The Cherry Blossom Festival Joint Service Drill Exhibition

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The Marine Corps won the first Joint Service Drill Competition years ago when it was held inside a shopping center. You can see brief videos of that on YouTube. There was a long hiatus and the competition started back up, this time in front of the Jefferson Memorial. The Joint Service Drill Exhibition is now held at the Lincoln Memorial.

Exhibition? What happened to the Competition?

The last competition, which I judged, was in 2012 and the Air Force was the winner- by a hair. Why the change? Fairness. The Marine Corps and Army have had their separate drill teams in one platoon and the members of those platoons have had their specific job of perfecting the routine. The Air Force eventually created a flight that does the same thing but is not full-time. The Navy’s team practices at various times throughout the day and that leaves the Coast Guard. They will never be able to “win”- that is not a statement that should in any way be associated with the CG’s team being poor. It is not. They are successful and have a high level of excellence. I am thrilled to watch all of the team’s performances every year ad love to watch the Coast Guard’s team.

Why won’t they win? They are the smallest honor guard and are unable to have honor guard members totally dedicated to the drill team. All of the Coast Guard honor guard members must master at least two elements of the honor guard: Colors, Pall Bearers, or Firing Party. Many have certification in all three. They all can switch around as needed so most of their time is spent practicing all of their duty-related tasks, drill team is extra. Those who are on the drill team put in extra hours- and do a great job, mind you- but the routine must be kept relatively simple.

The other teams that have dedicated honor guard members can create complex routines that “wow” the crowd and while the Coast Guard drill team still “wows” crowds with their performances, their routine, when viewed through a judge’s lens of Overall Effect, Composition Analysis, Equipment and Movement is unable- on purpose- to be as complex and still have the excellent execution that we see in the other service honor guard teams.

So, instead of handing the trophy back and forth between the Air Force and the Army, with the Marines, and possibly the Navy, getting in there every few years, we can go and watch and appreciate all of the performances since, in reality, they are winners just because they get up every morning, put on a perfect uniform, honor our country’s war dead and heads of state and then go off to practice drill.

DrillMaster’s Score at Home Sheet

With the elimination of judging (which I fully support) from the yearly Presidential Honor Guard Drill Team performances, that doesn’t mean you can’t decide who you think is the “winner”! Let’s face it all of the teams are fun to watch and do a wonderful job, but we all have our favorite.

I’ve created a very simple four-caption score sheet and scoring system for you to download and use. See how you think the teams did and stack your results up against your friends’ and family’s.

The Pentagon Channel and others may air it. Check your listings.

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