In military drill and ceremonies--that's marching to you civilians--there are some commands which are useful, like "halt". There are others which are purely ornamental, like any command that results in a "ripple" rather than a sharp movement.

But then, in a whole 'nother category, there is the list of commands issued at the beginning of the parade for a change of command ceremony. The ceremony itself is short: there's a guidon, a flag, a few old guys, and a bunch of young guys with their heads shaved who don't really want to be there. Standard military stuff, really--just stand at attention through most of the BS and pick up your paycheck in two weeks. Just one catch:

there's always a parade. And there's always some Sousa march playing when you're supposed to march. And it's usually The Washington Post March, because in every other Sousa march, the bass drum is always on the same beat--making it easy to march to--but in The Washington Post March, it forces everyone to do a change step and makes the whole parade look like an epileptic centipede. Why they picked that march, I'll never know.

But I digress. If you're ever at one of these ceremonies for the U.S. Air Force and looking for something interesting--and I know that if you're there, you'll be bored to tears after you find your brother or cousin in the ranks--watch the flight all the way on your left. More specifically, listen closely to what the first squadron commander says.

You see, the squadron commander is in charge of two or more flights (to you, the ones starting on the left; to them, the rightmost flights) which are labelled Alpha, Bravo, and so on from the right (your left). These flights are in column formation, which means they're facing him (and you), three or four abreast to each flight. The squadron commander is in charge of starting what will become a long line of flights doing laps around the parade ground to salute the new boss, but he needs to start it in time with the music. The squadron commander must now tell only the right-most flight that he's addressing them; he must prepare them to perform a column right; he must prepare the flights adjacent to fall in behind the first by doing their own column right maneuvers; and he must tell all four people in the front of the first flight exactly when to start--that is, on the correct foot, on the correct beat. To make things just a little more difficult, every drill and ceremonies command has two parts: a preparatory command ("forWARD,") and the command of execution ("HARCH!"). So he or she has (technically) two commands to make this all happen.

This is what he actually calls out, with the first syllable of each line falling off the beat, or on the beat if it's The Washington Post March. Not one, not two, but four preparatory commands, and then the command of execution:

COL-umn of flights,
FROM the right,
RIGHT flight,
COL-umn right,

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.