"Staying Sharp" and "Always Ready"

  • Published
  • By Capt John Petrowski
  • 181st Communications Flight

     One of the many responsibilities of an organization's leadership is to ensure its members present themselves in a professional manner at all times. Professional Airmen maintain their military bearing, showing pride in their unit and maintain proper standards of dress and appearance. One of the most efficient ways to instill professionalism is by performing an Open Ranks Inspection. For members of the Communications Flight, Security Forces and other units here at Hulman Field an Open Ranks Inspection is nothing new; but the history behind the drill many may not know.
     In 1775, as this country fought for its independence, the nation's leaders were faced with the problem of not only establishing a government but also organizing an army in the midst of war. From Concord, Massachusetts in April 1775, until Valley Forge in the winter of 1778, revolutionary forces were little more than guerillas engaged against well-trained, highly disciplined British regulars. For those three years, General Washington's troops had endured tremendous hardships--lack of funds, rations, clothing and equipment not to mention loss after loss in the battlefield to superior British forces. These hardships and losses mostly stemmed from the lack of militarism in a country whose "citizen-soldiers" made up a great deal of the new Army. The result was an Army with little or no organization, control, discipline, or teamwork.
     Recognizing that such an army would never prevail, General Washington enlisted the aid of a Prussian officer, Baron Friedrich von Steuben. Upon his arrival at Valley Forge in February 1778, von Steuben, met an Army of several thousand half-starved, ill-equipped, undisciplined men dressed in tatters. To correct many of the conditions that prevailed, he set to work immediately and wrote drill movements and regulations at night and taught them the following day to a model company of 120 men selected from the line. These 120 men would then teach the new techniques to the rest of the Army.
     Discipline became a part of life for these men as they came to respond to command without hesitation. This discipline infused within the individual a greater sense of awareness, expediency, and attention to detail. Trust and self-confidence grew in himself and his weapon as each man perfected all the movements of drill to include the fifteen movements required to load and fire his musket. As the Americans mastered the art of drill, they began to work as a team and developed a sense of pride in themselves and in their unit.
     According to Army Field Manual 3-21.5, the purpose of drill is to enable a commander or noncommissioned officer to instill habits of precision and response to the leader's orders; and to provide for the development of all Soldiers in the practice of commanding troops. AFMAN 36-2203 Drill and Ceremonies takes much from the Army Field Manual which is rooted in the instructions originally written by Baron Von Steuben during the American Revolution. We practice drill functions such as Open Ranks and the accompanying inspection of dress and appearance to ensure Airmen recognize their leadership, comply with leadership's orders with precision and just like their predecessors, work as a team and develop a sense of pride in themselves and in their unit.