New Leader Syndrome

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Instructional 2 Comments

Yes, it’s true, there is a plague that spreads about this time every year among many schools’ JROTC programs: the new leadership for the unit is being picked and the old leadership is getting ready to graduate. Here is the question I get most often at the end of each school year:

“I’m going to be the new (Armed/Unarmed Drill Team, Color Guard, Honor Guard) commander next year and the graduating leadership was less than desirable (or, never wrote anything down, etc.). Do you have any advice for me?”

Thanks to my friend Austin Reid, I was prompted to write about this serious condition. The answer is “YES! I have some great advice!”

  1. Mandatory: Start conditioning your mind and body so you can come in fresh from the summer ready to tackle the challenges of your new position.
    • Mind: Know your service’s drill and ceremonies manual like the back of your hand. Read it again and again. Know everything there is to know about it, everything. And when someone asks you a question and you cannot remember specifically, NEVER just go off memory, double check with the manual, always.
    • Body: Cardio and strength training exercise along with good stretching. Do you have to be the next Mr. or Mrs. Universe? No, of course not. But daily exercise is very good for you and, believe me, when you get older you will appreciate keeping a good regimen.
  2. Optional: Read other materials that will help you in your new position like, say (you didn’t expect me to leave my own books out of this, did you?):

So, there you have it: Education and conditioning are two of the keys to leadership.

The other keys are temperance, a cool head, patience,care, etc.

Eight Things Every Driller Needs

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Drill Team TrainingDrill Team Training
Alice Cooper sang, “School’s Out For Summer!” back when I was growing up and it is still the same- students across America look forward to those great summer months of NO SCHOOL! Some students get jobs, vacation with family, march in a drum and bugle corps and many other activities. What will you do? Sit around on the couch playing video games eating peanut butter out of the jar? The peanut butter is good for you, but the sitting around isn’t, especially if you are a Driller.

GET UP. Go outside and after you finish your chores, practice. Every day for an hour except on weekends (or whatever similar schedule works for you- just take a break each week for a couple days). Take a break from practicing about once a month or so for about 3 additional days. Do something else and don’t drill. Don’t saturate yourself in drill every waking moment, you need to have something else to do, some other hobby or even work.

If you are a Driller, armed or unarmed, you need the following:

  1. Strength
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Experience
  4. Speed
  5. Agility
  6. Stamina
  7. Knowledge
  8. Precision


Every Driller (every person, for that matter) should develop a solid core (abs, sides, chest, upper and lower back). Your trunk is where movement begins and f it is not solid, you won’t be able to do what you want or look as sharp. Your arms and legs need to be able to support you and also execute the movements you require in your routine.


You need both types: Equipment and Body (if you are an unarmed Driller= just body). Movement should be explored to its fullest and when you perform and constantly repeat the same movements, it makes for a lifeless routine. The more movements you know and perfect, the bigger your vocabulary. On a side note: the wider your vocabulary, the better you can be at making things up on the spot, but that also takes experience.


You need to perform for people. Anyone who will watch you, then go perform! There are probably some civic and veteran organizations that meet weekly or monthly. Call and ask if you can perform for them. They will love it, trust me, and you will get some experience and start relaxing in front of an audience.


Tempo variations are a must in any kind of performance; you need to have fast (think: Sam Gozo) and slow (think: some Hawaiian drill routine moments) movement mastered.


You need to articulate you movement and you need to move efficiently. If you do not have body and equipment agility, you are not able to articulate which means you are not communicating your movement clearly/effectively.


Can you perform your routine from stat to finish and not look out of breath? No? Then start practicing your routine back-to-back. Running is also good. Don’t write your routine so that easier movement is toward the end so you can relax a little, gain stamina and push through!


Drillers need to be aware of routine construction, highs and lows, the “what” and “how” of a performance, and so much more. Go here and read, read, read. Then, apply what you read.


Exactness is paramount. If you are a soloist, you will need consistency (the same style over time). If you are part of a team, you will not only need consistency, but also uniform (at a single moment) in your movement.



JROTC, ROTC and More!

