ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. (June 27, 2013) — Developed during the Revolutionary War, United States Army drill and ceremony is a necessary component of its legacy and future.
“The importance of drill and ceremony is rooted in tradition during the Revolutionary War from Baron von Stueben,” Staff Sgt. Gene Lucas, Chaplain’s office and Army Sustainment Command color guard. “The importance of drill and ceremony is the basic things, our lineage, and our forefathers that marched in World War II, but do the same things that we do now. It is about passing it along to the next generation and the generations to come.
” The winter of 1777-78 was a dark time for the Continental Army. Gen. George Washington chose to winter at Valley Forge, Pa. There was a lack of food, clothing and other basic supplies for the Army during this time. The training the Soldiers received at this point was haphazard and fragmented leading to issues with discipline and uneven performance against enemy forces.
Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben, chiefly known in America as Baron von Steuben (1730-1794), was an officer in the Prussian Army from 1746-63 and a major general in the Continental Army from 1778-84. Baron von Steuben benefited from being part of a special cadre trained by Fredrick the Great of Prussia and serving as his aide-de-camp.
He received a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin and presented himself to Congress in Philadelphia. Shortly thereafter, he travelled to Valley Forge, Pa. and was assigned as the temporary inspector general by Washington.
Von Stueben saw that everything was lacking except for the morale of the army. Once his inspections were complete, he set about writing his Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, commonly known as the “Blue Book.” This manual was the foundation of discipline, drill and ceremony in the U.S. Army. This manual established the military training and maneuvers that helped the Army become the premier fighting force that it is today.
“Teamwork is essential on the battlefield, and drill and ceremony is just one way Soldiers develop this skill,” said Ceaser Roberts Jr., Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center Sergeant Major.
“Drill and ceremony is all about military bearing and how you conduct yourself in a military manner,” Sgt. Mitchell Sta. Ana, material management non-commissioned officer for Rock Island Arsenal. “It dates back to the American Revolution War.”
“Drill and Ceremony has always been a part of the Army,” said Roberts. “It is a way for us to show honor and respect for someone ranging from heroic deeds to the burial of a military person who has passed away. Drill and ceremony is one of the first things Soldiers learn when they enter the military. It helps develop pride and confidence in their actions, learning professionalism and most importantly, it teaches them how to work as a team. As a senior leader, drill and ceremony is important to me, because it is and always will be a part of the military. It continues to honor the tradition of those that have come before us. It builds esprit de corps: a common spirit of comradeship, enthusiasm, and devotion. A lot of training goes into executing drill and ceremony. It bonds us together as on, so no matter who is giving the commands, we all understand how it is supposed to be carried out.”
“Conducting ceremonies does not get attached to discipline very often, but you must be disciplined in drill and ceremony,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jared Clapper, mobility NCO. “You do not want to be that person who is out of step or the one who misses a movement. You want to show the proper respect, namely, when you are holding those flags and strong upper body when dipping the flags and standing there.
“It helps when respecting those that came before us, and teaching the new Soldiers that are coming in, the proper way to respect the flag and ceremonies and why we do things the way we do,” said Clapper. “It gives them a chance to be a part of a ceremony instead of just sitting and watching. Going behind the scenes and working the ceremonies, understanding why they are marching up to the flag and the procedures of such events.”
“It allows us to keep up our traditions, show pride, respect, and honor, for example during a change of authority ceremony,” said Clapper. “It is symbolic of the outgoing sergeant major handing the guidon to the colonel and then the colonel passing it to the new sergeant major, that going of power, going of authority. It is very interesting to see. When flags are displayed, the Army flag is placed in the middle with the American flag on the right side higher than the other flags, in the place of honor. The Army flag is displayed with the first campaign streamer in the front, along with the latest or most current campaign streamer.”
In addition, the Blue Book places in writing the duties of non-commissioned officers. These updated guidelines are still in use today, in Field Manual 7-22.7, The Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide and Training Circular 3-21.5, Drill and Ceremonies. Sergeants of the U.S. military are members of the premier NCO corps in the world today. Many nations send their sergeants to American NCO academies to learn the way we train our sergeants, so they can go back to their militaries and attempt to establish their own NCO training programs.
“Drill and ceremony is great in showing your military bearing and professionalism and how well you take your profession,” said Sta. Ana. It is old as the military itself and the Blue Book gave us a basis to go off of,” said Clapper. “Drill and ceremony gets my Soldiers into the habit of thinking of their movements, maintaining their professionalism and how they carry themselves,” said Lucas. Drill and ceremony is not just facing movements and marching. The retreat ceremony at the end of each day is included in the manual.
“Throughout the work week you will hear Reveille and Retreat being played,” said Roberts. “This honors the American flag, daily, as it is raised and lowered on military bases. If you are outside and you hear reveille or retreat being played stop what you are doing and pay honor as well.”
The retreat ceremony has two parts. First, the bugle plays “Retreat”, after the firing of the cannon, the music changes to “To the Colors.” Once the song changes the American flag is lowered and this signals the end of the official duty day. All personnel driving on the Island should stop, exit their vehicles and render honor to the American flag, this including service members and civilians. The appropriate salute should be rendered when the song changes. These honors are another example of the legacy that binds the 21st century Army to its foundations in the Revolutionary War.