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Eight Things Every Driller Needs

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.


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The Drill Meet

drill meet, drill competitionWhat is a Drill Meet?

In America, the drill meet, after putting in hours of hard work designing, choreographing, practicing, rewriting and practicing some more, is a competition for drill teams, Drillers and color teams (NOTE: military-based: “color team;” music-based: “color guard“). The organizations that compete are each services’ Jr., high school, and Sr., college, Reserve Officer Training Corps, Army Cadets, Young Marines, Sea Cadets, Civil Air Patrol, private schools and academies and also independent Drillers and teams.

What are the Competitive Phases of a Meet?

Armed, unarmed, colors, inspection, regulation and exhibition. Solo, tandem, tetrad, squad and platoon. Here is the breakdown:

There are two divisions for competitions: armed and unarmed. Armed teams carry some type of equipment:

  • Rifle (M1 Garand, M14, M1903 or equivalent)
  • Swords/sabers
  • Flags
  • Teams can also march a guidon who carries the standard or a modified guidon

Unarmed teams do not carry a piece of equipment, but can have a guidon.

A typical drill meet has the following phases for platoons/flights in both divisions:

  1. Inspection (IN): a platoon/flight goes through a rigorous inspection.
  2. Regulation Drill (RD): a platoon/flight march within a marked-off area of 50′ x 50′ using all of the commands from their service’s drill and ceremonies manual. Timed.
  3. Exhibition Drill (XD): a platoon’s/flight’s drill routine marched within a marked-off area of 50′ x 50′ using the Drillers’ imagination. Timed.

These phases are the minimum in which a team must compete to be eligible for the overall trophy. Usually, first, second and third place trophies are awarded in each phase for each division.

Other regulation-type phases:

  • Color Guard (CG): a team of four march within a marked-off area of 30′ x 30′ following a set list of commands. Timed.
  • Posting Colors: a team of four march within a marked-off area to post the colors.
  • Open Color Guard(c): a team of four march within a marked-off area of 30′ x 30′ using all of the commands, in any order, for colors. Timed.
  • Open Regulation Drill(c): a platoon/flight march within a marked-off area of 50′ x 50′ using all of the commands from their service’s drill and ceremonies manual, in any order. Timed.
  • Casket Watch*: a team of at least four (usually five), post two watches for a mock casket watch.
  • Mock Funeral*: a mock full honors funeral (Pall Bearers, Firing Party, Colors and bugler)
  • Two-Man Flag Fold*: a team of two or three enter, fold the flag and present it to the mock next of kin (NOK)
  • Six-Man Flag Fold*: a team of six or seven enter, fold the flag and present it to the mock next of kin (NOK)
  • WDA Ultimate Inspection(c): a single member from a drill team inspected inside and out, top to bottom.

*These phases are incorporated into the drill meet when honor guards (military, police, fire, EMS, veteran organizations, etc.) are involved.

Other exhibition phases:

  • Solo: a single Driller’s drill routine marched within a marked-off area of 30′ x 30′ using the Driller’s imagination. Timed.
  • Tandem: Two Drillers’ drill routine marched within a marked-off area of 30′ x 30′ using the Drillers’ imagination. Timed.
  • Tetrad: a drill routine consisting of four or five Drillers (the fifth is the commander) marched within a marked-off area of 30′ x 30′ using the Drillers’ imagination. Timed.

For more information about drill meets, please see The WDA Adjudication Manual. See also how to judge military drill.

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Shoes for the Driller and How to Shine Them

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DrillMaster’s Ceremonial Shoes

Poromeric Shoes/Boots
The term, poromeric, refers to a class of breathable synthetic leather.

Corfam (not “Corfram,” “Clorfam” or Clorfram”) is made by the DuPont Chemical Company.

Clarino, manufactured by the Kuraray Company, is another synthetic high-shine leather found mostly in flagstaff harnesses.

Patent Leather, first created in England in the late 1700s, gained popularity after inventor Seth Boyden of Newark, New Jersey created his own version with linseed oil.

Whatever you wear of what is mentioned above, it’s all synthetic resins of plastics.

Pros: Never shine shoes again! Just keep the heel sole, and welts black with high-gloss edge dressing. You do not “shine” poromeric leather shoes, you clean them.
Cons: They can get HOT! If you are facing the sun for a long time, you may need to treat the tops of your toes for burns. Really. Wear two layers of thin dress socks or a thicker dress sock to protect your feet.