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Instructional 5 Comments

Claude Pepper Junior Leadership Pilot Program (CPJLPP)

Maritime and Science Technology Academy

This page is the culmination of hours of research to bring information on all of the cadet programs available American youth. If youknow of yet another program, please let me know and I will add their information.

Military Service Sponsored High School JROTC Programs (in joint service order)

JROTC stand for Junior Reserve Offiicer Training Corps

The Coast Guard currently has two “JROTC” programs.

1) The Claude Pepper Junior Leadership Pilot Program (CPJLPP) was created at the Maritime and Science Technology Academy (MAST) located in Miami, Fl. The CPJLPP was created December 1989 with the passing of Pub. L. 101-225, title II, Sec. 204. This congressional mandate formed the CPJLPP which was modeled off of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) units of other Services. MAST has evolved from a Trade School to a “Top 100,” nationally recognized high school with over 95% of its student body college bound immediately after graduation. The huge minority base of the student population routinely receives scholarships to prestigious colleges and universities. The curriculum provides the students a challenging environment in which to learn. (MAST picture at right)

2) Camden County/CamTech High School (CCHS) Junior Leadership Program in Camden County, NC (just outside Elizabeth City, NC). The Junior Reserve Officer Training Pilot Program (JROTPP), now referred to as the Junior Leadership Program (JLP) was created at the Camden County High School (CCHS) on 19 April 2010 in following the legislation in Pub. L. 109-241, title IV, Sec. 401. This congressional mandate formed the JLP which was modeled off of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) units of other Services. The JLP is broken up into two semesters and each student takes JLP classes for one semester a school year. During their “off” semester, the students are expected to participate in calisthenics, drill and extra-curricular activities. CCHS has had the highest rate of graduation in the local Elizabeth City, N.C. area, but the purpose of the JLP is largely to keep students in school through graduation.

Both JROTC programs educate high school students on leadership, citizenship, nautical science, close order drill and general military knowledge. From here

 Kentucky National Guard’s “JROTC” program: Jr. Guard

From a KY Jr. Guard instructor: The JR. Guard program is a collaborative partnership between our Youth Service Center and the 1/623rd Kentucky Army National Guard. The program began in the 1995-96 school year with approximately 15 students. The idea was to target “at-risk” kids who were falling through the cracks of our educational system. Students are provided with a JR. ROTC-like opportunity that links our school and the military. Through this opportunity we hope to find a niche for those students who may not be able to find there way elsewhere in the school.

  • The students in the program are linked with National Guard members who serve as mentors. These mentors meet with the students on a regular basis.
  • They participate in experiential activities that demonstrate the value of classroom learning with adult guardsmen.
  • The students are taught things like self-discipline, rapelling, marching, drill and ceremony, use of night vision goggles, map reading, marksmanship, military etiquette, first aid, physical fitness, and the list goes on and on.
  • The culmination of the year brings the students to our annual FTX (Field Training Exercise). At the FTX, students put into play, what they have been practicing all year long.
  • During the 1998-99 school year, the Kentucky School Boards Association, through their Public Education Achieves in Kentucky (PEAK) Award, recognized this innovation design because it enhances student learning and promotes public education.
  • While the program initially targeted an “at-risk” population, the popularity of the program has grown so that there is a waiting list every year of the students and parents who want to participate in the program.
  • We have seen a reduction in disciplinary problems with these students and a dramatic improvement in student self-esteem and achievement.
  • Currently the program includes students in grades 6-12 at participating schools. The schools that are participating are in 8 different school systems across the state of Kentucky.

College ROTC Programs

*A graduate of Navy ROTC can commission into the Coast Guard.

Service Academies

*A graduate of the MMA can commission into the Navy.

Non-school Based Programs (high school age and younger)

Middle School Programs

After-School Program

There are also dozens of military schools, academies and institutes across the United States that offer boarding for young boys and girls through junior college. As an example, New Mexico Military Institute, the school I attended.

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Updated 9 Jan 14

How to Size a Military Sword/Saber

DrillMaster Drill Teams, Honor Guard Leave a Comment

I receive questions about how to properly size a sword or saber. Contrary to much of the information that is “out there”, the sword and saber blade length is not simply a function of a person’s height.

