The AFMAN Right Face in Marching is Wrong

DrillMaster Commentary, Instructional Leave a Comment

Wow, that’s a bit presumptuous of me to say that the AFMAN is wrong when it comes to the Right Face in Marching, isn’t it? You would think, but there’s a very good reason why I am writing this. While initially reading through AFMAN 36-2201, you may skim across the information and accept it at face value, however, if you look deeper into the Face in Marching, you will see there is a problem.

It’s a strange movement, but has a very good purpose. Essentially, it is a flank from a halt. For those of you who execute a Colors Reverse (an Army move that reverses a color guard) with flanks, you need to read this: The Colors Reverse and Countermarch How To.

The Army Face in Marching

4-15. FACING IN MARCHING
Facings in Marching from the Halt are important parts of the following movements: alignments, column movements, inspecting Soldiers in ranks, and changing from Normal Interval to Double Interval or Double Interval to Normal Interval.
a. For instructional purposes only, the command Face to the Right (Left) in Marching, MARCH may be used to teach the individual to execute the movement properly. On the preparatory command Face to the Right (Left) in Marching, shift the weight of the body without noticeable movement onto the right foot. On the command of execution MARCH, pivot to the right (left) on the ball of the right foot (90 degrees) and step off in the indicated direction with the left foot. Execute the pivot and step in one count, and continue marching in the new direction. (See paragraph 4-5c and Chapter 3, paragraph 3-1a.)

TC 3-21.5 20 January 2012

From the text above, we can easily understand that the face-in-march (my term, abbreviated F-I-M) is only executed with the pivot on the right foot at a full 90 degrees to the right or left with the left foot kicked out in either direction. This is what the image at the top of the article shows.

The text then goes on to describe the 45-degree half-right or half-left F-I-M, which is required for a column movement from a halt with two or more squads/elements. More on that in a moment.

The Marine Corps Face as in Marching

This applies to Marines, Sailors, and Coasties.

The MCO does not define a F-I-M, specifically. It refers to it as a Face as in Marching for Close and Extend and also for mass parade movement. It also mentions an Oblique in Marching. However, the F-I-M explanation is presented in Section 2, paragraph 12.

To March to the Flank. The purpose of this movement is to march the
entire unit to the right (left) for a short distance. It may be executed
when halted or while marching at either quick time or double time. The
command is “By the Right (Left) Flank, MARCH.” When marching the command of execution is given as the foot in the direction of the movement strikes the deck.
a. From a Halt
(1) For right flank, turn 90 degrees to the right by pivoting on the ball of the right foot and (using a cross over step) stepping off with the left foot 30 inches in the new direction of march.
(2) For left flank, turn 90 degrees to the left by pivoting on the ball of the right foot and stepping off 30 inches with the left foot in the new direction of march.

MCO 5060.20 15 May 2019

For either direction, once again, the pivot is on the right foot. Why? Because we step off with the left foot for every move we perform except for Right Step where we move laterally and do not face the direction of march.

The AF Face in Marching

Here is where we get into a strange explanation that does not make sense when you put it into practice.

3.18. Face in Marching. The command is Right (Left) Flank, MARCH. On the command MARCH, the Airman executes a 90-degree pivot on the ball of the right (left) foot and, at the same time, steps off with the left (right) foot in the new direction with coordinated arm swing. The pivot and step are executed in one count, and proper dress, cover, interval, and distance are maintained.

AFMAN 36-2203 19 June 2018

The image below shows what the AFMAN describes for a Right Flank from the halt. Why would this be different from the other services? There isn’t a good answer to this question.

Now, I’m aware that there are service differences. For instance, all of the services used to execute an Oblique but the Army and Air Force stopped using it decades ago while the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard still use it. Another instance is Column of Files (Twos) from the Right/Left. That’s the Marine Corps and Air Force term for the move, but the MCO left this move out in the 2019 edition. The Army calls it File from the Right/Left.

