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The United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs in front of the home of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Exhibition drill is a variant of drill that involves complex marching sequences which usually deviate from drill used in the course of ordinary parades. Teams performing exhibition drill are often affiliated with military units, but the scope of exhibition drill is not limited to military drill teams. Exhibition drill is often performed by Armed Forces Precision Drill Teams, the drill teams at service academies and ROTC and JROTC units, and civilian drill teams that perform at parades, drill meets, and half-time shows and other public venues.

History of rifle exhibition drillEdit

A rifle drill team performance at the United States Naval Academy

The first documented performance[citation needed] of exhibition drill was performed by Hadji Cheriff and filmed at what is believed to be[by whom?] the Midway Plaisance of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. The film was later copyrighted by Thomas Edison in 1899, entitled The Arabian Gun Twirler.[citation needed]

The performance demonstrates aerial (two 1½s over-hand thrown from the firing hammer[clarify]) and over-the-shoulder techniques, over-the-head drill,[clarify] and under-the-leg inverted spin.[clarify]

It is believed[by whom?] that the weapon was a .577 caliber, triple band 1853 Enfield Musket, which is 56" long and weighs about 9.5 pounds and thus is 13" longer and heavier than most drill weapons used today.[citation needed]

Exhibition drill in competitionEdit

Exhibition drill is one of many different drill phases that are a part of a drill meet. Other phases include Inspection, Color Guard and Regulation Drill.

Exhibition military drill has grown drastically in popularity in recent decades. This growth can be attributed to several primary factors. These include:

  • The expansion of Junior ROTC programs through the four primary service branches that occurred in the early and mid 1980s took the total number of units from roughly 1,600 to well over 2,500 in the U.S. This provided more cadets the opportunity to be a part of these exhibition drill teams.
  • The work of Sports Network International (SNI) produced military drill and ceremony competitions on a scale that had never previously been seen.
  • From these numerous competitions,[1] SNI produced magazines and websites to feature this activity. SNI also produced training and entertainment videos [2] devoted exclusively to featuring many of the military exhibition drill teams in the country. These videos allowed the talent and creativity involved in exhibition drill at the highest levels to travel and expand at a greater rate, helping to promote the sport.

General rules and guidelines

Rules of exhibition drill during competitions vary, but most of them apply the following guidelines:

Time – There is usually a minimum and maximum time a routine may take. Points are deducted if a team is under or over time.

Boundaries – Teams should be aware of their boundary lines, and if necessary, alter their routines as to not cross the boundary lines. Points are deducted if a person crosses a boundary line.

Some high-school level competitions prevent cadets who are participating in armed drill events from performing more dangerous 'over the head' spins, or raising cadets off the floor, in the interest of safety.

High schoolEdit

Some high school drill teams compete at the National High School Drill Team Championships in Daytona Beach, Florida, and generally use demilitarized Springfield M1903s, M1 Garands, M-14 rifles and Daisy Drill Rifles. Certain teams at the NHSDTC who receive high placings end up being well known on a national level. There are also national levels for JROTC divisions nationwide. There is the Navy JROTC, Army JROTC, Marine Corps JROTC, Air Force JROTC, and much more that all have their own prospective drill nationals. For the past two years, 2017 and 2018, at Navy Nationals, the first place armed exhibition team was Green Run High School, and the runner up being Troy High School in Fullerton, California. Other countries have their own drill team competitions for teenagers.


In an unarmed division, exhibition drill may consist of intricate precision marching, along with various hand movements. Modified step team routines are used in some competitions.

College ROTC drill teamsEdit

Colleges with Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) units, as well as military academies, have drill teams normally train and compete in two types of drill events: Regulation/Close Order and Exhibition (Trick or Fancy) Drill. Regulation Drill is conducted in accordance with Field Manual 22-5 (now FM 3-21.5) Drill and Ceremonies. Exhibition Drill is more free form and often more elaborate then Regulation Drill. Exhibition Drill teams are also more colorful in uniform and weaponry. In both types of event, participants are typically armed with weapons made safe or inert by removal of firing pins. Armament is totally devoid of all firing mechanisms for the safety of participants and audience alike.

Pershing Rifles, founded in 1894, is the oldest continuously operating college organization dedicated to military drill. The original drill team created by John J. Pershing had a simple goal: to serve as an example for the cadets at the University of Nebraska, who were sorely lacking in esprit de corps, motivation, and basic military skills. For its first few years, the group (then called "Company A") did just that: its members became experts at unarmed, armed, and exhibition drill, and were soon the pride of the university. By 1894, cadets and alumni formed Varsity Rifles. By June 1895, when Pershing announced his departure from the university, the group had morphed from a simple drill team into a fraternal organization; in his honor, they renamed the group the Pershing Rifles.

As the unit grew, their reputation followed: by the early 1900s, membership was considered a high military honor. Other schools soon applied for affiliation with the Pershing Rifles. By the middle of the 20th century, this now national organization comprised nearly 200 units representing all of the services stationed at ROTC detachments around the country. Through their phenomenal growth, however, the Pershing Rifles were careful to stay true to their basic purpose: to develop the traits of leadership and discipline among their members through drill competition.

The success of Pershing Rifles' leadership development program would not have been possible without the organization's focus on close-order and exhibition rifle drill. Excellence in drill, whether armed or unarmed, is a function of discipline and dedication; these traits are put to work on a regular basis by Pershing Rifles units. A typical unit performs as a color guard, exhibition drill team, honor guard, funeral detail, or any other ceremonial unit requested; these services are usually at the request of the local ROTC detachment or school, but are sometimes requested by alumni, local governments, or active duty military units. Through all of these activities, in addition to the skills gained by the performers, positive publicity is also received by the unit's host school, host ROTC detachment, and ultimately the military in general. Pershing Rifles hosts a National Drill Competition each spring which attracts some of the finest college level drill teams in the nation.