The correct length is the blade length that will place the tip of the blade at approximately eye level when an individual carries the sword at the Carry Sword position pictures below). The correct blade length is a function of the individual’s arm and neck length and the type of weapon (curved, saber, or straight, sword, blade).

Carry Sword. You can see the sword is too small for me

Why is blade length important?

For those intending to mount the sword or saber on a wall and having no intention of executing manual of arms (draw sword, present arms, parade rest, etc.), blade length is not critical. A 30-inch blade length is the most common length, generally fitting those between 5’8″ and 5’11” in height.

Regulation Drill: For those intending to execute manual of arms, blade length is important. A sword blade that is too long not only looks odd and non-uniform, but also risks knocking off headgear or increases head movement when going to the “Carry Sword” position.

Ceremonial Drill: A longer sword/saber is necessary due to executing Ceremonial at Ease. In this position, the weapon tip is placed on the deck centered between the feet, sword vertical, right hand flared pointing down and left hand wrapped around it with thumb and index finger wrapped at the wrist. For the measurements described in 3, below, do not subtract inches.

Ceremonial at Ease with an academy sword (Army/AF only)

What sword or saber length do I need?

  1. The best way to size a sword or saber is to hold another sword or saber in the “Carry Sword” position to see how the length fits.
  2. If one does not have another sword or saber on hand, measuring for the fit is possible. Stand at a modified position of attention with your arm extended down at your side and your fingers extended down.
  3. Measure from your eye level to the “V” between your thumb and your index finger. Using this measurement, the correct sword length depends on the type of weapon:
  4. If you are within a 1/2-inch of a sword size: round up to the nearest size.
  5. If you are within 1-inch of a sword size: round down to the nearest size.
  6. For 1-1/2-inches: since most swords are sized in 1″ increments (a few are offered in 2″ size increments) it would be rare to have a 1-1/2-inch rounding issue, unless we were back-ordered on some sizes and you needed a sword very quickly. We would generally suggest against rounding 1-1/2-inches or more, but if necessary, we would suggest rounding down to the nearest size. It is easier to compensate for a shorter length sword by slightly raising your hand/arm’s position (to bring the point up to eye level) than it is to compensate for a longer sword by lowering your hand.
Folded American Flag

How Should Multiple Flags be Folded When Taken Down?

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Honor Guard Training, Instructional 4 Comments

This is for outside flags (attached to a halyard and flown from a pole), not indoor/outdoor flags (for color guard flagstaffs for carrying only).

The American Flag

The American flag must always be folded into a triangle (ref: Flag Code). If it is wet from rain or snow, it is taken down, folded, and brought inside where it is unfolded and laid out to air-dry. Once dry, it is refolded, taken outside to be unfolded and raised.

Other Flags

All other flags are twice folded in half length-wise and then folded in half width-wise three or four times depending on their length. You should end up with a rectangle.

Flags on the same Pole- same halyard or double halyard
Depending on the number of flags being taken down (no more than two: US and state or US and POW), all of the flags (same pole) are taken down and gathered into different individual’s arms and then folded at the same time- or at least the American flag is folded first if not enough personnel are available at the same time.

Special State Flag Folding Procedures

The triangle fold is reserved for the American flag. It is not appropriate to straight-fold any other flag into a triangle unless dictated by the state. (for special folds, ref: Secretary of State, State Attorney General’s Office, state legislature, etc.) If your state has not dictated a special fold, you should fold it into a rectangle.

MinnesotaFolding the MN State Flag2017 Minnesota Statutes

Subd. 6. Folding of the state flag for presentation or display. The following procedures constitute the proper way to fold the Minnesota State Flag for presentation or display. Fold the flag four times lengthwise so that one section displays the three stars of the state crest and the text “L’Etoile du Nord.” Fold each side behind the displayed section at a 90-degree angle so that the display section forms a triangle. Take the section ending with the hoist and fold it at a 90-degree angle across the bottom of the display section and then fold the hoist back over so it is aligned with the middle of the display section. Fold the other protruding section directly upwards so that its edge is flush with the display section and then fold it upwards along a 45-degree angle so that a mirror of the display section triangle is formed. Fold the mirror section in half from the point upwards, then fold the remaining portion upwards, tucking it between the display section and the remainder of the flag.
Subd. 7. Folding of the state flag for storage. When folding the Minnesota State Flag for storage, the proper procedure is to fold and store the flag in the same manner as the national colors.

