Drill and Ceremony
Have been reflecting on the topic of Drill and Ceremony lately. There are very few more recognizable markers of the military than a sharp formation, moving in unison and precision. Before we go much further, let me be the first to readily admit Naval Aviators are not known as D and C experts, so I bow in the presence of my USMC friends and all those brethren in arms who possess far more practical expertise. Lest we enter into interservice intermurals, that is not the point here. I was thinking about the philosophical application of drill and ceremony, off the parade field and in real life.
First, I asked myself what is the whole purpose of drill and ceremony? It has been around as long as organized armies and navies existed – hardly a new invention. So why is it so timeless?
Consider this, paraphrased from the Army field manual – The purpose of drill is to enable a leader to move his unit from one place to another in an orderly manner; to aid in disciplinary training by instilling habits of precision and response to the leader’s orders; and to provide for the development of all soldiers in the practice of leadership.
How much better would things be in this world if we moved in an orderly manner at the fundamental level? If we thought, spoke and acted with more discipline and precision? If we developed through nurture, training and practice, leaders from the cradle to the grave?
I was particularly stuck by how useful some of the specific basics of Drill and Ceremony might be to folks who are struggling with the ups and downs of their ride on this planet. Take the Position of Attention, which according to regs is the key position for all stationary, facing and marching movements. What a metaphor for life – sure would be helpful to start from the right place and position, whether it be your thoughts, your job, your conversations, your relationships.
A correct position of attention requires proper balance, head and body erect, chest lifted and shoulders square, arms, hands and feet correctly placed. The position requires stillness and silence –and if I may add, some mental concentration, even if the book doesn’t say that. The regs do note that you should not lock your knees while at a position of attention and to balance your weight evenly on your feet. Every veteran who has stood in a formation for more than five minutes has at least one story of someone forgetting that important point. Usually, the damage in these face plants is minimal. Life failures can be far less forgiving if we do not pay attention.
The position of attention is not meant to be a lengthy, sustained position. However, it is the first thing to learn, because everything else that follows requires that it be done right. And that is an idea worth pondering. To achieve the purpose of orderly personal movement rather than chaos, instill universal habits of precision and discipline and to be a better member of the cosmic formation that is our life, maybe we should brush up on our position of attention. So, keep your balance, hold your head up and breathe, be still and think. Not a bad way to start a day.