While there are a couple other definitions of success, they don’t fit our purpose which is learning and effectively executing military drill. Here is my preferred definition.
Success: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
Air Force Manual (AFMAN) 36-2203 is the US Air Force’s drill and ceremonies manual. The quoted text in the title is what an individual wrote to me. That individual wrote for a certain “training” organization, we can then take this statement to be the official position for that organization. Actually, the statement was, “The AFMAN simply doesn’t set one up for success by design”, but that was too long for the title of this article and is an absolute misstatement if there ever was one.
We can infer from this ignorant statement that this individual (and the organization) believes that the US Air Force purposefully wrote the AFMAN to be so vague so as to not allow for successful completion of the mission. The mission here being learning and effectively executing military drill. Of course, I do not believe that for one instant as that is a ludicrous premise! Allow me to refute this unfounded claim.
First, just for fun, let’s read the first paragraph of AFMAN 36-2203 (2013) and then we will proceed with the refutation.
1.1.1. This manual includes most Air Force needs in drill and ceremonies, but it does not cover every situation that may arise. For unusual situations, using good judgment and taking into account the purpose of the movement or procedure can often provide the solution.
1.1.2. Units or organizations required to drill under arms will use the procedures in US Army Field Manual 22-5 [DM: Training Circular 3-21.5], Drill and Ceremonies, SECNAV 5060.22 [DM: Marine Corps Order P5060.2], Marine Corps Drill and Ceremonies Manual, or Air Force Academy Cadet Wing Manual 50-5. The types of weapon used will determine the appropriate manual.
It’s like the Air Force designed the manual to be used with other manuals instead of reinventing the wheel. Imagine that. The AFMAN dicttes beginning and ending positions, the TC and MCO tell us how to go to and from those positions. As an example: the MCO tells us how to move the rifles to and from the outside/outboard shoulder for a color guard. Likewise, the TC tells us how to move the flagstaffs. Even though we use both of these other two manuals, we still must adhere to the hand and arm positions dictated by the AFMAN.
A Little History
I spent 20 years in the Air Force (85-05) and for four years before that, I was a member of my high school’s AFJROTC program. In my high school days (79-83), we had to learn AFR 50-14, Drill and Ceremonies, the content of which has not changed much since then.
After the USAF was created as its own uniformed service on September 18, 1947, it went from using Army Regulations to writing and using its own. When it came to drill and ceremonies the newly created service looked at the Marine Corps and Army drill manuals and chose from what it considered the best from each. One thing the USAF left out was information for the rifle. Why? Because the Army and Marine Corps had already accomplished that task and Airmen did not have a daily use for rifles like Soldiers and Marines. We march, so the USAF creating a drill and ceremonies manual was logical.
What did Airmen do for ceremonial rifle information? We had copies of FM 22-5 and used the manual of arms there. Simple, especially when the pictures of AF color guards had the guards wearing sidearms (the above image from 1996). Using both manuals is even what every Base Honor Guard unit did across the Air Force before the USAF Honor Guard took over that program in the mid 90s and created an Air Force-wide ceremonial standard. Notice in the picture above the use of the right arm to hold the flagstaff.
Today, the pictures in the AFMAN include guards armed with rifles. However, the pictures only show technique for Order, Parade Rest, Right Shoulder (Carry), and Attention. What has never been a concern is how to get the rifle from one position to the other. Why? Because we use the TC and MCO for transitional techniques, but we use the beginning and ending position techniques of the AFMAN. Again, simple.
There is no reason for Air Force JROTC teams to not march the AFMAN. None, except for untrained judges – who are only briefed about the score sheet they just received.
Side note: The picture above, from the 2013 version of the AFMAN, is NOT REVERSED (as the individual wrote to me), the color bearers are just using the wrong arm in the picture – the text says to use the right arm. Also notice the rifles on the outside shoulders. What technique is used here to move to and from the shoulder? Amazingly, the Marine Corps already has this taken care of in their Marine Corps Order P5060-20. Yet again, simple.
Disparaging the AFMAN or any other service manual only shows a peculiar unawareness of the concept of military drill standards. JROTC teams need to learn, perfect, and march their service manual. Let them do so.
Cadets, start reading instead of trying to gain your knowledge from this year’s seniors who were taught by last year’s seniors, etc., etc.