South Carolina has a special fold developed my an SCNG Soldier. Click here for the South Carolina state flag.


Ohio’s state flag, which is actually a burgee, is actually folded 17 times!

Texas. Fold horizontally so that the red stripe is up and the white stripe down. Repeat another horizontal fold. The red stripe will now be on the inside and the white stripe on the outside, the blue field on top and the star facing down. Fold from the end like the National. Keeping folding the flag as such until the entire triangle is blue with part of the star remaining.

Maryland’s technique is just like the National.

Foreign national flags may have vastly different techniques. Do your research if that applies.

The DrillMaster


DrillMaster Commentary, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional Leave a Comment

Honor GuardCriticism

There are different types of criticism:

  1. Negative (personal to one or more people)- criticism that has no real point except to tear a person down which only leads to defensiveness. Examples:
  • “That was terrible.”
  • “You really did a bad job on that.”

2. Constructive (professional)- the ability to point out that a performance (in our case) may have had faults, but here is how to improve on those issues. Examples:

  • “Your entrance was not timed very well, I suggest that you get the audience’s attention and then proceed. You will probably find that the ceremony begins much more smoothly.”
  • “Overall, the performance was poor due to the members of the team seeming to not know what to do next. Reviewing your training and sticking to that training is what is needed.”

I hope that it is obvious that we all need constructive criticism. Everyone needs improvement in certain (all) areas of our lives. When one steps into the world of pageantry arts (marching band, indoor music and visual performance ensembles, honor guard, drill team, etc.), many then seek professional criticism for ways to improve.

What if someone doesn’t want to hear criticism?

  1. Performer: Then don’t ask for it. But why would you not want to receive feedback on a performance, no matter what kind it is? Yes, the type of performance is irrelevant: funeral, exhibition drill, colors presentations, all are subject to a critique to help you improveand that is the bottom line.
  2. Critic: Don’t give it when not asked. Sometimes this can be difficult, but it is best to keep quiet until asked.

When asked to provide criticism, where should one begin?

  1. Knowledge and training based on a standard. Just because one is very involved in a certain area does not necessarily mean that one is qualified to judge or provide a through critique.
  2. Don’t just go from memory.

DrillMaster Critiques
Whether adjudicating an honor guard or military drill team performance/competition the only published standards available today are:

  1. The World Drill Association Adjudication Manual and Rule Book for all military drill performances and, additionally,
  2. The Honor Guard Manual for honor guard performances.

The WDA Manual is based on decades of adjudication standards for indoor (marching band) color guard performances. After I was trained and certified through Winter Guard International (WGI)/Color Guard Nederland as a General Effect judge, I spent several years judging and seeking more training to hone my skills. Eventually, with WGI’s blessing, I ‘filtered’ the WGI Manual through my military experience and created the WDA Manual. Both books are based on professional visual adjudication standards, many educators over the years have had input on the WGI Manual and I was able to take that and bring it to the military drill world.

The Honor Guard Manual is based on the American military’s joint service honor guard standards where applicable with Air Force Honor Guard standards as the default (e.g. firing party, six-man flag fold) and my decades of honor guard experience.

  • Pike pole and fire axe manuals: these two manuals were created to mimic, as closely as possible, the manual of arms for the colors rifle. Technically, it is my personal preference along with work accomplished by McAllen, TX firefighter Mark Zamora, that went into each manual, but each are still based on the military standard.

Personal Opinion is out
Can one provide a completely dispassionate, objective critique? No. But with continued education and training as a judge one can provide the most professional criticism as possible to help others achieve their goals.

