The Army is synonymous with sharp-dressed soldiers carrying out precision drill movements and inspiring ceremonies. Drill and ceremonies play a major role in every soldier's military experience. The primary importance of drill is to prepare troops for combat by rapidly carrying out orders. Ceremonies go hand-in-hand with drill. During a ceremony, troops align in various formations and carry out commands with uniform precision. Army ceremonies instil honour, promote camaraderie and preserve tradition among soldiers. Prompt obedience to every command is the first thing every new recruit must learn.
Armies throughout history have always practised some form of drill. Drill movements were designed to mimic tactical manoeuvres on the battlefield. By assembling troops into larger formations, commanders could rapidly move their units from one place to another as the situation dictated. The Romans developed the first concept of drill by training troops on a task until it became second nature.
In 1778, General George Washington sought Prussian officer Baron von Steuben's help in developing a sense of organisation and discipline among the Continental Army. Baron von Steuben went to work immediately on the first official Army manual known as the "Blue Book." The manual contained drill movements and regulations intended to focus on alertness, urgency and attention to detail. The Army's overall efficiency and effectiveness drastically improved under von Steuben's instructions. Many of the original drill terms and procedures are still in effect today.
Through the years, advanced weaponry has diminished the need for drill's use on the battlefield. However, several objectives are still accomplished through the practice of drill routines. Soldiers learn professionalism, teamwork, discipline, pride and confidence, which are just as important today as they were in the Continental Army. Soldiers learn drill through three different methods: step-by-step, talk-through and by-the-numbers. Generally, drill instructors teach marching movements using the step-by-step method. Movements requiring simultaneous actions by unit members benefit from the talk-through method. Movements consisting of two or more actions are best taught using the by-the-numbers method. Soldiers respond to drill commands repeatedly until they become habit.
Ceremonies are one of the most rewarding forms of drill. Ceremonial parades allow soldiers to express pride in their performance, their unit and their profession. Musical elements also have a key role in Army ceremonies. Soldiers have traditionally learnt to march to drum beats and respond to various bugle calls. Dignitaries have historically been honoured with musical salutes. In 1841, gun salutes were added for government leaders and special occasions. The major Army ceremonies include Reviews, Parades, Reveille, Retreat and military funerals. Reviews offer military commanders the opportunity to observe their soldiers in action. Parades allow Army units to display their pride and professionalism to the public. Reveille and Retreat ceremonies honour the American flag daily as it is raised and lowered on military bases. Army funerals are perhaps one of the most moving ceremonies. They are full of symbolism and often incorporate drill, musical elements and a gun salute to honour the selfless service and sacrifice of the deceased veteran.
- FM 3-21.5 Drill and Ceremonies; Department of the Army; 2003
- Foreign-Born Champions of the American Revolution; Jeremy Thornton; 2003
- Roman Drill; Legion Six Historical Foundation, Inc.; 2009