Thursday, September 3, 2015 –
CLEMSON UNIVERSITY, S.C. – More than 100 Clemson University Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets at the very beginning of their Army careers got a close-up and personal look at authentic military bearing with a visit from a group of seasoned drill sergeants from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 98th Division (Initial Entry Training) Sept. 3. The drill sergeants traveled to Clemson to give the cadets a crash course in drill and ceremony – the time-honored practice of moving a unit or individuals in an orderly, uniform manner from one position to another or one place to another.
Drill procedures used by the United States Army today were developed during the Revolutionary War. The purpose of the drill then was to instill discipline. As soldiers mastered the art of the drill, they began to work as a team and to develop a sense of pride in themselves and in their unit. In today's Army, D&C is used to accomplish the same objectives -teamwork, confidence, pride, alertness, attention to detail, esprit de corps, and discipline.
1st Sgt. Anthony Childs, a former drill sergeant now with Co. C, 1st Bn., 518th Inf. Reg., 98th Training Division (IET), said he made the trip to Clemson with three drill sergeants from the 98th because the seemingly simple movements and commands that they would be teaching would serve the cadets throughout their military careers.
“Drill and ceremony is the foundation,” he said. “It’s the building block that everything else flows from, going all the way back to Baron Von Steuben and the Blue Book. In the old days [armies] would line up in rectangles and fire at each other until someone ran out of people or bullets. Now [D&C] is about the ceremony, the tradition, the discipline, the image of the Army as the profession of arms, and the pride we carry ourselves with.”
That pride could be seen on the faces of the cadets as the day progressed and they realized the intimidating men in the immaculately canted hats were there to help them be better soldiers, not make them drop and do push-ups with every missed step.
The three drill sergeants - Sgt. 1st Class Ervin Brewster of Simpsonville, South Carolina, and staff sergeants Michael Howell and Robin Brown, both of Belton, South Carolina - started by going through several of the most common commands step-by-step, using cadets who had prior experience with D&C from their high school junior reserve officer training corps units as demonstrators.
In an impressively short amount of time that could only be achieved by experienced leaders, each drill sergeant had a formation of cadets snapping to attention, facing left and right, doing about faces, and marching in unison across the grass of Bowman Field, the iconic lawn in the middle of campus where Clemson’s very first students drilled in the late 1800’s when the school was still an all-male military college.
Childs’ noted that the 98th - and him personally - have a long history of working with Clemson.
“I was stationed here as a young sergeant back in 1998. The [3rd Bn., 323rd Inf. Reg.] was headquartered on Perimeter Road, where the National Guard center is now. The ROTC cadre would see us around and one day said, hey could you come out and teach the cadets, and that’s how we got involved,” he said.
That natural partnership would be rekindled again after he moved on from the unit and rose in the ranks.
“When I became a first sergeant we reached out to Clemson again. A drill sergeant sitting in a drill hall is a wasted asset. We’ve done this lab two or three times now, and we run their range and help with their - so we have a great relationship with the Clemson ROTC and I think the cadets get a lot out of it.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Henry, brigade command sergeant major for 4th Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command, happened to be visiting Clemson that day and was able to observe the 98th drill sergeants do their thing with his cadets.
“I truly appreciate the 98th coming out and being a part of teaching soldiers how to drill,” he said, watching the progress from the high side of the field. “We’ve worked with this organization before at cadet summer training, and it’s always excellent for cadets to come out and see what it is a drill sergeant projects down onto a force-oriented element. It’s pretty neat.”
Henry echoed Childs’ view of the importance of D&C to today’s fighting force.
“Under Baron Von Steuben and George Washington, drill was for battle, and it also instilled discipline in the ranks. That enabled the fighting man to close and destroy the enemy. Now it’s a tradition, but we’ve translated to utilizing it for discipline, and it instills pride and esprit de corps in the organization.”
The cadets themselves all agreed that learning the basic movements of D&C from Brewster, Howell and Brown was hugely beneficial, especially considering they would be putting the skills they learned to use the very next day when every cadet in the ROTC would be marching in one large formation in front of thousands of people for the First Friday parade, Clemson’s traditional kick-off to the football season.
“If we learn the right movements and techniques here, we will be able to use that,” said cadet Jonathan Day, a senior from Greenville, South Carolina studying financial management who plans to commission into the Army Reserve upon graduation. “We’ve done drill and ceremony for years on Bowman Field, and we always keep the mentality ‘we train how we fight’ - so we train to be perfect.”
Senior cadet Brian Goetz, a supply chain management major from Woodbridge, New Jersey, put the value of the training even more succinctly; “It’s a way to instill order and discipline, but when people see us marching in a parade, or for graduation, it makes us look good.”