"8th and I" Marching Pipeline

23 Jan 2015 | Lance Cpl. Gunnar Andersen Marine Barracks

As spectators leave a Sunset Parade on a sizzling summer Tuesday night or an Evening Parade on a stunning summer Friday night in awe of the performance, they might begin to wonder - How does a Marine end up carrying out this particular duty?  What is his primary job in the Corps?  Does he hold a special billet?

The process to identify future marchers for Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. begins with the two marching company’s 1st sergeants visiting the School of Infantry East and West to screen and select Marines.

“Marines are screened for performance, appearance, and motivation,” said 1st Sgt. Carey Wells, Company A. “We then sit down with them to discuss the Barracks and gauge their interest. If they are motivated and meet the requirements, they are selected.”

If a Marine is disqualified during the screening process, he will move on to his first duty station, usually an infantry battalion in the operating forces. A qualified Marine will graduate SOI as an infantryman with fellow Marines and report to the Barracks - home of the Silent Drill Platoon, the Marine Corps Color Guard, and the Body Bearers of Company B, amongst several other prestigious units.

Upon arrival at the Barracks, Marines are selected and chosen for specific duties, such as the Marine Corps Color Guard or the Body Bearers where they will begin their specific Ceremonial Drill School. As incoming Marines arrive, a Ceremonial Rifle Drill School commences. The Ceremonial Drill instructors are made up of various qualified squad and team leaders throughout the marching companies.

“The mission of the instructors is to teach the new Marines the proper rifle manual and how to wear the uniform to a higher standard than what is set forth in boot camp, all the while building upon the knowledge from recruit training,” said Cpl. Karson Smith, CDS instructor.

After a six to eight week drill school, the Marines graduate and are officially certified marchers at the Barracks.  Upon completion of the course, Marines are then screened for the Silent Drill Platoon of Company A.

The same squad leaders and team leaders who were their instructors now become their leaders and mentors within the companies. These mentors, along with other Marines in leadership positions, then guide the marching platoon members to grow as leaders and to become Ceremonial Rifle Drill School Instructors themselves. Typically, Marines will remain at the Barracks for two years, although some leaders who are selected for their outstanding leadership abilities and marching excellence can stay for up to four years. 

Some spectators may think that marching has nothing to do with being a capable and competent infantryman. Along with the drill and ceremonial excellence, the Marines at 8th and I also work to perfect their infantry skills. Marines may engage in buddy team rushing on the Annex turf field, in online classes on infantry tactics through the Marine Corps Institute, or in an intense field exercise in Quantico, Va.  Beyond that, nearly all of the platoon sergeants, platoon commanders, and company commanders stationed at the Barracks hold an infantry leadership billet and provide continual training of infantry skills and tactics. 

“Every one of these marchers, regardless of platoon or section, will one day enter the fleet if they so choose,” said Capt. Mark Batey, training officer in charge, Company A.  “Every Marine is a rifleman first, and they must be proficient in locating, closing with, and destroying the enemy.”