One of the things the Drill Sergeants had to teach us in Basic Training was Drill and Ceremonies. If you watch soldiers marching on TV, that’s Drill and Ceremonies. Any time we were somewhere, like to a range or to the mess hall (dining facility), we had to march in formation.
At the time, the Drill Sergeants didn’t tell us why we were doing it. In fact, I learned the reason for it from a book on business more than a decade after I got out! It was to help prepare soldiers for battle.
Discipline became a part of military life for these selected individuals as they learned to respond to command without hesitation. This new discipline instilled in the individual a sense of alertness, urgency, and attention to detail. Confidence in himself and his weapon grew as each man perfected the fifteen l-second movements required to load and fire his musket. As the Americans mastered the art of drill, they began to work as a team and to develop a sense of pride in themselves and in their unit.
Watching this model company drill, observers were amazed to see how quickly and orderly the troops could be massed and maneuvered into different battle formations. Officers observed that organization, chain of command, and control were improved as each man had a specific place and task within the formation. Later, the members of the model company were distributed throughout the Army to teach drill. Through drill, they improved the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Army.
But it’s not easy to learn. The Drill Sergeants had to tell us that if we couldn’t remember which direction was which to hold up our right hand. You’d think remembering left from right would be easy, but when you have someone yelling at you and you’re trying to turn with everyone else, sometimes things get scrambled.
And I wasn’t very good to start with. Though I practiced a lot, my timing was always way off. I couldn’t stay in step. It was sort of like if you went to the club and danced to the music and were always a little behind to the beat.
I was bad enough at it that the Drill Sergeants considered sending me home, but because they could see I was practicing and trying, they let me stay.
My squad leader in my first duty station also told me — many years after the fact — that when the first sergeant saw how bad I was at marching, it was discussed whether I could be in the Army.
When we were getting ready to deploy to Desert Shield, a news crew came out on the day we were leaving. We had to march down to a nearby gym where we would wait for a bus, and the crew was going to film us marching off. The first sergeant put me at the end of the formation because he didn’t want me embarrassing him on the 6:00 news!
Next up will be “Explosives, ordnance, diving, and other things women do in the military,” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.