Individual Drill - Commands

How to Execute Drill Commands

Soldiers in uniform
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Whether marching in formation to get from A to B on base or honoring a VIP at a formal parade, marching in unison is practiced throughout all basic training programs throughout the military. The formal parades require a sharper precision as military brass are typically observing the units marching and their progress as they evolve from civilians into military members. Depending upon the branch of service, these type of parades and marching of large units are held for new members of the military attending one of many accession programs into the military (ROTC, Service Academies, Basic Training, Boot Camp).

Individual Drill

In a drill type formation, a military unit executes precise movements from one formation to another or marches from one place to another. In maintaining this precision, the marching is standardized to a 24-inch step and performed at a cadence of 100 to 120 steps per minute. Each individual must adapt to performing the movements precisely. The unit responds to move together on command.

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions on how to execute drill commands. Courtesy of the Air Force.

Marching Basics

When you are commanded to march from a halt, your steps begin with the left foot. The exceptions are with command right step and close march.

  • For turns, the preparatory command and the command of execution are given as the heel of the foot in the direction of the turn strikes the ground.
  • When making turns in a single formation,the preparatory command is given as the heel of the one foot (left or right depending on the command) strikes the ground, and the command of execution is given when the heel of that same foot next strikes the ground.
  • When there are multiple units marching, the pause between commands is three paces to allow time for subordinate commanders to give supplementary commands.

    Rest Positions

    These are performed from a halt at a position of attention. There are four rest positions: parade rest, at ease, rest, and fall out.

    Parade Rest

    • Command: Parade, REST
    • On the command REST, the left foot is raised from the hip (knee straight) to barely clear the ground and moved quickly to the left, so your heels are 12 inches apart on the inside of the heels.
    • Your legs are straight and heels are in line.
      (keep knees slightly bent - do not lock your knees or you will pass out when standing at attention or parade rest for long periods of time)
    • At the same time as the left foot moves, the arms are brought to the back of the body while fully extended.
    • The hands are uncupped during this movement.
    • Once the arms are in the back of the body, your fingers are extended and joined, pointing towards the ground, palms facing outward.
    • The right hand is in the palm of the left hand. The right thumb is over the left thumb so they form a letter X.
    • Remain immobile and silent with head up and eyes straight ahead.

    At Ease

    • Command: AT EASE
    • On the command AT EASE, you must keep your right foot in place and remain silent and in position in formation.
    • You can otherwise relax in a standing position.

    Rest

    • Command: REST
    • On the command REST, you are in the same posture as in at ease, but you are allowed to speak moderately.

    Fall Out

    • Command: FALL OUT
    • On the command FALL OUT, you can either relax while standing or you can break ranks but remain in the immediate area.
    • You can disperse however you wish.
    • You are allowed to speak moderately.

    Resuming Attention from Rests

    Resuming the position of attention from any of the rests except fall out is done by the command Flight, ATTENTION.

    • On the command Flight, the airmen assume the position of parade rest.
    • At the command ATTENTION, they assume the position of attention.

    About Face

    • Command: About, FACE
    • On the command FACE, the right foot is lifted from the hip (knee straight) so it barely clears the ground.
    • The ball of the right foot is placed half a shoe length behind and slightly to the left of the left heel, with unbent knees.
    • You will want to distribute the weight of your body on your left heel and the ball of the right foot.
    • Your legs should be straight but not stiff and your foot position is unchanged. This completes count one of the movement.
    • For count two, you keep your upper body in the position of attention, suspending arm swing, while pivoting 180 degrees to the right using a twisting motion of the hips, balancing on the ball of the right foot and heel of the left foot.
    • When the pivot is complete, your heels should be together and in line and your feet should form a 45-degree angle. The body remains at attention.

    Eyes Right (Left) & Ready Front

    • Commands: Eyes, RIGHT (LEFT) and Ready, FRONT
    • These are commands that can be given either at a halt or during marching.
    • At the command of RIGHT (LEFT) everyone except those on the right (left) flank turn their heads smartly 45 degrees in the direction of the command (right or left).
    • The command of Ready, FRONT is used to return your head and eyes forward. It is given to the left or right foot strikes the ground.
    • With the command FRONT, you return your head and eyes smartly to the front.

    Other Drill Commands

    • Attention
    • Right (Left) Face
    • Salute
    • Present Arms and Order Arms
    • Forward March and Half
    • Double Time
    • Mark Time
    • Half Step
    • Right (Left) Step
    • Change Step
    • To the Rear March
    • Flanking Movement

    Drill with Weapons

    During drill, when groups (platoons, company, squadrons, etc) are carrying weapons, there are several commands that move the units weapons in unison to the commands of the group leader:

    • Attention - stand at attention with weapons touching the outside of the right foot parallel to the seam of the trouser.
    • Port Arms - Move weapon from the ground with one hand and grasp weapon with the other hand with the weapon diagonally across the front of the body.
    • Present Arms - Move weapon to center of the body with butt facing down and trigger assembly facing away from the holder.
    • Right Shoulder Arms - Move weapons to the right shoulder, holding the weapon with just the right hand at the butt of the weapon.
    • Left Shoulder Arms - Move weapons to the left shoulder, holding the weapon with just the left hand at the butt of the weapon.
    • Inspection Arms - Similar to port arms but open the chamber of the weapon so group leader can inspect all weapons.
    • Fix Bayonets - With one hand (right) remove bayonet from sheath and place on the end of the weapon while other hand (left) holds the weapon.
    • Parade Rest - Similar to parade rest without a weapon but the right hand will hold the weapon extended at a slight angle in front of the right side of the body, while left hand moves to the small of the back.