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Yes, it is another Joint Service Drill Competition that is now in the history books! This year’s competition also included a performance from the Tulane University Mardis Gras Drill Meet champions, the Merchant Marine Academy Drill Team.

I judged each team on the World Drill Association Adjudication System’s Overall Effect caption. The scores I gave each team are in the parenthesis next to the team’s name. The score is out of 100/100.; the “what/”how.”


Merchant Marine Academy (50/45)
The cadets wowed the audience with their ability to have lift two cadets in the air and have them drill! This performance was a fist for the JSDC and also for the MMA. Congratulations to them for this ground-breaking performance with the service drill teams!





Coast Guard (55/54)
The Coasties put on a fine performance departing from their standard performance from previous years. I must say that I really appreciate the new program, it contained some very effective moments and was programmed much better than before. I talked with the Coast Guard judge before the competition and let him know that I understood the issue that the CG Honor Guard has: The Coast Guard is the smallest service, the Honor Guard is the smallest unit of the service honor guards and is the drill team is made up of volunteers who practice when they can. All of the members are trained on every aspect of honor guard ceremonies (pall bearer, firing party, colors) and perform each of the duties constantly. Drill team is not high on the priority list which is very understandable. Still, I really enjoyed this new routine!



Marines (60/71)
These guys had a bad day, or at least some of the guys who were constantly hit by bayonets, had a bad day. Unfortunately, problems were an unfortunate addition to the Silent Drill Platoon’s routine. The Marines have completely mastered their basic manual and can execute these rifle movements in their sleep. This was the standard SDP routine with the crowd favorite rifle inspection.





Navy (70/72)
A good performance. I didn’t notice much if any change from previous years’ routines. However, the Sailor performing the solo did a super job- until his bayonet met his aiguillette. He still kept going not allowing the “wardrobe malfunction” to interfere with the rest of his solo.






Air Force (80/80)
Wow. I was so impressed with their newer routine: much better programming and some excellent rifle work from all members of the 12-man team. The AF never had a reason to create a 12-man team/routine until now. The JSDC time limit is 15 mins and the AF’s 15-man routine is about 21 mins. What to do? Start on 9 April with a new routine! Yes, a week of training went into this performance!

The crowd loved the moment during the tetrad (pictured below) when the four Drillers poked the commander with their bayonets trying to make him move- he was rock-solid, of course! The Air Force team was this year’s winner!







Army (82/81)
The defending champions marched an SPC Andres Ryan-written drill. This routine had it all: great transitions, eye-catching movements, four soloists and then SPC Ryan as the featured soloist!










Yes, that’s right, I had the Army winning for the third year in a row! But, it was not by much…

I was so fortunate to meet onlookers who were curious about the competition and about my uniform, students, parents, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and my fellow judges from each service. What a day, what a blessing!

See you next year!

The Left Flank and The Column Left

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Keep this image in mind as you read below.

Span of Control

CT asks:
Hello DrillMaster,

I would like to know if after giving left flank can the commander march backward while the platoon marches forward towards the commander during Regulation Drill. I have looked everywhere and nowhere can I find it.

It’s good to hear from you; thanks for the question. The answer is: no, it’s not necessary and here is why:

(For the MC, Navy & CG) For the Left Flank (before a Right Flank), the commander obtains a 15-step interval and then calls the command. While the commander catches up to the team as it executes the command, the next command then is Right Flank, so would the commander then would keep marching forward enabling him/her to be centered on the team.

(For the Army & AF) The commander flanks with the team calling the next command over the right shoulder.

The Column Left
(For the MC, Navy & CG) The commander halts at the command, March, and then executes a Face-in-March to the left to continue with the team and pick up half step.

(For the Army & AF) The commander executes Mark Time at the command, March, and then flanks to the left to continue with the team and pick up half step.

 The Column Right
(This is an option for each service)
I thought I needed to add something about this as well. In the image above, The Span of Control, you can see that the commander should not move toward the front of the formation since he would ‘lose control.’ To deal with this situation during a column right the commander would execute a right flank immediately after the command of execution, “MARCH.” This movement places the commander to the right of the formation (having begun from the left). To move back to the left, execute a left flank for the column left.

(All Services) The commander makes his/her way around the team keeping to the left of the formation. It just takes a little while.

Military Drill Judging

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For decades the only requirement to be qualified to judge a military drill competition was graduation from a service’s Basic Training. That’s it. You’re now able to rank and rate and assign a score to what you see on the competitive field. And what’s better is if you are a Drill/Training Instructor or on an honor guard. Somehow, you are then better able to know all yo need to judge a competition. “Well, we show videos to the judges and explain what they need to know for the competition that will begin in the morning.” At least that is better than the judge arriving at the competition the morning of and being given the score sheet and being told how to fill it out! Still, there is something that doesn’t sit right with me. At what time did any of the military services begin training any of their members how to judge anything?

