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How to Create and Teach Drill Team Ripples

The “domino effect” does not accurately describe what we call a ripple in exhibition drill. Dominos fall and that’s it. Yes, it’s a ripple, but nothing else happens. Not very effective for a drill team.

This video is a great illustration of the domino effect, using books.

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However, we are talking about a ripple for a military drill team.

What is a ripple?

For military drill purposes, it is an action that begins at one point and is then repeated along a line of Drillers to another point or points.

Are there Different kinds?

Not necessarily, but variation in a ripple line is very effective. These variations are

  1. Left to Right
  2. Right-to-Left
  3. Center outward (starting at the center and moving out to both ends)
  4. Out-inward (starting at both ends going to the center)
  5. Slow-to-Fast (gradual and immediate)
  6. Fast-to-Slow (gradual and immediate)

How does one go about teaching a team to perform a ripple?

To begin, use a metronome and go slowly. Use a metronome application on your phone, set it to 2/4 (for a tick-tock, high-low, type of beat) and set a slow tempo around 90 BPM (beats per minute). If you need to set it slower, that is not a problem; make sure that everyone is comfortable with the speed, you can always increase it as everyone improves.

The slower tempo allows everyone to begin on a tick or a tock and ensures a solid timing framework from which you can then increase the tempo. Using the metronome is only for creating timing. It is almost impossible to get the metronome going fast and have everyone follow it.Once the team can build speed into the ripple, leave out the metronome and visually get your cue on when to move.

Once the team can build speed into the ripple, leave out the metronome and visually get your cue on when to move. Here is an example: the person to my right (A) is going to go to Right Shoulder and I (B) am going to repeat it and then the person to my left (C) will do the same in a ripple. When A goes to Port, that is my cue to do the same which is C’s cue to move. We all then finish executing Right Shoulder as slowly or as quickly as needed.

When you want a very fast tempo in your ripple, using the analogy above of executing Right Shoulder, instead of waiting for the person to execute Port, my cue will be A’s initial movement of the rifle.

The Combined Drill Teams of the Belarus Military

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The Ross Volunteers of Texas A&M University

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The “Savard Manual” or “Savards”

Al Savard Tomb Guard Mirror
Al Savard before stepping out onto the plaza c. 1956

A short time ago, Leslie Savard Hamud sent a question to me through my facebook page, The Honor Guard Manual. To me, the question a little cryptic and out of left field- but I really enjoy left field questions! Here is how the conversation went:

Leslie: Hello, I am the daughter of Al Savard and my dad is a proud man so we do not hear much of the honor guard. I would love some information of the Savard Manual if anyone could share with me this I would be grateful. I’m very proud of my dad and the man he is. Thank you for all that you have done for our country we have many people and blessings to be grateful for.

DrillMaster: Unfortunately, I do not know anything about a Savard Manual and cannot find any information on it. If you can point me in the right direction, I may be able to obtain something for you. Us the manual for honor guard units? Is geared toward the military, law enforcement, firefighters, or fraternal organizations?

Al Savard Tomb Guard
Al Avard as a Tomb Guard c. 1956

Leslie: My dad was stationed at the Tumb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington DC around 1956 and he has apparently created a maneuver and it is referred to as the Savard Manual or close to this. Thank You for your time I appreciate it.

DM: Oh, I see! Alright, I’ll check into this. I’m thinking that what your father created is a process for the Tomb Guard to manipulate the rifle, what we call a “manual”, as in the manual of arms. I’ll get back to you!

This was the information I needed! I posted a question on the Facebook page, The Old Guard (TOG) asking for any available information on some sort of printed manual. A couple of TOG members told me that nothing is written, the manuals are handed down to the next generation. Another TOG member gave me Mr. Savard’s page on Tombguard.org. He is listed as a Founding Father for the Tomb Guard Society and was possible one of a team of Soldiers, or maybe even “the one”, who developed the manuals that the Sentinels and Drill Team use to this day with modifications here and there.

I passed the information on to Leslie and asked if I could write an article and if Leslie had some pictures of her father.