Drill Posters- Be Positive

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Routine Mapping Tool Sample

How to Write Exhibition Drill: The “Boxes of Three” Method

DrillMaster Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Instructional Leave a Comment


drill team traiing: XD Cover 2AExhibition Drill for the Military Drill Team

The First DrillMaster Book for Drill Team Training: Exhibition Drill for the Military Drill Team

How to Write Exhibition Drill (XD): The “Boxes of Three” Method

When beginning any task it is always best to go from simple to difficult, even when writing drill. “But, my team already knows ‘difficult moves!” I hear you exclaim. No problem, you can still use these moves because they easily fit into a parade routine (long road that may not be very wide) and also an XD routine since you want to show the audience and judges that you have a wide ranging vocabulary of moves (along with foot/body work and also equipment work- yep, that’s three different vocabularies!).

What exactly is a “Box of Three? Beginning on either foot, take 3 steps forward, flank (pivot) to your right or left, depending on which foot you began, take three steps, pivot, three steps, pivot, thee steps and a final pivot. You just marched in a square and are back where you started. Add another person to either side and/or front or back, have everyone begin on the same foot and have them flank in the opposite direction either just before or after you flank, repeat the whole process of making a box as stated before, and you’ve just marched the move called Blackout which was first developed back in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Blackout uses 1s and 2s, actually, black and white, not numbers. I learned it back in 1979 as black and white, I substituted numbers due to some people only seeing negative when color is used to identify positioning. The team looks like this for Blackout:

1     2     1     2

2     1     2     1

1     2     1     2

2     1     2     1

The 1s go to the left and 2s go to the right all making boxes of three with flanks in between. I don’t count the flanks as steps,it seems easier to teach that way. If a commander position was marched, the commander would be to the left of the team, centered about three steps away- in this case the diagram above is marching “up”; the squad leaders are in the top rank. The command, Blackout, March, is called on 2 consecutive left steps.

That’s the basic idea, now you can put variation in there while still marching the same boxes of three:

  • Squads/Elements: the outer squads flank outward while the second squad marches forward, (To the) Rear March, X steps, (To the) Rear March; third squad executes (To the) Rear March immediately, X steps, (To the) Rear March.*
  • Ranks: first and third go right, second and fourth go left and when finished reverse the directions.
  • Groups: using our diagram of 16 members above, each group of 4 on each corner can march a different box of three.

*The “X” above is a certain number of steps that you can figure out. The total steps are 13.

All of these moves, including all of the steps required, are written out for you in my first book, Exhibition Drill for the Military Drill Team.

exhibition drill, how to write drill, drill team, jrotc, cadet

Why We Follow Manuals

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Teams 2 Comments

A Question from a cadet

Hello sir,

I need some advice. I am a [JROTC] deputy drill team Commander. I was trained both by my summer instructors and you that one should ALWAYS follow the manuals. However, my commander and my officer in charge refuse to take any ideas about following the manual. Do you have any advice?

I greatly appreciate your time and consideration.

My Response

Dear cadet,

What a seemingly tough situation. Here’s my thoughts on the subject.

Why does each branch of the military have manuals? To ensure standards are at least met if not exceeded. When a civilian ships out to Basic Training or Boot Camp, he or she is inundated with standards. When I went to Army Basic Camp (83) and then Air Force Basic Training (85), we had to line up our shoes in a specific order, fold our underwear in six-inch squares, and exactly space our hangars in the locker so that everything in the whole bay was exactly the same and in the same order. There are two reasons to do these monotonous and almost insignificant tasks.

  1. To ensure adherence to orders. Everyone follows orders or good order and discipline breaks down and the unit cannot accomplish its mission.
  2. To save lives. No, folding underwear in an exact six-inch square does not directly save anyone’s life, but it shows that you can handle the tiny, little, sometimes excruciating, details that can directly result in saving or preserving a life.

Following your service’s drill and ceremonies manual is exactly the same. Yes, we have three different manuals for regulation drill, that is due to traditions, but it is not an excuse to pick and choose what you want to follow and what you don’t.

I know, teenagers in general believe that nothing can hurt them, will live forever, and they know everything. Then, you go into post-school life and life hits with reality. My daughter, when she was 21/22 once jokingly commented to her mother and me that she wished she could go back to high school when she already knew everything.

