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The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon Marines catch their rifles after tossing in the air at the U.S. Armed Forces Joint Ceremonial Drill Competition in the National Guard Armory, Washington, D.C., April 12. The platoon won because of its hallmark precision and crowd pleasing inspection sequence.

Photo by Cpl. John J. Parry

Silent Drill Platoon wins competition among services, takes home trophy as best ceremonial drill platoon for 2008

12 Apr 2008 | Cpl. John J. Parry

Most of the world’s most powerful militaries have used drill to teach discipline and obedience. In the Washington, D.C., National Guard Armory, four of the United States’ most famous military units competed. 

In a competition of precision, pride, poise and perfection, to the victor would go the spoils.  With immaculate uniforms, spit-shined shoes, and a dizzying array of spins, each unit wowed an audience of more than 300 at the U.S. Armed Forces Joint Ceremonial Drill Competition, April 12.

The four competing drill teams at the event included the U.S. Army Drill Team, the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard Drill Team, the U.S. Coast Guard Silent Drill Team, and the “Marching 24,” the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.

The units trained for hundreds of hours to represent their service at the competition, but more importantly to prepare for hundreds of thousands who come to watch these fine-tuned servicemembers each year.

Each of the services selects candidates for their units based on requirements in individual appearance and conduct. However, these are not the only things necessary to earn a place in one of these heralded units. Servicemembers must compete against each other through rigorous training and evaluations, as only those who distinguish themselves from their peers will be allowed to perform.

“We all sent our best out there,” said Army Staff Sgt. John Wolfe, who, along with a group of his fellow soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, made the event happen. “It was a tough competition between the services, but I expected nothing but excellence. I’m glad I wasn’t one of the judges because their job definitely wasn’t easy.”

According to Zaida Walters, gold star mother of Marine Pfc. Leroy Sandoval, the performances were surprising because she had only seen Marines drill during their graduation ceremony from boot camp.

“I love all those who serve. Those who choose to do this,” said Walters proudly. “Everyone was great. My daughter is so jealous of me that she couldn’t make it today, and she should be.  It’s an honor to see this and to be a part of it. I love it!”

Much like Walters expected, the Marines proved themselves best on this day. 

“This is why my son was so proud to be a Marine,” said a grinning Walters. “They call them the few, the proud for a reason.”

Unlike the other units, the Marines marched out to the center of the building and didn’t have to make adjustments to begin their routine.  They went right into their sequence.

“When they began, nobody made a sound,” Walters added. “They were stunned. It was incredible!”

The performance included a double dome formation, closely resembling old infantry formations used to stave off cavalry charges.  Finally, the platoon formed into a long line and concluded its routine with a flawless inspection that brought many to their feet.

According to Wolfe, it was the precision and calculated timing of each movement that stood above the rest --movements such as each Marine simultaneously slamming their rifle into the deck.

Their professionalism demonstrates perfection to the public like no other, Wolfe added.

“We practice day after day and are confident that every time we go out, we will do our best,” said Lance Cpl. Ricky Schmidt, a member of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon’s “Marching 24.” “It doesn’t matter what event or who we perform for, we go out and represent the Marine Corps everyday.”