Drill Tips

 Drill is one of the most important parts of being an Air Cadet. As the Air Training Corps is a branch of the RAF, the drill taught to all cadets in recruit training is the same taught to regular service men and women serving in the Royal Air Force. Drill is taught for a number of reasons. Firstly it is a much smarter way of moving a large number of personnel around, but it also develops teamwork, communication, discipline and confidence. Commanding a ‘squad’ of cadets also develops skills such as leadership, situational awareness and management.

Drill is something all cadets must learn to master, and respond to any drill commands given to them immediately. Being good at drill, and both giving and receiving drill commands can be tricky. So here is 10 tips that could help you master the art of footdrill.
 
1. Straight Arms – Marching is effectively walking, while bringing your arms to shoulder height with each swing. For this to look smart and correct, make sure your arms are locked out straight. You can focus on this by pushing your closed fist , with the thumb on top, down towards the ground from the wrist with your arm extended. This will tighten the tendons in your arm, pulling your arm straighter. This is probably more of a psychological trick than a physical one, but this will help hold those arms straight on the parade ground.
 
2. Bending knee position -  The bending knee position is crucial for almost all static drill moves, and many others. Therefore it is something that NCOs and Staff pay particular attention to when teaching cadets drill. For this position to be correct, the thigh should be parallel to the ground, with the lower leg and foot hanging naturally. A good way to practise this is to stand facing a wall, and raise your leg to the bending knee position. With your thigh parallel to the ground, leave approximately 15cm between your knee and the wall. Then practise going to and from the bending knee position. You should be able to do this without kicking the wall. This will help learn the bending knee position. 
 
3. Balance – Keep swaying or falling over during specific drill moves? Try thinking about how to balance at each part of the move. Break the drill move down into parts, and work out the best way to maintain balance for this part. For example, for an about turn at the halt, break the move down into three parts; the initial turn, raising the leg to the bending knee position, and brining the leg back down to stand at attention. In this particular instance, during the initial turn, keep your head directly over your hips, i.e. don’t lean forwards or backwards. Keep your arms by your sides, and pivot using the ball and heel of your feet. This will keep your centre of gravity in the middle during the turn, reducing the change of toppling sideways. Before raising your leg to the bending knee position, make sure your weight has been fully transferred onto your front foot, as this will mean your body is well supported as you raise your leg. Finally, don’t lean back as you bring your leg back down, as this could make you lose balance and fall backwards.
 
4. Speed – Almost all drill moves have specific timings which they are done to. For example a left turn at the halt is; ‘1 – left – right – 1’. These timings are counted at marching speed, which is 116 beats per minute. Therefore don’t rush these timings as they will look better if everyone is in time, and not rushing will ensure you do them correctly. On the contrary to this, for other drill moves it is important to do them quickly, or, as NCOs often say, ‘Make it Snappy’. For example the initial movement of the arm for a right dress should be done as fast as possible. Other movements such as the turn of the head for an eyes right/ left, and the arm movement for an eyes front should also be done quickly, although not so quickly that it might damage your muscles.
 
5. Arms Shoulder Height – This one is something that is very easy to get right, however it is also something that will stand out like a sore thumb if its wrong. When swinging your arms while marching, make sure that your arms are being raised to your own shoulder height. Not bringing your arms all the way up, makes your marching look lazy and sloppy, while bring your arms up too high (know as ‘cherry picking’) simply looks bizarre. Therefore make sure you know where your own shoulder height is, and practise bringing your arms to that level, so that when it comes to marching, its no longer something you need to think about.
 
 6. Dressings – While in a squad or flight, use your peripheral vision to make sure that you are in line with the person in front of you, and the person to either side. This is particularly important when marching. Keep looking out of the corners of your eye to see if you are in line. This way, when you halt and right dress, you won’t have to move as far, as you will already be in the correct position. Also bear in mind that you may not always have a ‘full’ squad, and there might be gaps in the squad. Make sure that these gaps are not filled as you march, as this will put the gaps in the wrong part of the squad, causing problems later on.
 
7. Drill Commands – Most drill commands are split into three parts; the introductory, the cautionary, and the executive. Other commands only have the last two. For example, the command for a left turn at the halt is as follows; “Move to the left, left, turn”. The first part of this (the introductory) tells the body of personnel what you want them to do, and is giving in a clear, deliberate level tone; “Squad, move to the left...”. The second part (the cautionary) tells the body of personnel to get ready to act upon the command, and is given as an elongated sound, falling in pitch towards the end; “...Leeeffft...”. Finally the last part of the command (the executive) tells the body of personnel exactly when you want the command to be acted upon, and is given in a short sharp voice; “...Turn!”. See Diagram 1 for a visualisation of this process.
8. Drill Command Volume – Drill is an art that requires a degree of skill on both the giving, and receiving end. In this instance, giving drill commands isn’t all about shouting as loud as possible. When giving drill commands, your voice should be loud enough, so that, of the people you are giving the command to, the person furthest away can hear you clearly. This way everyone can hear the commands they need to, without you wearing your own voice out.

9. Unsure of How to do a Drill Move – Ask an NCO or uniformed member of Staff. The NCO team and members of Staff are always available to answer your questions. If you’re not sure how to do a certain drill move, or give a certain drill command, then speak to your Flight Commander, or other available NCO. If there is no one available to help, then look at the Drill manual, which is AP818, and can be found in the ‘APs & ACPs’ section of the ‘Cadets Area’.
 
10. Practise – Like anything, practise is key to mastering drill. Even the senior NCOs and Staff of your Squadron are still developing their drill technique. For example practise with a mirror to see if your hand is in the right position when doing a salute. Practise doing turns to make sure you know how to balance yourself. Drill isn’t something that can be executed perfectly straight away, so practise as much as you can so that when it comes to parade time, you can have the confidence to know what you're doing.
 

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