Thursday, February 7, 2019

Good Order and Discipline

Parade im Lustgarten 9.2.1894 - Carl Röchling
Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all. - George Washington (Source)
Those of us who have served in the military no doubt remember our first encounter with military discipline, the bellowing sergeants, the constant cry to "move, move, move," and the swirling confusion of being in a strange place and not knowing what was to come. It can all be rather daunting.

I remember my first experience of military discipline, it was in August of 1971 when my parents drove me to Northfield, Vermont, where I had hopes of eventually winning an Army ROTC scholarship and eventually a commission in the United States Army. Norwich University is the nation's oldest private military academy, being founded in 1819.

Incoming freshmen were known as "Rooks," I believe derived from the word rookie and not from the chess piece. We were all treated equally. Equally bad. Lots of yelling and physical training in the first week. On our first morning we were awakened around 0500 by the flinging of large metal trash cans down the hallways and much shouting and bellowing.

But I've covered that all before in a number of posts, particularly this one. Suffice to say, that first year at Norwich was sufficiently arduous in an old school sort of way to get our attention. I got used to it, so used to it that by the time I arrived at Air Force Basic Training some four years later, Air Force Basic felt rather weak in comparison.

There was some yelling, but not in the style of a 19-year old upperclassman who has been told, and truly believes, that he is one of the best, the cream of the crop and that the freshmen are all that stand between him and eventual glory as a soldier in the Army of the United States. There was some physical training, but not in the style of a butt crack of dawn, "we're running until I get tired, and I never get tired," gasping, shuffling up a hill on a gravel road being led by a senior (our company commander) who was convinced that he was the very incarnation of Alexander the Great himself.

So yeah, Air Force Basic Training was, for me, a walk in the park. A veritable vacation of sorts, because I'd been there, done that, being yelled at by future soldiers. Not airmen (while one's rank in the Air Force can run from Airman Basic to full General, we are all "airmen") who were generally admin types, maintenance guys, and the like. I still thank the Good Lord that we didn't have any Security Police types among our Training Instructors (TIs in Air Force parlance, not the way more cool "DI" or Drill Instructor). Bunch of loons that lot is. (Sorry Advocaat, just calling it like I sees it.)

In fact, Basic was rather fun. I was made a squad leader after a bit of a palace coup wherein I "overthrew" my actual squad leader. Now that kid was not right in the head, liked to give speeches and sneak around messing with other peoples' lockers.

I mean seriously Bobby, unbutton one button on a dress uniform hanging in the locker and that's sort of believable, but unbutton all of them? Rank bloody amateur you were. Things were so bad in our flight that the other squad leaders wanted him gone. As in, "Hey Sarge, he might fall down the stairs seven or eight times and hurt himself. He's like, clumsy."

He was eventually drummed out of our flight and sent to our sister flight. Where they grew to hate him as much as we did. No surprise that Bobby wanted to be a Security Policeman when he grew up. I wonder if ever did, he would have fit in nicely with that lot.

At any rate, I learned a thing or two about leadership there and at tech school in Denver. I grew to really like being in charge. Bit of a tumble when I got to Okinawa with my one lonely stripe. But after a year or so (and a couple of more stripes), I got to be in charge of mid shift, midnight to 0700 was my domain. I was a benevolent ruler though, kind to my troops as they were some of the best of the best I ever served with, there and in Korea.
“Winning the men's confidence requires much of a commander. He must exercise care and caution, look after his men, live under the same hardships, and—above all— apply self discipline. But once he has their confidence, his men will follow him through hell and high water.” ― Erwin Rommel, Infanterie greift an (Source)
One of the things I enjoyed in Basic and in tech school was marching, there was something about marching with back straight and measured stride in a tight formation, all in unison. Cadence being called, forty men marching as one, the sound of our boots on the pavement, ah, brings back memories that does.

When I got to be the flight leader, the guy calling the steps, barking the commands, it was truly intoxicating. Forty men marching at my command, turning in unison like some formidable living machine. I loved it.
The steady, regular marching step was a marked feature of Roman legions. Vegetius, the author of the only surviving treatise on the Roman Empire's military, De Re Militari, recognized the importance of
constant practice of marching quick and together. Nor is anything of more consequence either on the march or in the line than that they should keep their ranks with the greatest exactness. For troops who march in an irregular and disorderly manner are always in great danger of being defeated. They should march with the common military step twenty miles in five summer-hours, and with the full step, which is quicker, twenty-four miles in the same number of hours. If they exceed this pace, they no longer march but run, and no certain rate can be assigned.
Military marching of foot formations into a battle was a common practice in most European countries for centuries, and was even carried over into the new world as recently as the American War of Independence. Since then, it has been phased out by advances in military equipment and tactics; however, Foot drill remains an important part of military education and training. (Source)
Can you imagine all those uncouth barbarians watching, and no doubt laughing, at all those little Roman dudes all dressed alike and marching in step behind those big shields and with those little swords?

