JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - Platoon, Attention...Right, Face...Forward, March...those commands were commonplace in the Army in the days prior to the persistent conflict in which we have found ourselves over the past sixteen years.
Unfortunately, since the beginning of America's longest war, drill and ceremony has seen a diminished role in the lives of today's Soldiers. After basic training, many of today's Soldiers and leaders do not conduct any marching maneuvers until they attend noncommissioned officer education system schools.
This is a travesty!
Drill and ceremony is an essential component to instilling pride and discipline in Soldiers and in developing a leader's ability to lead with confidence. It is during drill and ceremony that Soldiers learn to respond instantly to a leader's command. It is during drill and ceremony that leaders learn to use their "command voice" and make decisions on the spot as they move their unit from one place to another, all the while keeping the formation in step with the sound of cadence being called at 120 steps per minute.
If you ask a leader about what they think about today's Soldiers, many of them will say that they are smart, but they lack discipline. I agree, but the very thing that many leaders bemoan about the Soldiers they lead is directly the fault of the leaders themselves. It is not hard to conduct drill and ceremony; in fact, it is one of the easiest training events that a leader can conduct with their Soldiers. All you need is at least three Soldiers and a patch of ground and you can conduct team-level drill and ceremony. This also works for an excellent team-building event for squads and sections. As the leaders and Soldiers become more confident in their ability, they will begin to take pride in their accomplishments and in their organization.
Leaders become better leaders, and Soldiers become better Soldiers when they learn to march together as a unit. General Washington knew how important drill and ceremony was, which is why he brought in the Prussian military officer, Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, to train the Continental Army. It is time we get back to our roots and back on the parade field!