A crowd of a several thousand on the National Mall witnessed the Army win the third annual Joint Service Drill Team Exhibition April 10. The exhibition featured the drill teams from all five branches of the military performing a 15-minute set in front of the Reflecting Pool.
This was the first time the exhibition took place outdoors, in previous years it was at George Mason University and the D.C. Armory. The crowd was encouraged from the start to applaud, cheer, make any sort of noise of support, as it wouldnAca,!a,,ct distract the servicemembers. Aca,!A"This was our first year with a big audience,Aca,!A? said Sgt. Dustin Koch of the U.S. Army Drill Team.
Aca,!A"We have a tendency to drill better when we can hear from the crowd. ThatAca,!a,,cs our style.Aca,!A? The U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard Drill Team started the afternoon off, with their clean white uniforms and bayonet-tipped rifles spinning through the air. Chief Petty Officer Dana Wallace, the first female commander of troops for the drill team, walked through two rows of Sailors as they spun their rifles, looking like the bayonet tips came too close for comfort.
Aca,!A"It was amazing. It looked like they were missing her face by inches,Aca,!A? said Dana Humboldt of Silver Spring, Md., who came to watch the event. The Coast Guard Silent Drill Team and the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon were the next two teams to perform. Both performances were punctuated by cheers and applause as they performed their precision maneuvers without the benefit of audible commands.
The Army incorporated some crowd-pleasing elements into their routine, which combined with their mistake-free performance, earned them a huge round of applause, and eventually the trophy. Though the Army emerged victorious, the armed forces drill teams arenAca,!a,,ct designed to compete against each other.
Aca,!A"We arenAca,!a,,ct really meant for competition, so this was something different for us,Aca,!A? said Cpl. Cody Garrison. Aca,!A"I donAca,!a,,ct usually get nervous, but we knew that there were judges watching us very closely, and I got some butterflies.Aca,!A? The butterflies didnAca,!a,,ct show for the Army, especially when Koch, Garrison, Spc. Wesley Williams and Sgt. Craig Taylor, the groupAca,!a,,cs soloists, removed their caps and formed a square around Sgt. 1st Class Jose Trevino, drill master for the team, and tossed their rifles around him, with very little margin for error.
After the group re-formed, they stood in a straight line and each Soldier threw his rifle over his head and caught it with one hand. After the last Soldier caught his rifle, he exchanged an exploding fist bump with the Soldier to his left, getting a big laugh and cheer from the crowd. Aca,!A"We drill ceremonially, but we also try to please the crowd,Aca,!A? said Koch.
Aca,!A"When IAca,!a,,cm writing drills, there are moves that I think are cool, but we have to please the crowd as opposed to ourselves.Aca,!A? The crowd certainly was pleased, especially when the Army followed up with their signature maneuver, the front-to-rear overhead rifle toss, in which a Soldier tosses his bayonet-tipped Springfield 1903 rifle over his shoulder, into the waiting hands of a Soldier standing 15 feet behind him. The Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performed last, but they had the largest crowd response, as a group of Airmen in the crowd were sure to support the team with very loud cheers and applause.
They performed many maneuvers as four-person groups, representing the four-plane formations that the Air Force uses so often. It didnAca,!a,,ct take long for the five judges Aca,!" one from each branch Aca,!" to make their decision. The Army Drill Team took the trophy from last yearAca,!a,,cs winner, the Navy, which handed it off to Col. David Anders, regimental commander of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). For the Army Drill Team, it wasnAca,!a,,ct an emphasis on the competition itself, but on giving a good performance to a large audience.
Aca,!A"They kept stressing that it wasnAca,!a,,ct a competition, that it was an exhibition, but thereAca,!a,,cs always the competitive spirit,Aca,!A? said Capt. Ryan Boeka, platoon leader for the drill team. Aca,!A"Everyone on the team puts the same emphasis, whether weAca,!a,,cre performing at a small elementary school, or at an international tattoo. Every show is important.Aca,!A?