Yeah, they laughed until the Romans tossed their pila* at them then smashed into them all in unison, no doubt all bellowing something in Latin and stabbing away with those nasty little swords (the gladius**), stabbing and stepping forward, stabbing and stepping forward, until there were more dead barbarians then live ones!

No doubt Beans got a little sentimental there, thinking about the "good old days."

If you are so inclined, go read this article about why soldiers march in unison, pretty interesting I thought. (In truth, by marching in step a unit is easier to maneuver and control.)

Then there is this kind of march -



Deuced hard on the legs, DAMHIK. Let's just say that one night on Lowry AFB, a hardy band of airmen, led by their intrepid squad leader (who shall remain nameless), learned how to goose step. One of the troops mentioned it while awaiting the entire flight to gather. So what the heck, they tried it, got fairly good at it, decided it was rather jarring and "let's not do that again, m'kay?"

Ah, the follies of youth.
The Stechschritt (goose step) originated in the 18th century, like other march steps, as a method of keeping troops lined up properly as they advanced towards enemy lines. It was introduced into German military tradition by Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, a Field Marshal whose close attention to training transformed the Prussian infantry into one of the most formidable armed forces in Europe. Other armies adopted different march steps that served the same purpose; in the British Army, soldiers were trained to swing their arms in a wide arc to allow officers to keep the advancing line in order. The Russian Empire adopted the goose step during the 1796–1801 reign of Paul I.

By the mid-19th century, the replacement of muskets with rifles greatly increased the accuracy of defensive fire. It was too hazardous to march forward into battle in precise formation, and the practice became obsolete. However, armed forces continued to drill recruits in marching techniques that now focus on team building, military uniformity, and ceremonial functions. This was true in Prussia and the later German Empire, where the goose step became emblematic of military discipline and efficiency. (Source)
So it wasn't a Nazi thing originally, it was a Prussian thing, and a lot of countries still use that as their parade step. (The command to begin goose stepping in German is Parade Marsch! I read that someplace. No, really.)



Well, alrighty then.





*The pilum (pila is the plural) was a javelin commonly used by the Roman army in ancient times. It was generally about 2 meters long overall, consisting of an iron shank about 7 millimeters in diameter and 60 centimeters long with a pyramidal head. The shank was joined to the wooden shaft by either a socket or a flat tang. (Source)
** Gladius was one Latin word for sword, and is used to represent the primary sword of Ancient Roman foot soldiers. Early ancient Roman swords were similar to those of the Greeks, called xiphos. (Source)

66 comments:

  1. The North Koreans go for the goose stepping, they really put a bounce into it, seen vids with rifles that had bayonets, maybe if they practice it enough they'll debilitate their troops health( heh heh). Did formation marching while in Air Force ROTC during freshman year in the gym before first morning class. First attempt in fall quarter resulted in the guy next to me locking his knees while at attention, started to weave around like a felled tree while I whispered "unlock knees!" and then........ fell........forward. We were in the front ranks (sigh). Good bounce though. No damage, just passed out but he heard about it for awhile.

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    1. Oh yes, the NORKs love to goose step.

      Seen many a fallen trooper who locked his knees up while on parade.

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  2. As a nit, it’s “pila” not “pilums.”

    Fun fact: Roman hours varied in length, based on the season. “Summer hours” were longer.

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    1. Dang! - Corrected that, sure wish they had offered Latin in school. (Only French at first, later they added German.)

      Did not know the hour lengths varied, how did they measure those?

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    2. The answer appears to involve lots of math, because it also varies with latitude. As a note, I didn’t know this either, but I was intrigued by the mention of “summer hours.” Aren’t hours just hours?

      (The Roman mile was a tetch shorter, too, so “24 miles in 5 summer hours” is approx ~3.7 modern mph. Still ball-busting in full kit, all day every day.)

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_timekeeping

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    3. Yes, I had to go look it up and wound up at that Wikipedia page as well. I guess when you want 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night, you have to have longer/shorter hours. The Romans were a fascinating bunch.

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    4. Hours were segments of daylight. Short days have short hours, long days have long hours. It's how the world used to run, way back when.

