Before we begin, let’s define some terms. We need to define these terms because some believe they already know what these terms mean, but in reality, they don’t understand them at all and that leads not only to confusing communication but also an adversarial atmosphere which accomplishes nothing.
Scorn: a feeling and expression of contempt or disdain for someone or something.
Rebuke/Scold/Reproach: express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.
- The expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
- The analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a performance.
Constructive Criticism: The process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, not in an oppositional but professional manner.
Destructive Criticism: Purely negative comments purposefully designed as an attack against another. It is never useful.
You Put on a Uniform…
When you join an organization you automatically gain a responsibility to it especially when you wear a uniform. In the case of a cadet org, your responsibility is to your unit, (school), community, cadet HQ, the service (AF, etc.), and the USA (in the case of a color guard). You are not just a regular Joe or Jane. Same for everyone in uniform.
Why do we have competitions?
To hone our skills and to ensure we are following standards (regulation drill) and/or to display our expertise in a certain area to where others approach us to find out how we train and practice. A competition is not about seeing who is better than others, but who or which team has better training and more efficient practice methods. Seeing competitors as the adversary is the wrong outlook.
Team Green should be able to go to Team Blue and ask, “How did you XYZ?” and Team Blue should then be able to then give an explanation. This is explained in the aphorism first coined by President John F. Kennedy, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. It is the idea that improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants (all teams) in that economy. For our purposes here economy means a particular system and that system is the Military Drill World.
I have been judging visual performances for many years. While I was stationed in Netherlands, I was certified by Color Guard Nederland (the Dutch sister organization of Winter Guard International) as a General Effect Visual adjudicator. I judged for Drum Corps United Kingdom, Drum Corps Holland, and the Pacific Coast Judges Association in California. Since 1994 I have judged JROTC drill meets in several states and different countries and have judged a fire department honor guard competition. If you look at my Instagram account you will see that I have “judged” well over 1000 videos and images sent in by followers and posted them on the account. This doesn’t take into account the multiple hundreds of MP3 files that I have sent to Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve military members from all services (yes, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, & Coast Guardsmen), international drill teams, solo Drillers, JROTC instructors, and cadets with my real-time feedback of their performance.
Most of the time my feedback is quite critical and has few positives. That is unfortunate, but many times a rebuke is necessary. We learn from rebukes, not scorn. My comments are based on the written standards (Flag Code, all service D&C, protocol, and flag manuals) for regulation drill elements and the only written standards for exhibition drill, the World Drill Association Adjudication Manual.
Feedback on the Feedback
I receive appreciative feedback all the time from those who request a critique and on a consistent basis from those who are not even involved with the critique request (helping others learn by another’s mistakes). And then there are those who don’t have a clue.
“They’re just children!” is my favorite ridiculous comment, referring to JROTC cadets who have never picked up their service drill and ceremonies manual and yet presented the colors at an event. Other comments I’ve received: “You should thank them (veterans or military in uniform performing horribly) for just being there”, “Their hearts are in the right place”, and the latest, “They are just Civil Air Patrol Cadets, give them a break”.
I’ve tried to explain what is going on to these people in an attempt to help them understand that standards always matter regardless of your age or any other factor that happens to come to mind. Unfortunately all I receive in return is scorn, which devolves into personal attacks. I don’t explain anymore.
There is No Excuse
If you are military or a cadet, read your applicable service manuals, all of them are available for free here. If you are in a Scouting-type program, stand by, more information is coming from The DrillMaster specifically for you. If you are a first responder, get on board with the United States Certified Ceremonial Guardsman program withe the ceremonial standards detailed in The Honor Guard Manual.