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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!

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Military Drill Judging

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!

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Your Command Voice

Have you considered your command voice? Have you looked at your service’s manual and actually read about what it says on the proper way to call commands? No, it doesn’t say monotone is OK, it doesn’t say the gravel-in-your-throat style is a good style, it says use inflection, be clear and more! Read! Don’t rely on a senior cadet to tell you what you need to do (as with EVERYTHING else!)- read it for yourself!

“Well, I call commands like this.” “At my school we, [fill in the blank here].” Ever hear of standardization? That is what the military is about, standardizing. Your personal style, what you may think is really cool, does not matter. Stop it.

Click here to listen to some examples of commands in MP3 format and how to call them.

Also read this article, “Root Step” and Command Pronunciation.

When calling commands your voice should have inflection and NOT be monotone (some Navy cadets do this and I cannot figure out why). You should also enunciate each syllable and not leave off the first or last letter or substitute letters:

  • There is no such thing is “Righ, HACE“.
  • The USAF does allow, Forward, HARCH, (it’s in a picture, not text) the other services use MARCH.
  • There is no such thing as “A-Ten-Hut”, or any other number to bring a formation to Attention.
  • There is no need to growl your commands- that means you are calling from your throat. Stop, or you will have problems later in life.
  • There is no such thing is “Orward, ARCH“.

Here is a snippet from my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

•The ability of your voice to reach whatever distance necessary without undue strain.
•Voice is focused on the person farthest away.
•Assume the position of Attention, breathe properly, relax throat, open mouth and push the air out of your lungs from the diaphragm (place your hand on the top of your stomach, just under your ribcage and try to make those muscles tighten when giving commands).

Distinctness (Clarity)
•Distinct commands are effective; indistinct commands cause confusion.
•Clearly enunciate; use tongue, lips, and teeth to form words and word parts.
•Develop the ability to give clear, distinct commands. Practice giving commands slowly and carefully, prolonging the syllables. Gradually increase the rate of delivery to develop proper cadence, still enunciating each syllable distinctly.

Note: Honor Guard cadence is slow; approximately 90 beats per minute

•The rise and fall in pitch and the tone changes of the voice.
•Starting at a normal speaking voice, pronounce the preparatory command with rising inflection.
•A properly delivered Command of execution should have no inflection.
•Command of execution should have a higher pitch than the preparatory command.

•Expresses confidence and decisiveness
•Expresses knowledge of commands and proper execution
•Commands are called at the proper time and in the proper manner

So, now that you have the info, straight from the manual, you will be able to properly call commands!

Happy drilling!

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Regarding Competition

Some, over the years, have said competition is a bad thing because little Johnny or Suzy get their feelings hurt. The instance given is the game Musical Chairs; all of the kids are running around then one doesn’t make it to a chair and “loses,” there is only one “winner.” What a sad way to look at such a fun game and what sheer contempt for something that is naturally created inside us.

Let’s go back to the game of Musical Chairs. Suzy just lost. What has she been taught at home? That “winning is everything!” or to join with the other kids and have FUN? Or have her parents left it up for her to learn that other kids can be real creeps and she just has to get over it? Actually, the last one, hopefully paired with the first one would be a good way to teach lessons about her upcoming life and how she may have to deal with adults who never learned how to be good people.

All of this comes down to:Competition is GOOD! But winning is not about getting first place! First place is great, but that’s all there is once you’ve achieved it and you have to do it all over again. Winning is about doing your personal best with what you have to work with (time, resources and education) and the feeling of pride that comes from doing your best. Once you place your emphasis on only winning, you’ve already lost.

Merry Christmas 2011.