By Julia LeDouxJanuary 10, 2018
With jaw-dropping throws and catches of bayonet-tipped 1903 Springfield Rifles, complex performances and precision footwork, The U.S. Army Drill Team wows audiences stateside and around the world.
A specialty platoon that is part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division (The Old Guard), the drill team performs for military, government, nonprofit and civilian organizations.
"They are absolutely the best at what they do," said team leader Capt. Nathan Lease, who has been in the Army for almost 15 years. "It's the best thing that I've seen in the United States Army and its the most fun job that I've ever had."
The team is comprised of Soldiers who have various levels of experience, he said.
"We take those Soldiers and train them and mold them to our standards," Lease said. "It takes six to nine months to be performance ready and that's just to be a junior member of the team. This is best service drill team there is, period. These guys are great at what they do. The standards are impeccable and we train every day."
A typical training day begins at 9 a.m. and runs to 11:30 a.m., when the team takes a break for lunch. Training then continues from 1 to 3 p.m.
The team is currently in week two of a training cycle that has 13 Soldiers vying to become a part of the group.
"In week two, they will start marching while doing manuals," Lease explained. "Week three is when they'll start to do throws and also during that week they will learn the first half of our current drill, which is our regular, full performance."
That drill usually runs between 12 and 14 minutes. The hopefuls are required to memorize the first six to seven minutes of the drill.
"They will be assessed on that and their ability to memorize where to move and the different marching formations by themselves without the aid of anybody else around them," he said.
If the hopefuls are successful, the team retains them and their training continues in preparation for a 30-day test, which encompasses the first half of the drill, said Lease.
"They have to do that by themselves, but now the standards are raised and they are higher," he said.
If they pass the 30-day test, the hopefuls begin preparing for a 60-day test, which requires them to know the entire 12 to 14 minute drill on their own, Then comes the 90-day test.
"You have to perfectly sync with the team to pass the 90-day test," noted Lease. "After that, what they do in order to perform or travel with the team, they have to challenge somebody for their spot."
The Soldier vying for the spot is in full dress uniform for the challenge, while the Soldier facing the challenge is able to wear the training uniform consisting of sweat pants and shirt with the team logo on them. If the challenger is successful, he gets the spot for the team's next performance. That performance is videotaped and the challenger's performance is assessed. If the Soldier passes that assessment he becomes what is known as a "broken driller" and a full member of the team.
Team hopeful Staff Sgt. Anthony Ellis has logged eight years in the Army.
"I thought this was a great opportunity to try something that is outside of my field," said Ellis. "I'm an infantryman and I thought this was a great opportunity to get on a different team."
Soldiers normally remain on the team for two to three years and have the opportunity to become throwers, catchers, and soloists.
Team soloist Spc. Joshua Beltrane said the first time he saw the first team perform a few years ago, he had never seen anything like it.
"Whenever I saw this, it looked very challenging and I wanted to see if I could do it," he said.
Beltrane, who has been on the team nearly three years, is nearing the end of his second hitch in the Army.
Team soloist Spc. Arthur Carter said he gets an adrenaline rush at every performance.
"It's something that gets addicting after a while," he said.
Pentagram Staff Writer Julia LeDoux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.