Why Do Marines Drill?

Gunnery Sgt. Michael S. Pevehouse takes his hat off to his platoon after they successfully completed a difficult drill maneuver.

Why do Marines drill?

There are perhaps no other services in the world more proud of their service than Marines.

Just ask them.

They have their own language, sharp uniforms and snazzy commercials. Before equality became formality in the U.S. armed forces, they developed catchy slogans that clued in on how separate they viewed themselves.

“A few good men.”

“The few, the proud, the Marines.”

Marines like to look good and want everyone to take notice. Even when they walk together in groups.

A civilian would call it marching. They call it drill.

When a Marine begins his first days at boot camp, he is taught everything all over again. As if his parents did not do a good job of teaching him to walk, talk, cloth, and feed himself, his new daddy is quick to provide instruction.

Perhaps none of the above instructions are more important than drill.

At first, Marines are filed into platoon formations, looking like green eggs staked neatly in a carton. They begin to master the “box.” Then they “slime” their way around the depot; a gaggle of geese ditty bopping to the familiar sounds of their drill instructor’s voice. Eventually they are taught the simpler drill movements: Position of attention, saluting, left and right faces.

Perhaps the most important is putting their feet in front of the other in unison. This might sound like a hard thing to do, but when there are 50 or more people trying to be on the same page, things get complicated.

The setting sun is the only thing that really stops drill upon the depot. From dawn to dusk, Marines practice drill on all grinders.

Evolution of footwear is also an important step to understanding Marine drill.

Marines are first required to wear sneakers with their camouflaged utilities. Here the basic drill movements are repeated until Marine have a fair understanding of what are basic drill movements. Their pant legs are rolled down and cuffed like a kindergartner wearing his older brother’s jeans.

But then they are issued combat boots. This is like handing a drummer a set of really good sticks. They roll their trousers over their boots and blouse them with green elastic cords. Now the young Marines have reached a new goal. Now the Marines are expected to bring what drill instructors call “thunder.”

After long days under the grueling heat and sand fleas of Paris Island or roaring jet engines of a nearby airport of San Diego, the recruits have grasped the understanding of drill. While they might not be masters, they do gain confidence and discipline through a memorized routine.

What the Marines like to call “instant obedience to orders.”

Sgt. Luis A. Mercado demonstrates the proper technique on marching with a rifle to his platoon.

It is through drill that Marines at any rank can go back to the basics. A junior Marine leading a platoon formation is something to be admired in the Corps when a senior Marine is expected.

Drill is used as confidence builder in this instance. Much like civilians with a fear of public speaking, putting a young Marine in front of a platoon of his peers can be slightly uncomfortable. They mumble or stutter their commands, loose focus, and generally do a bad job. Any resemblance of the confident Marine on the boot camp grinder is gone. After some remedial instruction, and egging on by the drills, the young Marine gains confidence. Soon, he’s barking orders and singing cadence like a hard-nosed, barreled-chested, square-jawed drill instructor. Like a Marine.

And is this why Marines drill.