In this photo by Kristen Wong, Airman 1st Class Stephen Souza of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team tosses his rifle during a performance at the Joint Services Drill Exhibition at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. The team is an elite unit of 25 Airmen who train for up to eight to 10 hours per day, five days a week, to obtain their level of mastery.
Drill and ceremony is a military tradition dating back to our War for Independence in 1778. It was during that terrible winter at Valley Forge when George Washington and his exhausted troops, out of food, clothing, and medical supplies, began to see a breakdown of discipline.
Enter German Baron Friedrich von Stueben, an officer in the Prussian Army and a major general in the Continental Army from 1778-84. Baron von Steuben instituted military drill as part of a training program to improve discipline and organization of soldiers in the Continental Army. Von Stueben drew lessons from the ancient Romans who developed the first concept of drill by training troops on a task until it became second nature. Drill and ceremony made soldiers aware of their movements, to practice drills to ultimate precision, and to work together as a team.
Drill and Ceremony is commonly used to show honor and respect ranging from heroic deeds to the burial of a military person who has passed away. Drill and ceremony are one of the first things troops learn when they enter the military, and it helps them develop pride and confidence in their actions. This often referred to as “military bearing”, the way these Americans carry themselves.