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    5. When your clock is basically a sundial, it all makes sense. Now, nighttime hours were measured by candles or water systems, so there might be more hours in the night than in the day.

      The invention of reliable time pieces, and transportable ones at that, was one of the great gifts of Western Civilization.

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    6. Not to mention being able to figure out one's longitude while at sea, which requires a good time piece!

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    7. Yup. That and knowing the actual diameter of the Earth, not some shortened number like that Columbus yokel was using.

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    8. also required that the timepieces be synchronized by some method, such as the cannon on top of Edinburgh Castle being fired at 1:00 every afternoon so ships in the harbor can adjust their timepieces. Why 1:00? Well, in typical Scot fashion, that would only require one shot whereas firing the cannon at noon would require 11 more!

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    9. I'm not saying we Scots are cheap, just careful with our funds.

      Brilliant!

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  3. But if there's more than one person goose stepping, would it be geese stepping?

    After leaving Great Lakes I don't think I've ever marched anywhere again.

    Another branch of the service difference is the lack of land navigation skills in the Navy. We call land navigation "going aground" and that is a bad thing.

    Informative post, and some boot camp cobwebs got blown away.

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    1. In the Air Force whether or not one had to remember how to march varied. I actually got to march while in NATO at a small town in the Ardennes where they had a memorial service for an American B-17 crewman who is remembered there as if he were a native son. His B-17 was shot down in the vicinity, the villagers hid the surviving crewmen as long as they could. The tail gunner (as I recall) died before the plane crashed, he is the one they remember every year.

      It's an awesome ceremony, the year I got to march was also the year that a contingent from the Black Watch were there, pipers and all. I had a great time!

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    2. I reported aboard Forrestal just after she'd sent a group to participate in the 30th anniversary of D-Day.
      From the Wiki entry.
      "In June 1974, Forrestal sent a contingent of 34 sailors and two officers to represent the U.S. Navy at the 30th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy, France. The group marched in various parades at the Normandy Beaches on 6 June 1974 as well as Cherbourg, France and was well received by the locals. The group was passed in review by retired General of the Army Omar Bradley. This contingent of sailors were flown off of Forrestal by SH-3 Sea Kings of HELANTISUBRON 3 (HS-3) onto the deck of USS Milwaukee (AOR-2), then taken to Naval Station Rota, Spain. After a few days of refresher "marching", they were flown to Cherbourg, France in a C-130. Following the celebrations, the group reunited with Forrestal at the island of Crete in mid June."
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Forrestal_(CV-59)

      Note the mention of marching instruction.

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    3. Heh, we spent some time "refresher marching" for that event. Otherwise it could have been a complete disaster!

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    4. So a bunch of bad goose-steppers is a group of flocking idiots?

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    5. Beans-That made me gaggle, I mean giggle.

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    6. John - Me too. (Also your's is a good one.)

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    7. I shudder to think of what happened to those villagers.

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    8. The Belgians know war and all its attendant horrors.

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  4. I have read that one reason for goose stepping, is that it IS harder on thebtroops, as 15 minutes of goose stepping is physically the equivalent to a half hour of regular marching. So goose stepping keeps the troops tough, and saved time that can then be used for other purposes.

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    1. Possible I suppose. Tough to do in the field, but I gather the Prussians did it anyway.

      The Prussian Army was considered the greatest army in Europe until Napoleon handed them their asses at Jena and Auerstaedt. By then they were living on their reputation from Frederick the Great's time, nothing had changed in the Prussian Army, but warfare had.

      But goose stepping, hard on the legs it is.

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    2. Up through WWII (I believe) the goose step was used as a punishment drill for minor infractions. You.d be required to march around the barracks area for a half an hour or an hour or more.

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    3. That would certainly cure me of wanting to misbehave. For a while at least.

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    4. Goose-stepping might have an alternate theory. Knowing from my time running behind shields, not being able to see obstacles, like bodies or dropped equipment, made for difficult walking, so we all did kinda a high-knee step. Goose-stepping achieves some of the same, teaches the soldier to lift his feet up and not shuffle.

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    5. Speaking as a sergeant, there are other ways of getting the troops not to shuffle. All of them painful.

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    6. Yes, but not-shuffling and looking good at the same time? Therein goes that weird Indian (dot) knee up march and Goose-stepping.

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    7. Have you ever seen videos of the ceremonies which take place at some border crossing between India and Pakistan? Lots of fascinating high stepping and the like.

      I highly recommend this to you - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXVMIOT-EFg

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  5. One additional goodie about the pilium. It had a soft iron shank, which when it struck something after being thrown would bend. If it hit the enemy's shield it would stick and make the shield unwieldy, if it hit the ground it would bend, and thus not be able to be thrown back. Clever those Romans!

