NJROTC Cadets and Commands

DrillMasterAsk DrillMaster, Commentary, JROTC 2 Comments

In my years of judging military drill competitions, I have encountered a peculiar situation with just about every Navy JROTC team. The team commander (platoon, squad, or color guard) calls the commands without the first letter of each word. Here is an example:

“‘Orward, ‘ARCH!”

I thought it might be one of those situations where one JROTC team does something different and others want to do it too because different is somehow “cool”. That’s not the case at all. Apparently Headquarters NJROTC teaches this technique as part of the summer leadership school curriculum (please correct me if I am wrong!). If this is the case, we have a big problem.

The issue with this is twofold: 1) The US Navy follows Marine Corps Order 5060.20 for drill and ceremonies and the command voice is addressed in this Order. NJROTC must take the information in the MCO and apply it uniformly across the command. 2) The sound of these commands is like listening to a monotone sea lion. It’s an abrupt, bark-like sound, devoid of the proper qualities.

The following voice characteristics are completely ignored when using the monotone-no-first-letter NJROTC technique (text in bold below is my emphasis).

MCO 5060.20 Says

f. A command must be given loud enough to be heard by all members of a unit.
(1) Good posture, proper breathing, and the correct use of throat and mouth muscles help develop a commander’s voice.
(2) Projecting the voice enables one to be heard at maximum range without undue strain. To project a command, commanders must focus their voices on the most distant individuals. Good exercises for voice projection are:
(a) Yawning to get the feel of the open mouth and throat.
(b) Counting and saying the vowel sounds “oh” and “ah” in a full, firm voice.
(c) Giving commands at a uniform cadence, prolonging each syllable.
(d) When practicing, stand erect, breathe properly, keep the mouth open wide, and relax the throat.
(3) The diaphragm is the most important muscle in breathing. It is the large horizontal muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It automatically controls normal breathing, but must be developed to give commands properly. Deep breathing exercises are one good method of developing the diaphragm. Another is to take a deep breath, hold it, open the mouth, relax the throat muscles, and snap out a series of fast “hats” or “huts.” Expelling short puffs of air from the lungs should make these sounds. If properly done, you can feel the stomach muscles tighten as the sounds are made.
(4) The throat, mouth, and nose act as amplifiers. They give fullness to and help project the voice. In giving commands, the throat should be relaxed. The lower jaw and lips should be loose. The mouth should be open wide and the vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u) should be prolonged. Consonants (letters other than vowels) and word endings should be curt and sharply cut off.
(5) The position of attention is the proper position for giving commands (See figure 1-6a). A leader’s bearing will be emulated. If it is military, junior personnel will be inspired to respond to commands with snap and precision.
(6) Distinct commands inspire troops. Indistinct commands confuse them. All commands can be given correctly without loss of effect or cadence. To give distinct commands, you must emphasize enunciation; make full use of the tongue, lips, and lower jaw; practice giving commands slowly, carefully, and in cadence; and then increase the rate of delivery until the proper rhythm (112 to 120 beats per minute) is reached and each syllable is distinct. Raising the hand to the mouth to aid in projecting commands is not proper.
(7) Inflection is the rise and fall in pitch, the tone changes of the voice.
(a) Preparatory commands should be delivered with a rise and inflection in the voice. (e.g., “BaaaTALion,” “PlaaaTOON,” “FoorWARD,” “TO the REAR,” etc.) In particular those preparatory commands that cause supplemental movements should be heavily accentuated on the last syllable. (e.g., The command “Present, ARMS” the preparatory command Preee(pause)ZENT” causes those armed with swords to execute the first count of the movement and the national color to go to the carry. Another example is “Officers, Center, MARCH.” On the preparatory command of “OffiCERS” those armed with swords go to the carry, on the preparatory command of “CennnTER” the officer’s step and/or face)
(b) A command of execution is given in a sharper and higher pitch than the tone of the preparatory command’s last syllable. A good
command of execution has no inflection, but it must have snap. It should be delivered with sharp emphasis, ending like the crack of a whip. If properly given, troops will react to it with snap and precision.
(c) Combined commands such as “FALL IN” are delivered without inflection. They are given in the uniform high pitch and loudness of a command of execution.

MCO 5060.20 15 MAY 2019 Enclosure (1)

Notice how command voice qualities detailed in the MCO are the complete opposite of the technique that most NJROTC cadets seem to use. The MCO was written for a purpose, just like all other military manuals. We need to use it as it was intended.

Comments 2

  1. Ok, I am a 15 year veteran of teaching JROTC. I have taught in both MC and Navy sides. I have never come across what you are saying here. I have taught at three different summer leadership areas and this has never been taught. Please dint paint with a broad brush. Each area teaches its own LA. Maybe you only viewed one.

    1. Post


      Thank you for your comment and for your continued service to our youth.

      The broad brush was on purpose. I’ve worked with NJROTC unuts around the country and cadets individually. I’ve also judged competitions. In every instance I’ve heard these ridiculous commands.

      I don’t write from a tiny perspective, I try to take in as much information as possible when I post on my website and social media.

      “Each area teaches its own” and therein lies the problem.


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