Saturday, June 4, 2016

Drill and Ceremonies

Airmen participating in a Veterans Day parade in Tuscon. (USAF Photo)
Marching. A lot of folks wonder why we still do that in training. Well, for one reason, it's about the only way to move a body of troops on foot from point A to point B without looking like a gaggle of civilians. Or sailors, YMMV. I've seen parades with gaggles of civilians, it's just weird looking. Then again, as a retired Master Sergeant I do prefer things to be neat, clean, and well ordered.

Stop looking at my computer room. That's different.

Seriously though, drill serves a valuable purpose in training. You learn to react immediately upon command and to be part of a team. When the sergeant says "left" and you go "right" (or as we used to say, "your other left") it's readily and easily apparent as to who "screwed the pooch."

Of course, there was a point in time where drill was essential. Moving the troops while under fire, trying to get them to the point where they were needed, where the fire of their single shot, smoothbore muskets would be effective, required drill. Guys all lined up and yes, even marching in step. Men in poorly drilled units were virtually useless once the battle started. They couldn't be easily moved, if at all, and would generally fall apart if attacked. Drill provided cohesion, the individuals in a unit learned to move as one upon command.

The only things holding these men together as they advance under fire are their training and the ability and charisma of their officers. (Source)

And of course, a well drilled unit looks good, damn good. It's amazing what marching in a sharp outfit will do for one's morale.

(Source)

I enjoyed the few opportunities I had to drill while in the Air Force. After Basic Training the only place you'd normally see the troops marching were at the Non-Commissioned Officer schools. Yes, the Air Force had those. Stop smirking.

Drill was good for the troops for two reasons: team building and learning to respond instantly to command. If you were the one actually drilling the troops, you learned to give the commands crisply, precisely at the right moment, and with a certain amount of volume. After all, you wanted the entire flight (as we called a body of airmen when drilling) to respond all at the same time. If someone couldn't hear you, well let's just say it could get messy. Everybody going every which way. At the school's I was at (Yokota and Biloxi) we called that a "bomb burst." Like I said, messy and it looked bad,

In war, back in the day, a gap in the ranks led to all sorts of bad things...

 The 42nd Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch) at the Battle of Quatre Bras. (Source)

Sgt Ewart of the Scots Greys captures the Eagle of the 45e Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne at the Battle of Waterloo. (Source)

People died, armies were defeated, empires fell.

Drill these days doesn't quite have the same importance as in the old days.

Still, it looks awesome. When done well...









22 comments:

  1. I like the leather aprons and axes of the Pioneers!

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    1. Those Legionnaires look badass, don't they?

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  2. I resemble that remark comparing sailors and civilians.
    While there isn't much call for drill, outside of schools commands, there is still a certain uniformity of movement that may be observed when you see a group of sailors together.

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    1. No Skip, I wasn't thinking of you when I wrote that...

      Well, maybe a little.

      When sailors are moving upon an objective, it's best to stay out of their way. This might be their first liberty after an extended underway period.

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    2. Maybe "purposeful movement" would be a better descriptor. Sailors never move quicker than on liberty--at least, the early part of a liberty period.
      It was really painful for those sailors who actually cared about crisp formations & movement, & were good at it. All one could do was the right thing: at least one of us would be marching.
      --Tennessee Budd

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    3. "purposeful movement" - I like that.

      As to that last bit, heck Tennessee, we might be kin.

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  3. With a grandson in a high school marching band, I've decided I never knew how to move in a formation.

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    1. Well, you were an engineer. Marching is for the infantry.

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    2. Not so much in formation. Every month six miles, full pack, helmet, and rifle to remind us we were infantry when needed. Unfair, as the infantry didn't have the M2 .50 cal. We had several, and they went with us.

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    3. Yes, route marches and parades have nothing in common.

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  4. Love this. Watching the Italian Bersaglieri (The ones with the plumed hats) who always parade at the run by tradition---I am reminded of watching a parade in Sorrento (one of my all time favorite Italian places) wherein they participated. Interestingly enough, Bersaglieri veterans were part of the parade. They also ran--or tried to--through the parade, and were loudly applauded by the onlookers. Some were obviously well into their 70s. Still, they ran.Not far, but they ran. Says something about esprit and tradition, that.

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    1. I went looking for a video with Bersaglieri in it, intentionally. Their marching style is very cool.

      Esprit and tradition run deep in that outfit!

