Dress Right Dress

Distance and Alignment Training

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Do You Even Align Bro

This is the best way that I know how to train a team to consistently maintain alignment and distance.

When the platoon/flight falls in, they fall in at Attention in line formation, dress and cover without command. This is standard and if you are not doing this and relying on the commander to give commands, you are not falling in properly- this goes for every service and every formation (drill team, color guard, etc.).

Team members raise their left arms to get their interval to the left, alignment to the right and their cover and distance to the front. When obtaining their distance to the front, squad/element leaders must add six inches of space between the back of the person in front and their fingertips. When dressing to the right, each team member at the front (first squad/element) must move so that their shoulder touches the fingertips of the member to their right. Once the team achieves distance and alignment, they individually drop their arms assuming Attention.

In column formation, each service has commands to create proper alignment and distance.

These are the procedures when you first fall in, but sometimes, as soon as you step off, alignment and spacing are lost. How do you train to keep both after marching for any distance?

“Dress and Cover”

While training and marching, every time the commander calls halt, he/she should immediately give the informal command “Dress and cover”.

The Sequence goes like this:

  1. The formation is marching in Column/Line or Inverted Column/Line formation.
    • Marching in each direction is mandatory to help the team master distance and alignment when marching in each direction, even for just a few steps.
    • Many times team members with weaker marching skills are at the rear or flank of a platoon/flight formation. Marching in each direction builds their skills.
  2. Commander calls Halt.
  3. Team halts and does not move – this is essential. Extraneous movement is going to delay the team creating better muscle memory and discipline.
  4. Commander gives “dress and cover”.
  5. If the team is in Column (Inverted Column) formation:
    • Squad/element leaders (members of the last rank) put their left arms up and obtain alignment and distance from the base squad/element (that means dress to the left in inverted column).
    • Everyone aligns to the base squad/element and obtains distance. Arms are not necessary for anyone behind the first (base) squad/element.
    • Arms drop, heads look straight forward. Everything should be finished in just a few seconds.
    • Commander continues with marching.
  6. If the team is in Line/Inverted Line formation:
    • First squad/element members (members of the base squad) put their left arms up and obtain alignment and distance from the squad/element leaders (that means dress to the left in inverted line).
    • Everyone aligns to the squad/element leaders and obtains distance. Arms are not necessary for anyone behind the first (last) rank.
    • Arms drop, heads look straight forward. Again, everything should be finished in just a few seconds.
    • Commander continues with marching.

Never perform the above sequence automatically. That will instill the wrong muscle memory for the team. “Practice makes permanent” as my AFJROTC Lt Col used to say, and he was 100% correct. What you do in a practice you will eventually do in a performance.

This is not the command to execute Dress Right, Dress, where everyone leaves their arms up, it is an informational command that requires every team member to obtain their distance and alignment. You must do this every single time the team halts- make it a habit and eventually, the team members will have to move less and less as they begin to maintain proper alignment, and eventually, you will not need to tell them to dress and cover. It may take a while, depending on how often you practice and the team member’s experience, but the team will march at their proper distance all the time once they develop their visual memory.

Creating “Visual Memory”

Visual memory is my term for spatial relations. The relationship between team members is based on the electronic field bubble that extends out from our bodies and what we see and are used to. It is similar to muscle memory which enables you to repeat a movement almost exactly the same each time, but in the case of visual memory and for our purposes, you maintain your proper distance and alignment.

See also, Is it “Tall Tap”, “Tall or Tap”, or What?

Originally written in March 2016 and updated in June 2024

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