How to Call Commands

Your Command Voice

DrillMasterColor Guard/Color Team, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional, JROTC 2 Comments

Have you considered your command voice? Have you looked at your service’s manual and actually read about what it says on the proper way to call commands? No, it doesn’t say monotone is OK, it doesn’t say the gravel-in-your-throat style is a good style, it says use inflection, be clear and more! Read for yourself! Don’t rely on a senior cadet to tell you what you need to do (as with EVERYTHING else!)- read it for yourself!

“Well, I call commands like this.” “At my school we, [fill in the blank here].” Ever hear of standardization? That is what the military is about, standardizing. Your personal style, what you may think is really cool, does not matter. Stop it.

Click here to listen to some examples of commands in MP3 format and how to call them.

Also read this article, “Root Step” and Command Pronunciation.

The Diaphragm Muscle and Your Vocal Cords

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle wall that separates your chest from your abdomen. When calling commands you must use your diaphragm muscle to project sound or you can damage your vocal cords. When the diaphragm expands, your lungs expand and you inhale. When it contracts, you exhale. It’s the control of exhaling that you need to discover. Forceful exhaling will help you project your voice. Find your diaphragm by placing a hand on the upper part of your abdomen so that you can feel a rib with your thumb. Now, start calling commands. Feel for the contraction of your abdominal muscles. At first, you may force those muscles to work, but with practice, it will become natural. Once you have control over that natural contraction, start building on that and projecting your voice. You want to be heard across a football field, end zone to end zone. Picture courtesy of FitnessGenes.


Your command voice is a matter of understanding the technique behind projecting your voice without damaging your vocal cords and practice.

  1. Place a hand at the bottom of your rib cage while you stand Attention.
  2. Call a command and try to feel your abdominal muscles tense. You will probably force your muscles to retract, but that’s OK. It’s about developing the feeling, understanding it, and applying it each time you call commands.
  3. Now, keep doing it, call commands and eventually you will be able to project your voice in a professional manner using muscle memory while keep your vocal cords healthy.

The Particulars of Your Commands

When calling commands your voice should have inflection and NOT be monotone (some Navy cadets do this and I cannot figure out why). You should also enunciate each syllable and not leave off the first or last letter.

  • There is no such thing is “HACE” as in Face. The USAF once used “FHACE” to project the command.
  • The USAF does allow, Forward, HARCH, and Present, HARMS (in a commands graphic, not text) the other services use MARCH. Note: Marine Barracks Washington is the only unit in the Marine Corps authorized to use “Harch” and “Harms”.
  • All services used to call, “Ten-hut!”, but that stopped around the 1960s or so. There is no such thing as “Ten-hut” or “A-Ten-Hut”.
  • There is no need to growl your commands- that means you are calling from your throat. Stop, or you will have problems later in life.
  • There is no such thing is “Orward, ARCH“.
  • The Marine Corps’ command of execution sounds like, “Hur!”

Here is a snippet from my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

•The ability of your voice to reach whatever distance necessary without undue strain.
•Voice is focused on the person farthest away.
•Assume the position of Attention, breathe properly, relax throat, open mouth and push the air out of your lungs from the diaphragm (place your hand on the top of your stomach, just under your ribcage and try to make those muscles tighten when giving commands).

Distinctness (Clarity)
•Distinct commands are effective; indistinct commands cause confusion.
•Clearly enunciate; use tongue, lips, and teeth to form words and word parts.
•Develop the ability to give clear, distinct commands. Practice giving commands slowly and carefully, prolonging the syllables. Gradually increase the rate of delivery to develop proper cadence, still enunciating each syllable distinctly.

Note: Honor Guard cadence is slow; approximately 90 beats per minute

•The rise and fall in pitch and the tone changes of the voice.
•Starting at a normal speaking voice, pronounce the preparatory command with rising inflection.
•A properly delivered Command of execution should have no inflection.
•Command of execution should have a higher pitch than the preparatory command.

•Expresses confidence and decisiveness
•Expresses knowledge of commands and proper execution
•Commands are called at the proper time and in the proper manner

So, now that you have the info, straight from the manual, you will be able to properly call commands!

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