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  5. I can't remember a lot of marching after I got my commission, but there was a lot of it in the four years prior (AFROTC). In primary at WebbAFB, the marching came to a quick halt after the instructors were reminded that we were "officers" and not aviation cadets. It seems to me that at one time at Randolph AFB, where we were pretending to fly the newly bought T-38 (experimental test class 62FZ), we gathered together as a bunch of brown bars with a few O-2s and O-3(navigators) scattered within. We were being "shown off" to some ATC O-XX weenie, er general. I remember distinctly that he advised me personally, in the rank, that he didn't like my service cap (no grommet, trying to look WWII -ish, I guess). I found one, and installed thereto.

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    1. Ooh, no grommet, 'tis a rebel you were going for that 50 mission crush.

      I would often get chastised for wearing my flight cap with a "rooster tail," because that's how the fighter pilots did it. The shoe clerks didn't like that!

      No doubt the ATC wienie, er general, that chastised you was a shoe clerk. Or a bomber general.

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  6. I learned drill in high school JROTC and honed it in the unit's drill team. We were pretty good with our neutered M-1's. (Firing pin removed.)

    This brought to mind the Training Command at Millington, TN back in the 60's. Most students were non-rated Airmen (E-2 or E-3) and were required to march from barracks to classroom and back. If you were found strolling by yourself without proper authorization you would be disciplined. This was enforced by higher ranking individuals who were known as "Bush Chiefs" because some would hide in the bushes looking to catch unwary individuals.

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    1. "Bush chiefs," I like the term, seems properly derogatory for a type of individual I despise. I once had the distinct pleasure of tearing a strip off some pompous a-hole at Lackland for berating the trainees. If you weren't an instructor, the new recruits were off-limits. I guess no one told him.

      I did. In no uncertain terms.

      At Keesler AFB (MS) they marched the trainees to class every day. Poor kids were treated terribly, that crap has no place outside of Basic. But Keesler was the armpit of the training bases. Sheppard AFB and Chanute AFB were also known as places you didn't want for a tech school assignment.

      I went to Lowry AFB in Denver, they treated us like humans and we were better for it!

      All training commands attract a-holes like shite attracts flies. Not sure why. I may have a story or three to share in the future. POCIR!

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  7. Ah . . . ye olde Drill and Ceremony. Fond memories there. I've been marching in formations since I was a freshman in high school. (That'd be 13 years of age.) The high school band, the "Trilby" string band in Philly, Basic Training with the U.S. Army. Then, at AIT at Ft. Devens with the ASA band, the drummers played cadence each morning and afternoon while marching the student body to school. That was, pretty much, it. ASA was not big on parades n' stuff. My last parade formation was with the Guard unit in Danbury, CT. The city held a celebration parade at the end of the Desert Storm conflict (It was also a belated "Welcome Home" parade for Vietnam vets.) The battery participated . . . all spit-shined and starched. K-pots all set just so on heads (camo covers brushed and cleaned). We prepared a gun and prime mover for show . . . took them apart, cleaned them, painted that which needed it, re-assembled both. (A labor of some love.) The parade route was from the armory, straight down Main Street, a U-turn at the city park, then back to the armory. As we made the turn at the park, somebody noticed that the right wheel on the howitzer was wobbling . . . considerably. Someone had forgotten to torque the lug nuts on that wheel and they were coming off. We all took turns walking (with decorum) beside the gun and, discreetly, finger tightening the nuts as we rolled along. The gun weighed in at around 13,000 pounds and nobody wanted it to lose that wheel. It was a much longer march back to the armory than it had been down to the park. We made it back with no incident and took care of that little problem. The commander never knew. And, that was my last time marching. My last parade was some time after being retired . . . a friend had me drive his 3/4 ton M-37 in a St. Patrick's Day parade here in town. My wife rode along. She had fun waving to all the spectators. That was it.

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    1. Yeah, having the wheel come off that gun might have proven embarrassing. Not to mention dangerous.

      Nice to know the American GI can still overcome, improvise, and adapt! Smart move keeping the CO in the dark, keeps them from getting ulcers and all. No harm, no foul!

      Driving an M-37 in a parade? Pretty cool Snuffy, pretty cool.

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  8. For some reason your post brought this to mind...

    https://coub.com/view/1gszksm8

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    1. Bwaaa-haaaa-haaaa!!!

      Worth the price of admission that was!

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  9. Sarge, It looks as if the Tuscon area AAFES is shorting that region's BXs of their supply of "Sole and Edge Dressing." You don't suppose the entire area allocation went to the Ft. Huachuca PX by mistake, do you? Every day is a parade and every meal a feast. regards, Alemaster

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    1. Hahaha! That's gotta be it.

      Sole and edge dressing, I had forgotten that stuff.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)