Leslie: Wow Thank You you have pulled up a lot of information. What does Founding Father mean in terms of the guard? I will see if I can find an old picture of him at the Tomb that would be great and such an honor to him. I really appreciate your time.

I still needed more information and thought I might turn to  a friend of mine who was a previous senior soloist on the Old Guard, Andres Ryan. Here is where the final puzzle pieces fell into place!

Al Savard Drill Team
Al Savard and the US Army Drill Team c. 1956

DM: Andres, do you know of a Savard Manual?

Andres: Yes, there is a Savard and a Hidden Savard. It’s a transition maneuver that takes you from either Order to a Prep Position for the 1.5 throw, or the Hidden Savard that takes you to the Inverted Carry. These are Army Drill Team maneuvers. Actually, one of those tricks you have to learn during the Annual Training Cycle . It’s kinda tricky. You would have to watch it in slow motion a lot to actually understand what’s going on because its like a Half Spin-Out and then Half Spin-In right when you reach Full Extension. The technique is something we referred to as “Playing the Fiddle”.

DM: Mr. Savard was a Sentinel, why does the Drill Team use his moves?

Andres: Back then, the Tomb Sentinels all marched on the Drill Team, that was the standard in those days. I don’t know if he made the technique but its really cool if that’s the legacy he left. One of those moves takes forever to wrap your head around in the Cycle.

Thank you Ryan and the others who had a hand in finding the answer for the proud daughter of a US Army Soldier.

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Reciting the Pledge with a Colors Presentation

LE Colors from nba-comAt ceremonies across the country, many local municipalities request a color team from military installations or even first responders. Quite often, music is not available so those gathered recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The picture above is from nba.com.

Here is how to do it:

  1. The MC says something like this. “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the presentation [or posting*] of the colors.”
  2. Color team enters as usual and stops centered in front of the audience.
  3. The commander of the color team gives the loud command, “Present, ARMS!”
  4. The MC, or a designated person steps up to the microphone and says something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in reciting the Pledge. I pledge…”
  5. The commander of the color team gives the command, “Port, ARMS!” and the color team [posts the colors and then] departs.

*Only post the colors for more ceremonial occasions.

That is it. Color team commanders, please do not order the audience to begin, it is not your place.

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JROTC Drill Team Issues

DrillMaster,

My name is John and I was selected to be the drill commander for this year. It’s only been a few days and we are already having problems, especially between my selected leaders. The whole atmosphere changed the next day when my AI handed me the drill cord, it was like my leaders didn’t want to socialize with me anymore (Problem 1). Some of them actually fought with me about getting the position (Problem 2). Others try to take over while I’m teaching, but I need my leaders, I know I can’t do it on my own. I try talking to them in a meeting or even individually but they never listen. I don’t want to yell at them to do things or baby my drill team becuase we just started and I don’t want to scare off the LET1s by yelling at someone, but my leaders don’t want to work with me. I’ve been kicked out of the staff chats and someone showed me everything they were saying. I know as a drill commander it’s my job to just concentrate on my team and get things done but now I just feel I’m on my own here and I don’t know what to do.

Hi John,

What a dilemma! It may not help, but you are not alone, metaphorically. This is a common problem in JROTC.

Addressing Problem 1. Leadership is lonely- or can be. The social issues are part of what happens. Leaders begin to distance themselves from those they lead when selected for a position- to a certain point. For a high school cadet, this can be tough as teenagers are very social creatures.

Side note on leadership. While each member should be treated the same at the beginning of your new assignment, you will see which team members need to be treated differently to get the same results. It has to do with personality and also level of training. Here is what I mean.

Addressing Problem 2. The reason this is happening is because your cadets do not see leadership in you- or they THINK they don’t see it. Let’s change that. Come at them with a plan and, here it is.

Bad JROTC instructor? Click here to read if this may play a part.

smart goal setting conceptYou have three types of goals, short-, medium- and long-term. RD= Regulation Drill; XD= Exhibition Drill

See the article, Create  Goals Not Dreams. SMART goals are best. Image from studenysuccess.unc.edu.