In Basic there is the “Go/No-Go” of task evaluation (I can clearly remember that from my time at Fort Knox, doning my gas mask and taking apart and reassembling my M16, etc.) but this is not helpful for a drill competition. So then, what is it that makes a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coastie able to judge a drill competition? That person marched and possibly called commands! Is that it? Pretty much, yeah. Hasn’t this been enough? Hasn’t it worked? Enough? Not really. Has it worked? Yes, but it has been extremely limited. Think of it this way: when one does not know what one does not know, then one is unaware improvement is necessary or even possible.

When we in the military complete Basic and other training we are called “heroes” and “America’s finest,” etc. These statements are true and one should be proud to be a member of America’s military (this is aside from all political discussion- this is not the place). This gives a well-deserved confidence boost, but should not translate into being a subject matter expert in everything military. Marching is a staple in the military and teaches several key skills that are necessary once you wear the uniform. But marching alone is not a judging qualifier and neither is teaching others how to march. Why? Because there are very specific goals in Basic and Honor Guard and none of them deal with Overall Effect, Composition Analysis, Equipment or Movement or judging any of these visual captions.

“You mean to tell me ‘my NCOs’ cannot handle judging?!”

“‘My NCOs’ cannot handle judging more than one thing at a time?!” Yes. No one can.

I’ve heard these arguments and it is from someone who does not understand, at all, what the four captions of visual adjudication are all about. You see, there is only one judge per caption and that judge looks at ONLY that caption. Why be so specific? Because focusing your attention on one aspect means the judge will miss less, take in more and be able to better adjudicate that aspect of the performance.

The biggest problems with today’s judging:

  1. Judges are not trained
  2. All of the judges look at the same thing
  3. The scores are ‘meaningless’
  4. No feedback for Drillers/teams for improvement

Each judge reacts in what is most likely a “I like that” or “I don’t like that” frame of mind. If I am a drill team coach, I couldn’t care less about what one likes or dislikes, I want to know how my team did compared to a written standard and the other teams not which one was the “bestest.”

This is where The World Drill Association Adjudication Manual comes into play. Over 230 pages of complete adjudication information for the military drill world. I wrote this in 2009/2010 and based it off of the Winter Guard International Rule Book with WGI’s permission, only I put it through the “military filter” to make it apply to all types of military drill competitions.

The breakdown of judging into captions gives the Driller and coach a whole new world of information that may not have been considered before. In-depth analysis from four completely different aspects is exciting!

Speaking of exciting, a score that finally means something is exciting as well!

Regulation and Exhibition Drill are fully explained. It is a complete adjudication system.There are even new WDA-specific phases for Drill teams! WDA Open Color Guard, WDA Open Regulation Drill and the WDA Ultimate Inspection.

Are you interested in becoming a judge? The WDA offers judge training and certification! See here. Do only judges need to read this? No! Every Driller and instructor should read this as well. An educated military drill world is my goal.

What is Continuing Education about? It takes you through the rest of what all adjudicators need to know. Based on papers written by my adjudication mentors, Shirlee Whitcomb and George Oliviero, both of whom are well respected judges and educators for WGI and Drum Cops International.

Are these books everything a Driller and instructor need to know? By all means, no! There is so much more and the road to an educated drill world is a little long, but not impossible. Once these two books and my others: Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol I and Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol II are more mainstream, more Drillers and teams will be able to reach their potential instead of floundering and wondering how to get to the “next level.”

Another issue I deal with: “Who are you to come along and say everything has been wrong?”

You can read my resume here. I’ve not said that anything is “wrong,” I’ve said there are big problems and those problems can be remedied.

Currently, there are people across the US who are training to become certified WDA judges in the caption of their choice. Are they all active duty Drill Instructors? No, military retirees, active duty military, active duty firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical service personnel and former JROTC students who were Drillers after high school.

Judging is not something you can just gain by exposure to an activity, it is something that is learned and studied. If a prospective judge has a background in drill, great! If not, the studying can be a little more difficult.

Now, get trained and certified to judge military drill competitions by the Drillmaster and the World Drill Association!

Armed Driller Alternatives

DrillMaster Drill Teams, DrillCenter News, Instructional, Review 3 Comments

‘Part One’ of this post is here: Psst, Hey Buddy.

Armed Exhibition Drill Rifles for Sale

The above blog post is great if you want to buy a demilitarized rifle or even a working 1903, M14 or M1 Garand, but what else is out there and are these alternatives right for military drill? Well, let’s look and see:

The Color Guard Rifle

Let’s start with a hot button issue for some Drillers. The (marching band) color guard rifle. Why is this such a hot issue with some? Because it is not a “real” rifle and only weighs about two pounds. The biggest problem with using this type of rifle is a Driller using it like it’s an eight-pound demil. Does this work? Not on your life. This rifle is designed to be whipped around the body at lightning speed and thrown for a 10-revolution toss. Pretending otherwise just makes that Driller look silly. How can they be used? Younger Drillers, for a start. They can be used with solo Drillers and teams as well, but need to be used according to their design.



The DrillAmerica M1 Garand

Then there is the Glendale Industries DrillAmerica Rifle. A fine and affordable M1 Replica that is actually outstanding for honor guard ceremonial use ad good for Drillers. The problem with the DA is that once it gets banged and dinged, it has to be relegated to the practice rifle group. There are some sharpish edges (like the trigger guard), but nothing too serious. What about the moving bolt? It’s a neat idea, but it sticks more than it works.


For the Glendale DrillAmerica M1903 see: The Newest Kid on the Block


The Daisy Drill Rifle 1903

The Daisy Drill Rifle. A great number of Drillers use a Daisy or a hybrid “Spraisy” (Springfield M1903A3 + Daisy Drill Rifle). Currently, this is the choice of world class Drillers for the most part, besides having a demil’d rifle.




The DrillMaster M14 Prototype

The DrillMaster M14 is not in production and may not ever be due to costs. It is virtually unbreakable and the Driller can repair scrapes and scratches. MCJROTC and even NJROTC units are a perfect fit for this rifle.



Keystone Arsenal: M1 Garand, M1 Garand Tanker (6 inches shorter), Krag Jorensen and several others. These are beautiful rifles, but they are only for ceremonial use and not for drill since they are breakable.


The Color Guard Saber

What about a Saber or Sword? These are great pieces of equipment that are used by a small number of drill teams and many armed team commanders. Sometimes an issue arises: the competition host does not allow the either of these pieces of equipment out of the hand of the Driller due to safety concerns. Understandable, but still a big pain; this puts severe limits on the Driller! Hello spinnable saber! It’s not exactly the same as a military saber, but is extremely close.

Now, you can make your own rifle at home! See this article.

The Color Guard Airblade

And then there is the Airblade. Who will be adventurous enough to drill with this? :-) Click the picture to be taken to the web site where it is for sale.

How to Switch Sides During a Column Movement

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The Reverse or XD Column

This will be for XD (Exhibition Drill) and is fairly easy. We need to number each of the elements/squads as usual: the far left squad is number 1 and the far right squad is number 3 (or 4).

The movement is called as two consecutive right steps are taken. On the first left, the first squad leader executes a right flank and everyone in first squad does the same thing on consecutive left steps in the same spot as the squad leader. Second squad leader takes two steps and executes a right flank (one left step after the first squad leader). Each squad follows suit in the same manner.

The most important aspect of this maneuver is that each member of the team MUST keep marching forward at a regular step until they have completely cleared the other squads. A good number to begin with would be to have the first squad leader and subsequent members take five steps forward after the flank and then begin half-stepping. Then the second squad leader and members would take three steps after the flank; the third squad leader would take one step. See if those numbers work. If not, it’s not a big deal to add or subtract- but remember to go up or down by twos to ensure everyone is executing the same movements at the same time.

The number of half steps will be different for everyone on the team. It would be a good idea to begin the regular step after the movement for the whole team at the same time. Count it and work it out for the bet effect.

I hope this helps!


Hard Work, Discipline, Desire and…

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The DrillMaster & Sam Gozo @ NYDC09

I was introduced to a speech by Eric Thomas, “The Hip-Hop Preacher” (more motivational speaker than preacher) yesterday. I appreciate where he has come from, the struggles he has overcome and most of the message that he preaches. Much of what he says is inspiring and one of my friends made a great motivational video and placed it on his Youtube channel. I didn’t appreciate the portion of the speech that is in the video since it was only one of three points Eric discusses in the full speech. Taken into context, I appreciate it much more: he’s powerful, positive and full of enthusiasm. But there is something missing, for me at least.

In my daily reading of Wise Proverbs on my smart phone this morning, I came across Psalm 16:3, Commit thy works unto the Lord and thy thoughts will be established.” Once again, Scripture matches up with and fills up what is lacking. That’s what is lacking, again for me, but I do appreciate a good motivational speaker who can speak from experience and not talk down to others.

So, commit your works to God, work hard, educate yourself, and by all means, practice, practice, practice!

See you at the next competition.

Why do we Practice the way we do?

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Fran Hunt Simmons

Sometimes students have a hard time understanding why it is we spend so much time working on individual skills, when it’s easy to see that most of the team can do the skills. I tell them it’s a lot like a sports team. Every experienced baseball player has skills – they already know how to run, how to hit, and how to field. A lot of athletes are self-taught, and they are good at what they do. But when they join a team, they have to learn their coach’s way of doing things, and it may not be what they are used to. We are not individuals performing alone. As a team, we have to develop “the team’s way of doing things” in order to have what’s known as “good technique.” Here are some important terms that apply to this concept:

Skill – The ability to perform a function that has been acquired or learned with practice.
Examples of skills: spins, tosses, exchanges and tricks.

Practice – doing something repeatedly or continuously in order to master it.
– The purpose of practice is to master your skills.
– Achieving individual precision requires knowledge of a standard (such as FM 3-21.5) and unfailing adherence to that standard in performing a set of skills. You learn the rules, and work within them.

Technique – Using the same method to achieve a skill. Every team has its own techniques.

Fundamentals – Groups of techniques
– The purpose of learning fundamentals is to practice our technique.

The Work Ethic Behind Precision
In exhibition drill, you learn a routine between 6-10 minutes long with a team of 9 to 26 people. Team precision requires performing maneuvers that may or may not be explained in any manual with the same technique.

Precision – ability to perform fundamentals with good technique.
Precision is achieved through knowing team fundamentals and through many hours of learning, practicing, adjusting and analyzing the routine. It takes cooperation to achieve a thorough understanding of each move and your individual responsibilities within it.
It will be hard, but you will have help. Remember, we want you to do well. Your professional attitude towards the leadership of the team and towards the many adjustments required will be an important contribution to the effort to maintain high standards.

– In team competition, the judges measure whether skills are performed with precision.
– The team practices their skills with their specific technique using fundamentals in order to achieve precision.

Fran Hunt Simmons a long-time guardie, instructor, adjudicator and coach of the Ansbach High School AJROTC Cougar Battalion Drill Team

Becoming a Professional Driller

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Q: How can I become a professional Driller?

A: What you are talking about is becoming an Independent (Indie) Driller which very few people have done successfully. Why very few? Most likely because the military drill world is relatively small and there hasn’t been anything offered to anyone who would like to drill after high school or even college. Within the past few years a few competitions have either opened their doors to Indie Drillers (IWDC) or only accept Indie Drillers (Pro America, the EDCA series of meets). This then creates more demand for the Indie Driller.

I think drill is a sport with all kinds of positives that one can use for the rest of their life and the continuation of drill as a hobby then gives the younger generation someone to which they can see and emulate. I applaud anyone who is willing to continue drilling simply for the joy of it. If it is your passion, go for it. You can always put it on hold for a time to accomplish whatever you need, but your rifle will always be there for you and the World Drill Association has plans on creating more and more competitions for all kinds of Drillers. I hope one day the WDA can be of service to you as you become a world class Independent Driller!

We will begin to identify what being a “Professional Driller” really means. It’s a state of mind. You only get one chance to make a first impression. What kind of first impression do you want to make? What kind of reputation would you like to make and leave behind? Whether you are on a drill team or an independent Driller, the choice is yours to make.

Join us on Facebook: Military Drill Professionals group.

Pro = Cash, right?
No. We’re talking about an ideal, not cash. Sure, professional golfers, fishermen, etc. get paid for what they do, but until the drill world starts getting sponsorship, we’re talking about how one acts. And acting professional is what this article is all about; not the acting that is on a stage, but applying professionalism to your life on a daily basis.

Watch your actions
When interviewed about a recent arrest or jail time, some very ignorant sports figures over the years have said that they are not a role model to anyone especially young children. This is utterly ridiculous. Everyone at one time or another is a role model for someone else. Now, they could be a poor role model or they could be a positive role model, the choice is theirs. What you do, what you say and how you act can have significant influence on others. Always act in a professional manner and you will do well.

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
From the movie, Gladiator.

And Your Mouth
Foul language never has a place in any situation. Always remember, practice makes permanent: what you do in practice you’ll do any other time. This is not limited to the physical action of going out and practicing, your daily activities are ‘practice’ for every other time. If you curse constantly when hanging out with “the guys,” you will most likely utter certain inappropriate words at times when you wish you hadn’t.

Along with this goes your feedback; learning the language of visual design and adjudication will greatly improve your efforts to offer feedback to others. Don’t let your personal feelings or biases get in the way.