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    1. Yes, yes! I remember that, the Romans were awfully clever. Great practical engineers as well.

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    2. Later replaced by the plumbata. Basically a lead weighted lawn dart thrown underhand. Used all the way up to late Byzantine times. Better armor penetration capabilities, and could be thrown for a more vertical attack (think howitzer arc) into tight formations.

      Really played hell on Persian mounted formations. Of course, at the time, all those heavily armored horsemen on both sides weren't using stirrups, as they hadn't been introduced to Western Civilization yet. (There's a battle between Byzantine and Persian soldiers that started as a pure cavalry fight and ended up a pure infantry fight as everyone had fallen off their respective horses.)

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    3. Don't you mean Eastern Civilization? Evidence suggests that the stirrup was in use in China as early as 205 BC.

      The plumbata was used well into modern times, used to cut holes in aluminum and vinyl siding...

      Oh wait, that was my kids an I playing in the backyard of my parents' house before lawn darts were taken off the market. The hole made by The Nuke is still in evidence on the parental shed Up Nawth.

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    4. I did say Western Civilization. Was quite specific about it. The introduction of the stirrup into Western Civilization revolutionized Western Mounted Warfare, allowing for the couched lance, held in the crook of the arm, which gives more force behind the thrust, rather than a one-hand overhanded jab-jab.

      I think "as they (stirrups) hadn't been introduced to Western Civilization yet." says it all.

      Roman/Byzantine and Medean/Persian is definitely Western Civ. The loss of the Western Civ-Persians to the later Islamic hordes was one of the great losses to Western Civilization. The Persians gave us many things, such as the concept of Knights and Squires and said Knights being funded by greater lords, many by grants of land (which the later Western western Europeans turned into the Fief du Haubert(or hauberk) - literally 'grant of land to support your arms and armor.')

      Eastern Rome didn't really consider itself Eastern Civ until way after the separation of Rome into Western Rome and Eastern Rome, really about the time the stirrup was accepted by the Byzantines, who had stopped thinking of themselves as 'Romans' or 'Eastern Romans' and thought themselves to be Byzantines and above the Roman-Romans (after all, their empire didn't fall, well, until the 1400's.)

      Eastern Civ - India, and all of Asia, East Russia, you know, East.

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    5. Sorry, I went back and read it again. You had it right, I went all dyslexic on you.

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    6. Well, there are some (idiots) out there who consider anything east of Greece to be Eastern Civ, but I and others (great people all) see the dividing line as flexible and moving over time.

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  6. Ft Leonard Wood. Since WWII varies engineer types were trained there. One sub section dealt with gravel crushers. Years and years of crushing gravel. What to do with all that gravel? Why, put it the areas where the new soldiers trained. PT on sharp pointed crushed gravel wasn't all that fun.

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    1. One of the rather weird things to come out of the China-Burma-India campaign during WWII was the use of the 5,000 man steamroller. Seriously, you get a bunch of the locals, bunch them up into a tight formation, and have them stomp and walk back and forth across the ground. Not as quick as using actual construction equipment, but it worked. Especially since most airfields in China didn't have access to modern equipment.

      The Chinese and Indians have been using that technique for construction for, well, millennium.

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  7. My first week at Ft Ord, I noted a profound metamorphosis. The first couple of days, we were civilians, thinking and walking separately, getting our issued uniforms. When we started marching in formation, other people looked at us differently - like a powerful unit.

    I too treated basic training like summer camp, having frown up with a strict father.

    Keep your mouth shut, always get in the middle of a formation.

    You'll do fine.

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    1. I never kept my mouth shut and was always in the front, of course, that's how I got to be a squad leader.

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  8. Marching in step really isn't necessary for running a semi-static shield wall, but for maneuvering units, whether heavy shield or pike (up to 16-18' spears) formations, where tight coverage is required, march-step is rather important in order to have the unit, well, maneuver precisely. Holes in either type of unit caused by miss-stepping are exploitable weaknesses.

    A properly run shield or pike formation cannot be broken by cavalry directly, by the way. Ain't gonna happen. Horses are just not that stupid.

    At the Battle of Hastings, the Norman mounted knights used their lances overhand to stab down into the shield wall, to gig the 2nd rank. They were not really successful at breaking through until various units of the Saxon Fyrd (home guard, national guard, local troops - NOT professional household (think Lords' and King's households) troops called huscarls,) fell for the old "Attack, Oh No, Runaway, Oops, Not Really" gambit that the Normans really loved to use on the French and now on the Saxons and thus opened up holes in the Saxon Shield Wall.