The Duck Walk

Before we continue, let me throw this in the mix: the USAF “Duck Walk” is used for in-ranks inspections. If the above is to be followed, pivoting on the left foot and stepping to the right with the right foot, then why is the Duck Walk’s first pivot and following steps explained to look like this?

Why isn’t the first pivot on the left foot? Because it’s not supposed to be, that’s why. We don’t pivot on the left. Let’s continue.

The Problem Explained

If all you have to do is call “Column Right, MARCH!” while halted, and have the flight step off, we have a big problem. All of the element leaders, let’s say we have four elements, will step off on the right foot, but the rest of the flight, let’s say we have four ranks (a total of 16 members) will step off on their left.

Shown below are the foot steps of the first and second ranks. All of the element leaders (first rank) are executing what the AFMAN says is correct, but that creates a right foot lead off when the rest of the flight steps of, correctly, with the left foot. Now we have the first rank out of step with the rest of the flight.

To get around this difficulty, the AFMAN has the following:

4.11.4. On the command MARCH, element leaders begin the movement by executing a face in marching for a column left. For a column right, element leaders take one 24-inch step forward, then execute the movement.

AFMAN 36-2203 19 June 2019

Working Jointly

We, in the US military are supposed to be able to fit together in war fighting and we display that ability when march. While there are some commands that can throw off the services (“By the Right Flank” called on multiple feet vs. “Right Flank” called on two right steps), that can be remedied but technique is another matter.

It’s an assumption on my part and I hope you can at least see my point here. Performing a move completely differently from the other services isn’t in our best interests and this can be easily cleared up.

It doesn’t make sense to have to long-standing drill and ceremonies manuals and then have the AF come along and say, “Nah, we’ll do it this way.” I’m looking at you, Space Force. Don’t make me write an article about you. Now, let’s look at this from an historic perspective.

A Brief History

Why the US military cannot use one standard is a bit confusing. We started with one standard for the Revolutionary War under Baron von Steuben’s Blue Book and during the Civil War era, different generals began writing slightly different standards for rifle manipulation, mainly. The differences continued from there.

The first Air Force Manual for drill and ceremonies was AFM 50-14, dated June 1956. I have both the initial manual and the revision. Both have the following paragraph on page 46. Remember, the USAF became a service out of the Army in September of 1947 and relied heavily on both Army Field Manual 22-5 (now TC 3-21.5) and the NAVMC 2691 (now the MCO 5060.20) manual for drill and ceremonies.

To Face in Marching. The facings in marching are an important part of movements as column right, close, take interval, and extend. For facings to the right or left in marching, the command, By the Right (Left) Flank, MARCH, may be used.

TO face to the right or left in marching from a halt, turn to the right or left flank on the ball of the right foot at the command of execution. At the same time step off with the left foot in the new direction. [emphasis mine]AFM 50-14 and AFM 50-14 (Revision) June 1956

Performance Report Bullet Needed in ’92?

The same text is used in the 1963 version of AFM 50-14. But the 1992 version, AFR 50-14, has the change! I cannot find any edition of the manual after 1963 version to before 1992 version, so I am not positive that the change was made exactly in ’92. In any case, it was made. Why?

The USAF history is relatively short, however we are losing our history. Just because you might have an idea doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to change a standard. Marching may not seem like a big deal from where you sit but let me assure you that it is a very big deal. Please read, The Benefits of Military Drill.

Wrap Up

Standards matter. The F-I-M is not simply a flank from a halt. It is a precise movement that requires coordination with the rest of the formation when different elements are executing different movements simultaneously.

Drill and ceremonies is not just something an individual can flippantly make up as they go. The impact is far too great. There must be sound reasoning behind a proposed change (I’m looking at you, Civil Air Patrol, Sea Cadets, and Young Marines.)

Now that the problem has been identified, let’s clean it up and reword the paragraph back to the original language. While we are at it, a definition could be added to the MCO to not only name the Face as in Marching (“as” not required), but also explain the Oblique in Marching (which the Army identified as the Half-right (left) Face in Marching.

And, could we just call it a Face-in-March too?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *