Drill team

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The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs the rifle inspection routine in front of spectators seated in the Reviewing Stands during the Battle Colors Ceremony held at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California.

A drill team can be one of four different entities:

  1. A Military Drill Team is marching unit that performs routines based on military drill. Military drill teams perform either armed or unarmed.
  2. A Dance Team that creates routines based on dance movement rather than military drill. These teams usually do not carry anything and may perform to recorded music.
  3. A team that execute routines carrying either one or multiple flags or pom-poms. This team's movements are also based in dance and may also have a heavy influence of gymnastics as well. These teams also may perform to music, either live or recorded.
  4. A team that is mounted (horse, motorcycle, etc.) or advances some type of mobile object (library carts, lawn chairs or even garbage bins). May also include teams of dogs and handlers.

Military Drill Team[edit]

A military drill team is a marching unit that performs routines based on military drill. These teams often perfect their proficiency and then choose to compete against other programs. These competitions are generally called "Drill Meets", and are held all across the world. The top American bladed (bayonet-only) independent drill meet is Pro America [1] and the top American independent armed drill meet is the Isis World Drill Championships [2] for post high school professional exhibition drillers in the nation. There is also the National High School Drill Team Championships [3] held in Daytona Beach, Florida for high school students where schools from across the US descend on Daytona Beach and the Ocean Center for a wonderful weekend of competition and camaraderie. There are two divisions for competing, Unarmed, and Armed. This year (2013) Patriot Pride from Francis Lewis High School NY, had won the overall first place in the unarmed category. Also see high school "military" drill teams in high school. Washington, Idaho, California.

United States[edit]

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina's elite senior drill platoon, The Summerall Guards, performing their signature combination of Prussian high-step and German close-order drill

All of the United States military service branches have an official drill team part of their respective service Honor Guard. The service academies have drill teams, as well as many college and university ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and high school JROTC (Junior ROTC) units. Additionally, many community-based organizations such as the Army Cadet Corps, Naval Sea Cadets, Young Marines and Civil Air Patrol maintain military drill teams. Formerly, some of these units were called Crack Squads.[1]


The Canadians have the Canadian Cadet Organization. The organization consists of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Royal Canadian Army Cadets and Royal Canadian Air Cadets. All three branches of the organization have drill competitions throughout the year. Some of these competitions are hosted by the Regional Cadet Support Units

Canadian drill competitions consist of the following:

  • Fall in
  • Drill Team dress and deportment
  • Drill Team Commander’s dress and deportment
  • Compulsory drill procedures at the halt
  • Compulsory drill procedures on the march
  • Drill performance in a precision routine (optional)


The Norwegian military consist of only one single drill team, consisting of a band and a drill platoon. The team is one of five infantry companies that are assigned the mission to protect His Majesty the King of Norway as well as the The Royal Palace, his family and are also used to represent the Norwegian armed forces at state-related matters such as state-visits, ceremonies, national festivities and were also prominent in the winter world cup 2010 as guards. As of 2012, His Majesty the King's Guard is also responsible for the safety of the capital of Norway; Oslo in case of a national crisis. These five companies make up His Majesty The King's Guard (Hans Majestet Kongens Garde) Battalion, and is a part of the Norwegian army.

The band is hand picked through interviews and playing tests prior to the draft date. The band consists of signal horns, a drumline, a pit and the main band. Most of the members year goes to practising and basic military training as the year is a part of their military service. The band is probably the only troop that almost never have "green" duty (as in field duty). Also, the band never stand guard at the castle nor the other guarding posts around Oslo (the capital), neither does the drill platoon.

The drill platoon consists of 32-40, first-year servicing soldiers. These are all hand picked through a rigorous selection process that lasts from their drafting at the start of October till December. The soldiers go through basic military training as well as having to learn how to march, weapons drill and how to perform synchronically. Throughout the selection process the soldiers have to prove themselves worthy a spot on the drill team, as these soldiers will be representing not only the King's guard, but also the Norwegian military and the Norwegian state both national and internationally. Everything in their daily duty from the bed, room, facilities, closets, uniforms and physique needs to be at excellent standards 24/7. These men strive for perfection in all that they do and are often seen running around the various woods nearby the base as well as working out at the gym. Every year, these soldiers finish their service with one of the highest average physical results in the army. Their uniforms are spotless and wrinkleless, in addition their boots are so well polished that you can literally reflect yourself in them. As opposed to what one might think, these soldiers draft year have been compared to as even harder than what the first-year service in the special forces is. Though most likely not as hard physically, the mentality and the pressure in being the best of the best puts these soldiers under a tremendous amount of pressure every hour of every day, every day of the year. Their rigorous training results in being one of the best drill teams in the world.

The band and drill platoon (3rd company) is the only drill team that have been invited to the legendary Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo nine times, 2012 being the most recent.

The Drill Meet[edit]

A Drill Meet is a competition for Military-style Drill Teams. The US military’s Honor Guard units have drill teams; however they do not compete against each other in a drill meet such as this. The only exception to this is Pro America [4] where individuals compete, but not the full drill teams. What is common across the US is high school JROTC and college ROTC teams competing against each other.


Each meet has different phases:

Many drill meets differ regarding what events are offered and what divisions of competition are presented. Drill meets generally include both an armed and unarmed divisions. Events offered generally include several different phases: Inspection, Color Guard Regulation Drill and, in addition, (drill based on a service's manual) and Exhibition Drill in which they march intricate maneuvers along with manipulating equipment including rifles, sometimes with fixed bayonets.

Musicians of the His Majesty the King Guard band and drill team (Norway)
  • Inspection (I) : Each team goes through a standard military inspection for an up-close critique of their bearing, knowledge and overall appearance.
  • Regulation Drill (RD) : A fixed list of verbal commands, armed or unarmed from a service’s drill and ceremonies manual (see also Military parade), given by a single cadet commander. This cadet commander must memorize these commands at most every meet and the team must perform these movements as per regulations.
  • Exhibition Drill (XD) : XD is based in RD, but is then infused with a Driller’s imagination. XD has different categories:
    • Solo/One-Man (A single Driller)
    • Tandem/Two-Man (2 Drillers)
    • Small Team (4-8 Drillers) (Note: this category replaces Tetrad and Squad)
    • Platoon/Flight (9-26 Drillers)
  • Color guard Regulation Drill (CGR): The military color guard is not to be confused with a marching band’s color guard (see Color guard (flag spinning) for more information), although music-related color guards have their roots in the military version. This is similar to the drill team RD phase in that there is a fixed list of commands from a service’s drill and ceremonies manual that the cadet commander must memorize and execute with his/her color guard unit. Units are often required to "case" (commands required to cover the colors for transport/storage), and/or "uncase" (commands required to uncover the colors for competition/display) as a part of the competition.


Each of the above phases can be marched by an armed (with a military sword, saber, or rifle) or unarmed team. NOTE: Many drill meets allow the use of a sword in the unarmed division, but never a rifle of any kind. All drill teams can march a guidon (United States).

  • Standard drill team rifles in the United States are the M1 Garand, M14 or the M1903 Springfield rifle. Armed teams usually use a demilitarized version of the rifle or a facsimile, which may be light-weight for spinning (such as for marching show band use).
  • Unarmed teams concentrate on varied body and arm movements with intricate steps. Armed teams then add manipulation of the equipment, known as "manual of arms" in regulation drill events.)


  • The current system used almost all military drill competitions includes multiple military judges each looking at the unit as a whole while they are competing at differing angles. These judges then grade every aspect of the performance on their own score sheets. This grading is based strictly on the military drill manuals in use for the meet (i.e., Army FM 3-21.5, Marine Corps Order P-5050.20, Air Force Manual 36-2203, etc.) Using this evaluating technique closely parallels what most of these individuals have done throughout their military careers at various levels throughout their training (most of these evaluators come from military training facilities and/or base honor guards). Judges score teams within ranges from POOR, to AVERAGE, to EXCEPTIONAL. Most meets using this system have a "Judge's Notes" section where judges are either encouraged or required (depending on the meet) to write some candid notes for the team to utilize to interpret the numerical scores delivered on the score sheets.
  • A single person in the drill community has pushed forward a different scoring system which is paralleled largely from the scoring system used during band and other related competitions. This system is used in less than 1% of all of the military drill competitions currently held around the world. This system requires each judge to only judge a single aspect of the routine (see the World Drill Association Adjudication Manual). The judges are divided into different captions for judging. The system is based on a written standard that is related to the military drill manuals that remain the guidelines for all military drill. This system believes that their scores are more meaningful because they have a detailed itemization of exactly what is scored by each judge and how it is scored. This system tends to downplay the military background aspect of the competition judges, believing that sheer training can prepare anyone with the ability to judge a military drill competition. While many believe in theory that this may be a superior system if budgets for training, real-world time pressures and expenses were also unlimited (i.e., to allow multi-angle camera reply systems and unlimited time for scoring), the actual application of this scoring technique is impractical on a drill event hosting more than a small number of teams along with the fact that the system currently focuses mainly on the more subjective exhibition phases of military drill competitions.

Dance Teams[edit]


School drill teams were started in 1928 by Gussie Nell Davis. She created the first drill team, then called a pep squad, at Greenville High School in Greenville, Texas. They were called the "Flaming Flashes" and they performed at every halftime show. After creating the Flashes, Davis was called to Kilgore College to form a college drill team. She created the world famous "Kilgore Rangerettes" to perform at halftime at the college. The Flaming Flashes and the Rangerettes set the stage and almost all Texas drill teams now consist of a line of performers with the officers in front of the team leading them at every game. The second college drill team to be created in Texas was the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles in 1947. Ever since then there has been a fierce rivalry between the Apache Belles and the Rangerettes.

There are several hundred drill teams in the state of Texas alone. The traditional uniform for these teams usually consist of a white (sometimes other colors) cowboy hat with white boots. The officers of the teams also typically wear all white and the line members wear school colors. Texas drill teams perform visual routines in the stands during football games and at halftime. Texas drill teams are also usually all female. These teams are known to use large props during halftime shows and visual crowd pleasing dance routines. Some drill teams compete at various competitions in the spring in other dance styles such as hip hop, jazz, lyrical, clogging, and kick.


In Washington state, the phrase "drill team" usually refers to high school performance/spirit teams that compete in the "Drill" and/or "Military" category at local, regional and statewide "Dance/Drill" competitions. Drill routines (sometimes referred to as "drills") typically entail (indeed some argue should entail):

  • highly regimented procedures for entering and exiting the stage;
  • precise symmetry and/or spacing in the teams' formations (a.k.a. line straightness);
  • precise transitions between formations that do not compromise line straightness;
  • perfect or near-perfect synchronization and sharpness in the teams' marching and other bodily movements; and
  • interesting music selection.
  • (Many drill teams incorporate kicklines into their routines; many other successful Drill routines have been accomplished without them.)

Judging is currently known as Ordinal judging and ratings categorized by Superior, Exceptional, Excellent,and Good.

The WIAA Dance/Drill competition is the annual Championship event for qualified dance and drill teams held annually in the last weekend of March.

A Washington drill team member, or "driller", is not a dancer, but a dancer can be a driller. Since the foci of Drill are presentation and spatial precision, drillers do not necessarily need attributes typically ascribed to dancers, such as a high level of flexibility (although this is a large portion of what many teams exhibit in their rouitines and part of their score) or an aptitude for expressing emotions with the body. This generally allows for larger team sizes, with most teams having about 20 or more members.


In Utah most 3a, 4a, and 5a schools have a drill team. This sport is incredibly competitive in this state, probably due to the high number of dancers. Tryouts are normally held during the months of April and May the school year before the season. The reason for this is because most teams work on their technique, go to camps, and perfect their smaller routines over the summer for the performances they do at the beginning of the school year. The summer preparation gives teams more time to perfect their main routines for the winter competition season. Teams usually compete at 3-4 competitions before taking their routines to their schools region competition. The teams that place in, usually, the top 4 at region get to go to state and compete against many other school districts. The dance styles for drill include lyrical, hip hop, officers, and camp dances; which are the smaller routines performed at school functions and optional at competitions. The required pieces, and only routines performed at region and state are dance, military, and kick.


This routine features flexibility, grace, leaps, pirouettes, a la secondes, fouettes, and many other skills. Good technique, a visual routine, and a performance face is what will get you high scores for this routine.


The style and technique of a military routine is very different, and often surprising when first viewed. They have intricate formations, walking patterns, arm sequences, kicks, drop splits, and up until the recent ban, they included headstands as well. It should look as though the team is one person. Every move should be incredibly precise and hit hard. Faces are typically scary or serious. Music is mostly instrumental. It is typically part of a marching ensemble (marching band).


Kick routines are all about the legs. The majority of the routine is kicking, either in a kickline or alone. The judges score based on the number of kicks in the routine, how high your kicks are, and how straight and pointed your legs and feet are.

Flag and pom drill teams[edit]

Mounted drill teams[edit]

  • Sky High Angels, Northwest Arkansas www.skyhighangels.com
  • Chicks in Chaps Rodeo Drill Team, Wellsville, KS
  • Ghostriders Equestrian Drill Team, Texas. www.rodeodrillteamoftexas.com
  • Ghostriders Young Guns Drill Team, TX. www.younggunsdrillteam.com
  • Super Ride, United States Equestrian Drill Championship www.superride.org
  • United States Equestrain Drill Association. www.useda.us


  1. ^ p.42 Bell, Walter Return to Glory HoleTrafford Publishing, 2004

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Dance teams[edit]

  • Apache Belles [5]
  • Rangerettes [6]
  • Rockettes