Note: to clean poromeric shoes and equipment that have scuffs or run marks, use Brasso.


If wearing leather boots and you want the mirror shine without the constant maintenance, use Leather Luster. Here are the directions to use it.

Shining Standard Leather Shoes/Boots
They can be tough to shine but, polish, a little water, cotton balls or an old cotton t-shirt are perfect for making leather shoes like mirrors.

Brand new leather shoes are perfect for shining. Sometimes there is an oil coating on the shoes that will hinder a shine. If so, it is best to remove it with some rubbing alcohol and a rag. Now you are ready to begin.

I first learned how to shine shoes from my dad, but to shine them to a mirror finish, Old Cadets taught me when I attended New Mexico Military Institute. We used Kiwi there and it always worked really well for us.

How to shine: Using shoe trees helps. Lightly wet a cotton ball, dab it in the polish and work the polish into the shoe making little circles. When the cotton ball starts to make scratches, get a new one. It takes many hours to build up a base coat of polish and then have it shine like a mirror, but once you have the base coat, you can easily touch up your shoes. If you are going to make all of the shoe mirror-like, be aware that as soon as you take your first step, where the shoe naturally bends with your foot, the polish will crack and flake off. So, you may want to limit the mirror parts to the heels, the sides and as much of the toe as possible, highly shine the rest- including the tongue!

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Like the Tomb Sentinel said in the video, it is all about building up a base and when you first being it will seem like it takes forever, but as you progress, it will take less and less time to shine your shoes. If your shoes have leather soles, you will be able to sand the outside of the sole and shine it with shoe polish as well. If your soles are rubber or some sort of synthetic material you will have to use edge dressing.

Edge Dressing: Kiwi stopped making their Honor Guard Edge Dressing years ago as soon as the military transitioned to suede boots. Honor guard units now use Angelus Brand Roll Call Military Grade Edge Dressing which is available at Glendale.

How to Remove Edge Dressing: After a few coats with edge dressing, you will need to strip the welt (where the sewing is) and also the sides of the sole so as not to have that buildup that eventually looks terrible. For the outside of the sole, use steel wool to scrape away excess, a putty knife works well also. For the welt, you can use the putty knife corner, but be careful. Sometimes the edge dressing will flake off or come off in small chunks. If not, you may have to use Leather Luster Remover. Sand (very fine sandpaper is best) the sole and the side heel tap (if attached) so that it is even and then reapply the Angelus Edge Dressing.

The Sole
The man-made, synthetic lighter soles are not the most desirable for the military Driller but are the most prevalent. Leather soles are desirable. Make sure to blacken the sole if it is a lighter color.

Pros: Break-in period can be shorter than synthetic shoes/boots
Cons: Shinning them over and over and over and over.

Horseshoe Heel Tap
Horseshoe Heel Tap Closeup

Side heel taps
(“Cheaters” or “Clickers”) are great whether you execute closed-toe movements or use the traditional 45-degree angle. You can get different colors: silver, gold or black. Silver and black are great if you want shiny and black will need to be coated with the Angelus mentioned above. Note: if you have black and put edge dressing on them (which you should), it will chip off and you will need to strip the metal and reapply so it doesn’t ‘cake’ up. Attach them with black wood screws.

If you have cheaters that are shiny gold or silver in color, keep them shined and attach them with the same color sheet rock screws.

When attaching cheaters, you can put spacers (washers) behind them or screw them solidly into the side of the sole. Since these taps are curved, you can either match your heel curvature or put a space between the tap and the heel to see if there is better sound quality.

Horseshoe taps can be dangerous and mark up floors, but sound awesome- especially in a large formation. Ask any farrier, horseshoes need to fit a horse’s hoof exactly all the way around the hoof. Ask any cobbler, horseshoe taps don’t. As a matter of fact a cobbler usually offsets the tap into the center of the heel by 1/16 of an inch from the back and keeps a gap of 1/8 of an inch on the sides. Horseshoe tap sizes are for smaller and larger feet (heels) and nothing else.

Toe taps are excellent for creating sound marking time.

All of the taps and cheaters are available at Glendale!

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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!