you have now reached the last point. If anyone of you doesn’t mean business
let him say so now. An hour from now will be too late to back out.
Once in, you ’ve got to see it through. You’ve got to perform without
flinching whatever duty is assigned you, regardless of the difficulty or the
danger attending it. If it is garrison duty, you must attend to it. If it is
meeting fever, you must be willing. If it is the closest kind of fighting,
anxious for it.
You must know how to ride, how to shoot, how to live in the open. Absolute
obedience to every command is your first lesson. No matter what comes you
mustn’t squeal. Think it over — all of you. If any man wishes to withdraw he
will be gladly excused, for others are ready to take his place.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks to
purpose of drill is to:
Enable a commander to move his unit from one place to another in an
Aid in disciplinary training by instilling habits of precision and
response to the leader’s orders.
Provide a means, through ceremonies, of enhancing the morale of
troops, developing the spirit of cohesion, and presenting
traditional, interesting and well-executed military parades.
Provide for the development of all soldiers in the practice of
history reveals that armies throughout the world have participated in some
form of drill. The primary value of drill historically has been to prepare
troops for battle. For the most part, the drill procedures practiced have
been identical to the tactical maneuvers employed on the battlefield. Drill
has enabled commanders to quickly move their forces from one point to
another, mass their forces into a battle formation that afforded maximum
firepower, and maneuver those forces as the situation developed.
In 1775, when this country was striving for independence and existence, the
nation’s leaders were confronted with the problem of not only establishing a
government but also of organizing an army that was already engaged in war.
From the “shot heard around the world,” on 19 April 1775, until Valley Forge
in 1778, revolutionary forces were little more than a group of civilians
fighting Indian-style against well- trained, highly disciplined British
Redcoats. For three years, General George Washington’s troops had endured
many hardships — lack of funds, rations, clothing, and equipment.
In addition, they had suffered loss after loss to the superior British
forces. These hardships and losses mostly stemmed from the lack of a
atmosphere in country. Thus, an army was created with little or no
organization, control, discipline, or teamwork.
Recognizing the crisis, General Washington, through Benjamin Franklin, the
American Ambassador to France, enlisted the aid of a Prussian officer, Baron
Friedrich von Steuben. Upon his arrival at Valley Forge on 23 February 1778,
von Steuben, a former staff officer with Frederick the Great, met an army of
several thousand half-starved, wretched men in rags. He commented that a
European army could not be kept together in such a state. To correct the
conditions that prevailed, he set to work immediately and wrote drill
movements and regulations at night and taught them the following day to a
model company of 120 men selected from the line.
Discipline became a part of military life for these selected individuals as
they learned to respond to command without hesitation. This new discipline
instilled in the individual a sense of alertness, urgency, and attention to
detail. Confidence in himself and his weapon grew as each man perfected the
fifteen l-second movements required to load and fire his musket. As the
Americans mastered the art of drill, they began to work as a team and to
develop a sense of pride in themselves and in their unit.
Watching this model company drill, observers were amazed to see how quickly
and orderly the troops could be massed and maneuvered into different battle
formations. Officers observed that organization, chain of command, and
control were improved as each man had a specific place and task within the
formation. Later, the members of the model company were distributed
throughout the Army to teach drill. Through drill, they improved the overall
effectiveness and efficiency of the Army.
To ensure continuity and uniformity, von Steuben, by then a major general
and the Army Inspector General, wrote the first Army field manual in 1779,
The Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United
States, commonly referred to as the Blue Book. The drill procedures
initiated at Valley Forge were not changed for 85 years, until the American
Civil War, and many of the drill terms and procedures are in effect today.
Drill commands are about the same as at the time of the War of 1812, except
that then the officers and noncommissioned officers began them by saying,
“Take care to face to the right, right, face.” Also, during the American
revolutionary period, troops marched at a cadence of 76 steps a minute
instead of the current cadence of 120 steps. Then units performed precise
movement on the battlefield, and the army that could perform them best was
often able to get behind the enemy, or on his flank, and thus beat him.
Speed spoiled the winning exactness. Also, firearms did not shoot far or
accurately in 1776, so troop formations could take more time to approach the
As armament and weaponry have improved, drill has had to adapt to new
tactical concepts. Although the procedures taught in drill today are not
normally employed on the battlefield, the objectives accomplished by drill —
teamwork, confidence, pride, alertness, attention to detail, esprit de
corps, and discipline — are just as important to the modern Army as they
were to the Continental Army