The History Behind the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon

With a world-wide reach and a long history dating back to the Revolutionary War, precision military drill has grown through the hard work, dedication and innovation of those gifted and talented individuals who nurtured and taught many generations to bring us where we are today.

The first documented performance of exhibition drill was performed by Mr. Hadji Cheriff at what is believed to be the Midway Plaisance of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. The film was later copyrighted by Thomas Edison in 1899, entitled “The Arabian Gun Twirler.” The performance demonstrates a basic aerial toss (two, 1-1/2 over-hand thrown from the firing hammer) and also an over the shoulder technique with a rather remarkable display of over-the-head drill (OTH), and ends right after an under the leg inverted spin.

Military drill began its march to ascendancy initially through the work Baron Frederick Von Steuben around the time of the Revolutionary War. Baron von Steuben was a trained, military specialist who changed the way the Continental Army worked during the American War for Independence.

Regarding drill, he began by training a core group of soldiers and they in turn, trained the rest of the army in a descending pattern. The key: simplicity. He reduced the motions in the manual of arms to ten…he implemented a standard pace and cadence and to keep step in a march without the use of a drum simply by watching the officer at the head of the column. He is basically the genesis of all marching done by the United States military.

Did you know that the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon is comprised of Marine Corps Infantryman? Marines are selected from the School of Infantry and interviewed by Marine Barracks personnel. Once selected, Marines are assigned to Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., and serve a two year ceremonial tour.

Further early push in military drill came from none other than General John “Black Jack” Pershing around 1900. Pershing wished to increase the morale and discipline of the battalion he commanded, as well as to increase support for the Cadet Corps throughout the university’s staff and community.

Stationed at the legendary Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., it is a 24-man rifle platoon that tours the country showcasing their precision drill and rifle movements in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators a year.

To this end, he formed a hand-picked company of men, known as Company A, and made them his premier drill unit. Military exhibition drill excellence was begun that day in Omaha, Nebraska.

Just decades later, the four service branches capitalized on this popular movement and created service drill & ceremony units. The most famous of these remain the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, as well as the U.S. Army Drill Team, formed from within The Old Guard, the soldiers assigned the duty to protect the President in Washington, DC.

The United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon is a 24-man rifle platoon of the United States Marine Corps. Often referred to as The Marching Twenty-Four, the unit performs unique silent precision exhibition drill. The purpose of the platoon is to exemplify the discipline and professionalism of the Marine Corps.

The Silent Drill Platoon first performed in 1948, originally as a one-time show, and received such an overwhelming response that it soon became part of the routine parades at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.

Just after this time, the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) established the U.S. Army Drill Team. The 3rd Infantry is the official Escort to the President of the United States and the nation’s Premier Memorial Affairs and Ceremonial Unit.

Old Guard Soldiers are in Arlington National Cemetery daily rendering final honors to our fallen, both past and present. The U.S Army Drill Team performs annually as part of Twilight Tattoo (May and June) and Spirit of America (September), and year round at various public events.

A U.S. Marine Corps C-130T Hercules aircraft with the Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, flies over Marines with the Silent Drill Platoon at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona.

The U.S. Army Drill Team was organized to concentrate on precise marching and crisp rifle drill. They have supported The Old Guard’s ceremonial missions, thrilling millions of youngsters and proud Americans for more than 50 years.

In the years that followed, both the Air Force (U.S. Air Force Drill Team)and the Navy (US Navy Presidential Ceremonial Honor Guard Drill Team) would assemble exhibition performance drill units in the Washington, DC area for the same benefits as those mentioned above.


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