Proper Technique For the Platoon Commander

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Here is the situation: The regulation drill sequence for a platoon. The commander, three steps away from and centered on the platoon in Line Formation, gives the following commands:

CommandThe Commander
Left StepRight Step
Left FaceStands Fast
Right StepMarches Backward at Half Step
About FaceStands Fast
Forward MarchSteps off with a Face-In-March to the left

The team performs the commands as appropriate. Watch this performance.


No, not “buts”. The technique used in the video is correct. Here’s why.

The Left Face in the sequence above seems to be a sticking point for some. There is the thought that the commander must face to the right with the platoon (facing to the left) and then give the next command. Why would Left Face change what the commander does? It doesn’t.

Giving Right or Left Face and then Forward March requires the commander to perform a Face-in-March to that direction. So, giving a Right or Left Face and then anything other marching command is actioned from Attention facing the platoon.

Marching Commands

From Line Formation, the command Backwards March requires the commander to march forward at Half Step. Any sidestep command requires the commander to perform the opposite movement to remain centered and three steps away from the formation. Numbered steps or Forward March, from Line Formation, would require the commander to execute About Face first to be able to step off with the platoon and maintain alignment and distance. That is the key to every move.

The commander must be able to step off with the platoon and maintain alignment and distance.

*The three-step distance is due to a lack of room on the regulation drill area.

Standing Commands

Any “standing manual” command (e.g., facing movements, Hand Salute/Present, and Parade Rest) requires the commander to remain at Attention, centered on and facing the formation. The commander does not perform any of these movements because the commander is giving the commands for the platoon and not a platoon member.

What the D&C Manuals Say

3-2. When at the Halt, the commander faces the troops when giving commands. On commands that set the unit in motion (marching from one point to another), the commander moves simultaneously with the unit to maintain correct position within the formation. (See chapter 4, paragraphs 4-7 and 4-27, for more information on facing in marching.)

TC 3-21.5

7-7. On the command Open Ranks, MARCH; Backward, MARCH; Right (Left) Step, MARCH; Forward, MARCH and on commands that cause the platoon to change interval in line, they [the commander- DM] move at the same time (with the appropriate step) so as to maintain proper position.

TC 3-21.5

b. When giving commands, commanders face their troops.

MCO 5060.20 Chap 4, para 3

3. e. Except when marching at the head of a platoon column, the platoon commander must maintain proper distance (six paces) from the platoon and remain centered on the platoon during all drill movements.

(1) If the platoon was executing a right step, the platoon commander, who is facing the platoon, would execute a left step in cadence with the platoon in order to maintain proper position. For a left step, the platoon commander would execute a right step.
(2) If the platoon were executing a back step, the platoon commander would execute a half step, in cadence with the platoon in order to maintain proper position.
(3) Movements of the platoon commander during other platoon movements are explained in the paragraph describing the movement.

MCO 5060.20 Chap 9

2.2.2. The commander faces the formation when giving commands except when the element is part of a larger drill element or when the commander is relaying or echoing commands in a ceremony. When the commander is a member of a staff or detail and is required to perform a movement at the same time as the formation, the commander will maintain the same position as the formation while giving commands and will respond to his/her command.

AFPAM 34-1203

The USAF has never gotten into the small details with explanations. Airmen and now Guardians have relied on the TC and MCO.


The cadet platoon commander in the video did an excellent job calling the commands, maintaining alignment, and using proper technique of facing the platoon. There are some other slight issues, but that’s a topic for another day.

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