BLUF: Modern drill is found in developing currently-useful and relevant Soldier skills, not in the nonsense that now passes as Drill and Ceremonies.

A Leaders Corner podcast with CSM Ted Copeland demonstrates how some Army leaders have lost the plot.

“Time is our biggest enemy,” he says, and then harps on the “good ol’ days” as if boot polish, uniform starching, parade ground pageantry, and similar wastes of time can provide some sort of solution.

How about we take the idea of building NCOs by having them drill and then instruct useful skills to subordinates? Paying attention to detail demands learning which details are worth paying attention to. Identifying what skills are useful and then successfully training them provides the same benefit to learning how to pay attention to detail while actually helping with readiness.

Operation Cold Steel was the Army Reserve unwittingly admitting that units on their own were largely incapable of successfully training crew-served weapons and that “any NCO with the FM” does not work. Parade ground nonsense doesn’t help, either.

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben and his “blue book” are cited by CSM Copeland. Upon Washington’s recommendation, Congress appointed Steuben as a Major General and the Inspector General of the Continental Army. Steuben promptly formed a model company of soldiers and trained them to march, use the bayonet, and execute orders quickly on the battlefield.

Learn more about Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben’s approach:

Critical point: Baron von Steuben’s drills in his “blue book” had nothing to do with current D&C. His approach used to be a relevant, useful, real-world skillset ideal for then-current equipment and tactics. It was not a self-serving exercise in discipline for its own sake or to look good. Unfortunately, D&C has since devolved into parade ground foolishness.

Effective drill emphasizes individual precision of movement and a manual of arms based on useful skill. See Appendix D (Drills) in all current small arms Training Circulars, starting with TC 3-23.9. You’ll note CSM Copeland never mentioned this in his interview that was recorded years after this manual was released. For precision of movement in small teams, do the same thing with Crew Drills for crew-served weapons. Couple this with an understanding of gunnery and basic ballistics. Perhaps if Soldiers were already doing this regularly, Operation Cold Steel could have been avoided.

Drill should also emphasize group teamwork and moving in tandem. Use the formations listed in Chapter 2 of ATP 3-21.8 (Infantry Platoon and Squad) and the drills in Chapter 8 in TC 3-21.76 (Ranger Handbook) as examples.

Modern D&C is NOT found in TC 3-21.5 and that manual should be discarded as the useless fluff that it is.

The Army continues to perpetuate a culture of illiteracy and fails to implement the notion of Disciplined Disobedience our former Chief of Staff of the Army prescribed. Sadly, CSM Copeland’s podcast reveals that our current leadership seems to have no interest or insight in how to fix this.