Triphibian Guard was founded in 1959 as an Army ROTC Drill Team of Seton Hall University as a chartered and approved student organization. Cadets from the existing Pershing Rifles Company K-8 formed the Triphibian Guard. The name was chosen because it represented land, sea and air forces. Once established, the Triphibian Guard quickly grew in stature and respect at the university, becoming the official honor guard of the university president. Officer candidate student members wore a distinctive triangular patch and fourragere (gold and black cord) on the left shoulder of their uniform. This was the United States Army's colors, and depicted an African male lion with a gold crown on the forehead. Upon graduation, student officer graduates are eligible for the award of Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG), one of the awards and decorations of the United States military, and may become a commissioned officer of the United States Armed Forces. The unit disbanded in the late 1970s due to lack of student interest at the end of the hostilities of the Vietnam War.

Gator Guard Drill Team (GGDT) is a precision drill team and military fraternity based at the University of Florida. It is named after the Florida Gators, the mascot of the University of Florida. Founded in 1953, the Gator Guard absorbed and succeeded the University of Florida's Army ROTC chapter of the Pershing Rifles upon its inception. The Gator Guard performs annually at the university's Homecoming Parade, as well as the Krewe of Mid-City and King Rex parades at the New Orleans Mardi Gras. The team uses M1903 rifles with 8-inch bayonets for all performances. The Gator Guard also performs color guard ceremonies for the University of Florida, the SEC, and the MLB.

Billy Mitchell Drill Team (BMDT), founded in 1951 as an Air Force ROTC Drill Team, is a drill, ceremony and color guard team at the University of Florida. It is open to all students of the university, but wears the United States Air Force uniform. With a history spanning six decades, BMDT's rich heritage and dedication to discipline and excellence help to produce officers for the nation's Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Civilian drill teamsEdit

King's Village Guard of Hawaii is more commonly known as the King's Guard. They were founded in the 1960s and perform weekly shows in Hawaii. They have also performed several times at the National High School Drill Team Championships in Daytona, Florida. They use a modified Springfield M1903 rifle.

New Guard America was founded in 1997 by Constantine H. Wilson. This is the world's only internationally touring civilian drill team. They use Springfield M1903 rifles with fixed 10-inch (250 mm) bayonets. They are based out of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. They perform mainly in four man-blocks. In June 2008 they performed at the Norwegian Military Tattoo[3] in Oslo, Norway, making them the first civilian drill team to perform at an international tattoo.

Hawaii Royal Honor Guard, formerly the Hilton Hawaiian Village Guards, was established in 1989 by Commander Adam Marumoto and is currently under the direction of Executive Officer Christopher Koanui. It was originally intended to perform for the Hilton Hawaiian Villages events and shows on the property, as well as elsewhere. As of 2009 the Hilton Hawaiian Village Guards adopted their new title as the Hawaii Royal Honor Guard, and now perform at private events for various clients. The HRHG'S members have numerous championship titles which range from the national championships and the Isis world championships beginning in 1989. The HRHG currently perform private shows at the Historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel. They contribute to Hawaii's tradition of training youth and young adults in the art of one of Hawaii's unique styles of exhibition drill.

Outside the United StatesEdit

An exhibition drill routine performed by the Honor Guard of the Armed Forces of Belarus during a civil-military parade in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Minsk Offensive, 3 July 2019.
Captain Khasen Omarkhanov of the Aibyn Presidential Regiment performs a sabre exhibition drill during a military tattoo in Astana.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-11. Retrieved 2010-01-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  • U.S. Army Field Manual, TC 3-21.5, Drill and Ceremonies, Department of the Army (2009).
  • Lockhart, Paul Douglas. The drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the making of the American Army. HarperCollins, New York 2008. ISBN 0-06-145163-0
  • The Encyclopedia Of Military History: From 3500 B.C. To The Present. (2nd Revised Edition 1986), R. Ernest Dupuy, and Trevor N. Dupuy.
  • The Triphibian Guard Honor Guard and Drill Team, Courtesy of Msgr. William Noé Field Archives and Special Collections Center, Seton Hall University, S. Orange, New Jersey, February 2010 and Delozier, Alan, et al. "History of Seton Hall". Walsh Library Archives.
  • U.S Army ROTC, authorized by, National Defense Act (Text) from Emergency Legislation Passed Prior to December, 1917. United States Dept. of Justice, Joshua Reuben Clark. Published by Govt. Print. Off., 1918
  • The National Defense Act of 1916, as amended, referred to in subsec. (d), is act June 3, 1916, ch. 134, 39 Stat. 166, as amended, which was classified generally throughout former Title 10, Army and Air Force. The Act was repealed by act Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, § 53, 70A Stat. 641, and the provisions thereof were reenacted as parts of Title 10, Armed Forces, United States Code.
  • "Advocates for ROTC". Retrieved 2006-11-23.
  • "AR 145-1 (Reserve Officers' Training Corps)". Army Regulation. United States Army. 1996.[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 2006-11-16.
  • "10 USC 2111a". United States Code. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2006-11-16.
  • Triphibian Guard ("Tri Phi's") at Seton Hall University, 1959–1979,
  • "Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG)", Department of the Army, Pamphlet 640–1, Personnel Records and Identification of Individuals Officers' Guide to the Officer Record Brief, Section III, Military Service Data, TABLE 8, ROTC-DISTINGUISHED MILITARY GRADUATE,; see also:

External linksEdit