Your short-term goals:

  • Assign Drill Team Trainer and Lead LET1 to ensure LET1s are fully trained in RD
    Ensure all drill team members attend practices
  • Get two/three volunteers to help you plan the team’s XD platoon/flight (and squad/element) (armed and unarmed) sequence(s)
  • Encourage all team members to practice XD at home (Check out this sample of some basic armed XD that I teach)

Your Mid-term goals:

  • Assign Commanders* for Squad and Platoon RD Armed and Unarmed sequences (must memorize sequence)
  • Assign Backup Commanders* for Squad and Platoon RD Armed and Unarmed sequences (must also memorize sequence)
  • Learn all RD sequences and perform from memory

*Armed and Unarmed Squad and Platoon Commanders and their Backups are only in charge of that specific portion of the team when in competition only. Assign these commanders as you see fit- have tryouts in three weeks, that gives team members enough time to memorize the sequence they want to command. You can break this down further if you have a male and female team.

Your long-term goals:

  • Attend and win X-number of competitions (identify all competitions coming up)
  • Assign someone to help you with planning transportation to events

Write all fo these goals on the classroom board during a team meeting. Tell the team this is what you have come up with and ask for their input about any goals you may have missed and how to achieve the goals. You must show strong leadership at all times and ignore the petty immaturity that happens outside of drill team time. During drill team time- practice and meetings- it’s you who is in charge, but you do not need to be a hammer. Be assertive and know what you are doing. The only way to know what you are doing is to learn and read.

Read all of my articles with the Drill Team Training tag and Ask DrillMaster tag . Give the tag to all of your teammates and get them to read them as well. Everyone needs to be educated.

Dear reader– what is your input? Please comment below.

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Color Guard and Cadet Height

After receiving the same question several times, I decided I had to write this.

Some instructors or even cadets try to force cadets on a color team into tallest-to-shortest (viewer’s left-to-right) no matter the skill level. That’s a recipe for embarrassment. The height of the members of a military color guard/color team is a secondary issue. The primary issue is knowledge and experience.

Let’s take a look at some (J)ROTC color guards and how they navigate the height differences of the cadets. Note- we’re concentrating on height, not their technique. Rip some of these teams to shreds another time…

color guard carroll-edu

This one above is what I prefer, tallest in the American flag position.

Colo Guard Kubasaki stripes-com

Color Guard Height

Color Guard Height2

color guard Jesuitnola-org

Color Guard Maaps-net

jrotc color guard Catabaschools-net

The American flag bearer always needs to be the most knowledgeable member of the team and is always the commander. The second most knowledgeable is the right rifle guard, then the left rifle guard and finally, the other color bearer. Service honor guards go with the most experienced.

But what about Rank!
Yes, our military manuals state that an NCO should hold the American flag, but the manuals were written for the military, not cadets. Even so, military teams attempt to have the same height in their team members or they at least balance the height differences.

Flag Height
All colors must be at the same height as per our military manuals, but since cadets are growing and sometimes vary greatly in height, as long as the American flag is higher, everything is fine.

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Color Guard Part 1: Preventing “Flag Wrap”

In competition, (A & AF) JROTC color teams must follow their service drill and ceremonies manual to the letter, for ceremonies, we can incorporate some tools to help navigate around possible problems. The wind can be a serious issue, especially when at Order or when traveling. However, remember this: you may not tuck your color, per the manual, but that is only for a competition. Even when walking over to the color guard competition area, you can still control your color by tucking it.

Flag WrapMembers of a military color team (color guard) have all kinds of issues with which to deal and some can be eliminated. If you have ever been on a team, you know the concerns and “Flag Wrap” is one of them, but not for all color guards. Let’s unwrap (pun intended) this further.

The Army and Air Force drill and ceremonies manuals have nothing to say about tucking a color under the right arm, between the arm and the staff, but the Marine Corps manual, followed by the Navy and Coast Guard, dictates that the colors will be secured and the specific method to secure them. Granted, the MC manual says to not “tuck” the flag, that means to not stuff it behind you with your left hand while holding the staff with your right. What I mean when I say, “Tuck”, is the what the MC manual also describes, hold the staff with the left hand and bring the flag under the right arm between the arm and staff (never between the staff and body).

The safest way to travel while holding a color:

The point is- keep control of your color at all times!

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