Support Others
Whether you are an individual Driller or part of a team, you are actually competing with yourself and not with others. Coming to this realization can be difficult for some. When you focus your attention on others, you can then fail to see what improvements you need to make. Competing with yourself allows you to cheer others on and also encourage others and when they do well you can share in their achievements and when you do well, they can reciprocate. Competing with yourself also allows you to focus your attention where it needs to be focused: you.

Don’t be swayed into “hating” another Driller or drill team that you are competing against. Competition is not about disliking a competitor, competition is about doing your best 100% of the time. If you can walk off the drill pad knowing that you did your best, then nothing else matters. Trophies and other accolades are nice, but they are external. The inward feeling of sheer pride cannot be beat.

Here is an example: a small team from a small school goes out to a drill competition, they are only able to put in four hours of practice per week. They understand that they do not have the chance of placing high, but they go to the competition with high spirits and during their performance they give it their all. in this case, no one can say anything against them. They know their limitations and yet they perform with pride. This is the heart of competition. When everyone understands this, the better the drill world will be.

Another example: Take the guards at the Tomb of The Unknowns in Greece. Americans might call the uniform, hat and even the tassel-balls on the shoes very strange or worse. Even the marching style is completely different from what those of us in the USA are accustomed to. Those who do not poses much maturity might even laugh, but this is a different culture with completely different traditions, etc. Learning and appreciating differences helps everyone in the long run.

How to Become a Certified Visual Judge

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Drill Teams, DrillCenter News, Honor Guard, Instructional 2 Comments

The World Drill Association and DrillMaster now offer a training and certification program for judges for the military drill world. All aspects of military drill come under the visual category and should be judged as such. That is where the program comes in. There are four visual captions:

1. Overall Effect
2. Composition Analysis
3. Movement
4. Equipment

Also a judging position, but not a caption is:

5. Timing and Penalties

To become a certified judge, here is what you have to do (this is all at your own speed):

1. Purchase The WDA Adjudication Manual
2. Read it
3. Pick a caption on which you would like to concentrate and get certification and study it over and over
4. Study that caption, begin watching videos on the internet of teams and solos and make commentaries based on your caption on that video (use your computer to record yourself- yes everyone’s voice sounds strange to them- but you need to be able to talk about your caption during a performance!)
5. Use the WDA score sheet for your caption to score that performance
6. Repeat steps 3 through 5
7. During your study, submit your commentaries to get feedback for necessary improvements, if needed
8. When you think you are ready, you will be given a short multiple-choice test and also shown several preselected videos in which you must make a commentary and give scores
9. When you pass, you will be given a certificate that says you are a certified WDA Judge for the caption you chose, you then have the option to repeat the steps above for each caption

When you have been certified, it will be time to obtain Continuing Education for the WDA Judge. This book takes you through a more in-depth study of ranking and rating.

When do you want to be a certified judge? It’s mostly up to you. How long will it take? At least six months of study and practice. Can I do it quicker? Probably not. There is no immediate short cut: Study. Practice. Repeat.

So then what? The WDA already has some drill meets where the adjudication system is used, is always looking to add more competitions and will be sponsoring competitions in each state. As more judges are certified and word spreads of real feedback being given to performers, more competitions will want to use certified judges. It will all take time.

The plan is to have groups of the WDA Adjudication Corps in each state with judge coordinators and trainers.

Are you a veteran? The WDA and DrillMaster have developed the Veteran Adjudication Program. The only difference from then above information is that, with sponsorship, the books will be free.


Regarding Colors

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Colors (meaning a color guard or, more precisely named, colors team), are a little different today than a few years ago, the honor guard standard is being used everywhere you look and, in my opinion, this is a very good thing: soon to be gone are the days of a color team unceremoniously stomping through a formal dinner setting or having the commander give multiple commands for the color bearers and rifle guards plus some other relatively annoying parochial issues.

Color Bearer Port Arms

The picture here depicts the position of Port Arms for a color bearer. The flagstaff does not have to be in the cup when marching- however, Port is only used for short distances and almost always indoors when the ceiling height is too low to carry at Right Shoulder (Right Shoulder for a color bearer is when the staff is in the harness cup and the right hand is at Attention).

The manual of arms (for colors), the manual of the ceremonial fire axe and the manual of the ceremonial pike pole all mirror each other and are intended to be used along with colors.

The manual of the flagstaff and the modified manual of arms, fire axe and pole for colors are completely described with pictures for each movement in The Honor Guard Manual.

On a side note, the World Drill Association will use the standards of The Honor Guard Manual for different phases of competition at WDA-sanctioned/sponsored drill meets. The future looks bright and fun!