Washington, D.C. --
Before sunrise on the morning of Sept. 22, 2015, the members
of the Silent Drill Platoon, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. met in their
company’s barracks quarterdeck to be informed by their command that today was
the day, Challenge Day.
Challenge Day provides experienced members of the SDP the
chance to compete for the prestigious rifle inspector and inspection team
The Marines have been preparing for this day all week.
“We were guessing that Challenge Day would be sometime this
week,” said Lance Cpl. Hayden McCue, SDP member and native of Sheboygan Falls,
Wis. Every night we oiled the wood of our
rifles, touched up the black of the slip rings, got fresh haircuts and washed
our white gear, so this morning all I had to do was re-iron my white trousers.
Challenge Day begins with a thorough uniform and rifle
inspection conducted by the platoon gunnery sergeant. The Marines stand at
attention while their gunny scrutinizes their uniforms. Uniform items are evaluated and scored on a
scale of one to five, and items such as gloves, haircuts and shaves fall into
the general appearance category and are scored on a scale of one to 10.
“If the Marines take the time to go above and beyond, they
will be scored higher for the general appearance [inspection],” said Gunnery
Sgt. Berton Chambers, former SDP platoon gunnery sergeant and native of
After the uniform inspection, the Marines anxiously wait for
their turn to show the current rifle inspector and SDP drill master that they
have what it takes to fill the coveted platoon positions.
“The rifle inspector looks at how the Marines spin rifles
and the SDP drill master looks at how they move and phase with the other
Marines in the platoon,” said Chambers.
Each Marine performs the scripted throws, spins and drill
movements while evaluators take notes on clipboards and silently score the
“I was nervous, but I was calmer than I expected,” said
McCue, immediately following this evaluation. We’ve been practicing two to
three times a week for two to three hours each practice session.
Marines vying for a spot on the SDP inspection team must
have at least a year of experience in the platoon. The Marines must make sure
they are always ready to perform, and when the time comes, the ones who have trained
the hardest will earn a position with the “marching 24”.
The Silent Drill Platoon consists of approximately 38
Marines who go through rigorous training and screening to become a member of
this illustrious group. However, only 24 of those Marines will perform in the
spotlight throughout the year. Challenge Days offer those Marines waiting in
the shadows the opportunity to usurp one of the coveted 24 positions.
Initially Marines are selected to attend a two to three
month SDP drill school upon arriving at the Barracks. From there they go to
Yuma, Ariz. for additional training. In Yuma, the marching 24 for the parade
season are selected.
During this September Challenge Day, the inspection team and
rifle inspectors will be identified by the SDP leadership. A recommendation
will be provided to the Barracks’ commanding officer and sergeant major, and
they will make the ultimate decision on the 2016 rifle inspection team.