reach up with your right hand, grasp the rifle to pull it down and as you let go with your left, your left drifts over to your left side and then moves to the rifle muzzle. You then rest the rifle on the deck and cut your left to your side to Attention. That indecisive left arm movement creates confusion as to where it should go creating confusion.
Imagine you are executing the 15-Count Manual, Arms sequence. Imagine that your hands never reach your sides when you are at either shoulder, but stop a few inches away from your trouser seam. This means you are not completing each position’s movements like you should. This completely blurs clarity and greatly hinders communication. This usually happens when the Driller is concentrating on completing the sequence in order near the beginning of learning the manual of arms.
And now, if you are an exhibition Driller, imagine not completing moves or positions, as described above for the 15-Count Manual. This is very common for Drillers as they progress.
You create clear communication by completing moves and by executing movements sharply. It isn’t simple at first because you have multiple responsibilities* going on at the same time. Eventually though, as you progress, you learn to balance those responsibilities and create effective drill.
*Multiple Responsibilities are what you have to consider all at the same time, while performing: marching with your feet straight while at attention, using proper arm swing, staying aligned to the front and side, staying in step, executing movements at the right time, etc.