    Never ever ever ever willingly open the Wall and turn into individual warriors, unless the Rout of the Enemy is truly in full force. Fake routs and semi-routs are what medium and light infantry are for. Shield wall warriors have heavy armor, heavy weapons, big shields and are slow on foot. Medium and light infantry have smaller and smaller shields, lighter armor and weapons and are much more agile and fleet of foot.

    Same goes for Pike and then for the later Musket and Rifle units. Yes, rifle and musket men are better at open field than heavy shield, but once the battlefield is obscured by smoke, the cohesion of the unit was paramount. Well, until the rifled musket was introduced and then the cartridge rifle and then smokeless powder and then effective auto-fire weapons and nobody paid attention to the Crimean, American Civil War and Boer Wars that all broke down into trench warfare and....

    I like the purity of just hacking your enemy to death with a sword. Much cleaner... No, not really.

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    1. Being in step important for maneuver, not for close combat.

      Smooth bore musket troops were bunched due to the inaccuracy of the weapon itself. Also the tendency of infantry to run away if not kept under constant discipline.

      The French lancers liked to fling their lances into an infantry square hoping to discomfit them. Best way to break a square? Have a dying horse plunge into the ranks. Happened a couple of times in Spain. But yeah, a healthy horse won't charge into a bunch of guys holding sharp objects. They will, however, stop shirt and fling their rider into a bunch of guys holding sharp objects.

      Purity, conceptually yes. Reality, no.

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    2. Besides the inaccuracy of the weapon, bunching musket troops allows the effective use of the bayonet as a warding device. One bayonet, not so scary. 100 bayonets in a hedgehog of pointy goodness, scary.

      And being in step, at least in timed step, is very important to a shield wall when advancing in the scrum. Surprisingly important that the Wall move as one, all at once, as a singular organism.

      Yes, flinging lances for light and medium horse was always an option.

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    3. Yes, bayonets. As Suvorov said, "The bullet is a fool, the bayonet is a fine chap."

      Russians love that kind of thing...

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  9. I learned marching in high school, in the California Cadet Corps ( kind of like junior ROTC ). The first morning at AF basic, I introduced myself to the TI by waggling my eyebrows at the guy next to me in formation when the TI said, after they ( he had an assistant TI ) had us where they wanted us in formation, look around to see who you are next to so you can get back into this formation again. Of course the TI saw me do that and asked me if I loved him. I don't know if that had any bearing on him selecting me as the second person to try out as Dorm Chief.

    "I grew to really like being in charge."

    That was a long winded way of writing ' I know what you mean. '

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    v

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  10. Double time cadence. Someone who can sing cadence can literally carry you for miles. Someone who can sing like this--

    "He packed it the animals, two by two..."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghOECZiycEk

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    1. A good Jody call is worth its weight in Drill Instructors.

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    2. And a good Jody Caller can turn just about any tune into a Jody call.

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    3. Even better than a Jody Caller is a band. One time ( I think at the Advanced NCO course in the CalARNG ) we were marching in from the field and I was really dragging, then we marched by a band and they started playing. My shoulders went back, my back straightened, and I felt that I could go another 20 miles. Lifted my spirits, they did.

      Paul

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    4. Nothing like it at all.

      Well said, Paul!

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    5. Heinlein talked about the morale boost of a band to tired marchers in his book "Starship Troopers." Which is a book about why we fight, why hard training is necessary and definitely says 'Aliens, advanced ones with stardrives and such, may not be our friends.'

      Very good book, very good game by Avalon Hill. Not so much a good movie.

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  11. When I was a second semester sophomore cadet in AFROTC at WashUSTL, I commanded, for some reason, the drum and bugle corps. I was useless as a bugler or drummer (I did wield a mean set of cymbals). It was fun and there was a great sense of camaraderie. I still love listening to and tapping a body part or two as a great corps passes by. Once you got everyone to know which foot is their left one, the rest was easy. Nothing like the memories I have of a joint parade on the huge field in front of the university. Hundreds of left feet hitting the ground in unison. Bass drum booming over the clash of the cymbals.
    As an aside we have a great player piano roll at home entitled "They Were All Out of Step But Jim". No doubt sung by a proud mom as her boy was whisked off the to trenches.
    Didn't march that much in pilot training. There's a funny story in that, maybe someday in context.

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    1. Massed bands, bass drums thumping, the rattle of the snares, it gets the blood pumping!

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