For someone to think that they don’t have to follow what they may consider an insignificant guideline, shows a considerable arrogance and ego problem that must be dealt with immediately or the cadets with this kind of attitude are going to become adults lacking in standards, which just might get someone injured or killed- no matter what profession they choose. Ignoring standards now can even mushroom into disregarding laws later on. That’s not hyperbole, its a caution.

Christian Flag over American Flag?

DrillMaster Commentary, DrillCenter News 6 Comments

As a Christian, I get it. On church grounds, inside or out, the Christian flag should be flown above the American during services or really, all the time. After all, God is the One in control. However, Christians know that we are to follow the rules of those appointed to authority (Romans 13). Those rules state that no other flag is placed to the right or above the American flag (US Flag Code).

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.

1 Peter 2:13

I’ve gone back and forth about this, but have come to the conclusion, after about five years of scripture and flag display information reading/studying, the Christian flag needs to be subordinate to the American. It is the best decision to follow scriptural guidance, even though I may feel the Christian flag should be in its rightful place of prominence, subordinate to no other flag. However, it is not about how I feel, it is about submitting to authority, as internally uncomfortable as that may be.

The following is an excerpt from my book, The Honor Guard Manual.


“Nothing can be above the American flag.” Part II

Let’s take a look at some information on the subject.

  • American Law: The Bill of Rights, Article 1, The Constitution of the United States: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
  • The United States Navy: During the Service of Divine Worship led by the Fleet Chaplain, a triangular Pennant of White with a blue Latin cross is flown at the masthead above the American flag.
  • Flag and Protocol Manuals from each service say basically the following: Placed in mourning. Flags carried by troops will not be placed in mourning unless ordered by the President or the Secretary of the Army. When so ordered, a streamer of black crepe 7 feet long and 1 foot wide will be attached to the staff at the center of the streamer immediately below the spearhead of the U.S. flag and the organizational flag. Example text from AR 840-10
  • The State of California: Excerpted from Stars, Stripes and Statues, National Flag Foundation, p. 66, item 2. No flag or pennant shall be placed above, or if on the same level, to the right of, the United States flag, except flags flown during church services. (Emphasis mine)

The Unofficial Code for the Christian Flag

DrillMaster Note: this Code does not replace the United States Flag Code. Again, the Flag Code states that no flag will be placed to the right of or above the American flag. Period.

The following is paraphrased from

  1. When the Christian flag is on the floor level, the Christian flag is placed to the right, front, of the congregation and outside of the communion railing (if present).
  2. When the Christian flag is placed within the chancel, communion railing or choir loft, it is placed to the right side of the pastor, and of the choir as they face the congregation.
  3. When the Christian flag is displayed with the American flag and other flags:
    1. DrillMaster Note: the Christian flag should be displayed alone or with the American flag as a minimum. The Christian flag should not be displayed with other flags without the American flag.
    2. Place the American flag and other flags symmetrically on the opposite side of the sanctuary and on the same level as the Christian flag.
    3. If desired, it is also proper to place the Christian and national flags side-by-side wherever stationed in the church, thus symbolizing both the spiritual and patriotic loyalties of the congregation.
    4. When the flags are placed side-by-side, the Christian flag is always stationed on the right of all other flags.
    5. The Christian flag never dips to any other flag. It should dip to the Cross.
  4. Use of the Christian flag in other situations:
    1. Where a Cross is carried in a processional, the Cross leads, followed by the Christian flag.
    2. In a single-column formation processional, the Christian flag precedes all other flags.
    3. In a double-column formation processional, the Christian flag is on the right.
    4. When the Christian flag is on the same flagpole with any other flag, the Christian flag receives the top position.
    5. Where the Christian flag and another flag are on separate poles, the Christian flag is on the right as it faces the street or audience (viewer’s left).
    6. When posting the Christian flag staff in its base, it should be adjusted so that the blue canton and Cross are turned toward the congregation, fringe gather facing forward, and draped to its left (viewer’s right).