View Full Version : -Not so silent-

07-24-04, 10:01 AM
July 23, 2004
-Not so silent-
On the road with the Silent Drill Platoon

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(March 7, 2002) -- At 7:30 a.m. March 1 morning, a four-bus caravan moves steadily north from San Diego through the gates of Camp Pendleton, where an open parade deck awaits.

On board the third bus Marines drift in and out of sleep, their dress blue blouses and white trousers hanging from the ceiling, their rifles leaning against their legs, their travel cases containing patent leather shoes, gloves and a trampoline-tight garrison cover on the seat next to them - everything a member of the Silent Drill Platoon needs for the day.

Life for the platoon isn't as simple as drilling for a dozen minutes, signing posters for kids and then being let loose for liberty.

"Everyone thinks it's pretty easy, I think, but it's not. (There's a) lot of stress trying to get it perfect every time," said Pfc. Robert Davis, a supernumerary in his first year with the platoon.

Every year drill team candidates go through the four-month Silent Drill School in Yuma, Ariz., where they live, eat and breathe drill. Only after that do they get to even try out for that year's team, said Staff Sgt. Ramon Nash, platoon sergeant.

Still early in their 42-day West Coast tour, the drill team's fourth show March 1 morning pleased the crowd, but not the platoon's drillmaster, Sgt. Herbert E. Becerra, who's clipboard is full of notes of mistakes - most transparent to the untrained eye.

"That's what we're going to do right now - fix the cadence," Becerra told them later in a parking lot at the School of Infantry, where the platoon warmed up for the afternoon show. Like its name implies, the platoon doesn't use any verbal commands or cadence to maintain the rhythm of the drill.

As the tour continues, improvement will appear.

"As you keep performing the edges keep getting sharper," said Nash.

Besides drill, the platoon also has to maintain impeccable appearance. An hour before the show, the smell of edge dressing hangs in the air as the Marines gets dressed using numerous tricks to keep a perfect look. For example, some using masking tape to keep their trousers from riding up or to keep their covers square on their heads.

Elastic material is sewn into the blouses' armpits so not to restrict the Marines arm movement. White leather gloves are worn instead of the standard issue cotton ones to prevent slipping when handling the rifles.

Traveling across the country, hopping from time zone to time zone, the drill team isn't always greeted by adorning fans.

Cpl. Deshawn Johnson, one of the platoon's two rifle inspectors and in his third year with the team, said he's received mixed emotions from Marines across the Corps. Some look up to them, seeing them as premier Marines. Others resent them, seeing them as conceited rock-star types who don't have to be "real Marines."

To that Johnson said, "Come and talk to us. Find out for yourself who we're about."

"We do something unique to the Marine Corps. It doesn't make us any better," said Cpl. Matthew J. Klinger, three-year veteran of the platoon.

Regardless their own perceptions, the Silent Drill Platoon's legacy places them on a pedestal, perhaps even to the point of alienation from the rest of the Marine Corps.

"There's no one else in the Marine Corps that does what I do, so there is a sense of separation there," said Johnson.

Despite any perceived celebrity status, the Marines remain humble.

"Everyone else holds us up higher. I don't really hold myself higher because this is my job," Davis said.

Though performing is their job, most say it's the job to have.

"A lot of us feel like we're doing an honor for the Marine Corps," Klinger said.

Especially after Sept. 11, the Marines of the platoon realize their power to motivate the people who see them.

"I was happy and excited to do shows after it happened," said Klinger.

For example, last fall at a New York Giants football game, fans stood shouting "U.S.A." throughout the platoon's entire performance.

"We can't hear anything - our ears were just blown away," recalled Johnson.

And, in the end, after all the cheering crowds and travels are behind them, the Marines of the Silent Drill Platoon are left a tight unit of eternal brothers.

"The best thing is you're with a group of people that you're closest with that you're ever going to be. These guys here are my best friends," Klinger said.


Story and photos by Staff Sgt.
Silent Drill Platoon member Lance Cpl. Steven Loose holds a coin presented to him by Maj. Gen. Jan C. Huly, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego following a performance there March 2. Loose, from Beltsville, Ill., and in his third year with the Silent Drill Platoon, is the platoon's "throw-out" man, who tosses a rifle to the passing rifle inspector so he can mirror another Marine in the performance's dual rifle inspection sequence Cpl. Anthony Ingram, of Prince George, Va., in his third year with the Silent Drill Platoon, walks to meet the rest of the platoon for warm ups prior to their performance March 2 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.




07-24-04, 10:49 AM
I have witnessed the silent drill team performance in my home
town, truly amazing. Watching a videotape is nothing like
watching the platoon toss their M-1 Rifles in person.

07-24-04, 03:30 PM
I had been privileged to see them in person twice.
Beside seeing them on the History Channel.
They're awesome and well Representatives of the Marine Corps
They know that they represent the Marine Corps to the viewing public.
The execution and precision that they display is keeping with and presenting to the unknown much of what the Marine Corps is noted for...

Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi

Arlene Horton
07-24-04, 08:41 PM
I agree. Seeing them in action actually sends chills to my spine and makes me ever so proud to say "I'm a Marine, too!" I always look forward to seeing "The Making of a Marine" on cable and narrated by former Marine Bill Curtis. The first time I saw those fantastic young women's performance during the "Crucible" I am so proud of these new Marines. When we had our Boot Camp at P.I. in 1952 our training was far less intense than what the new Marines experience. It shows what can be done when there is something you want so much you will literally "go through hell" to bear the title of "United States Marine". Semper Fi

hector verduzco
07-24-04, 09:00 PM
I also seen them while in the corps stationed at Camp Pendelton, Ca. (I.T.S). Unknown year, but it was something that I'll never forget, and even though I've been out for about 21 years, I still feel the proudness in myself and the respect of others when I wear a shirt or cover that represents THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS. Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi MARINES!!!!!

07-24-04, 10:18 PM
Was able to watch (could almost see) a demonstration at LeJeune in '78 or '79. Absoluting nothing compared to watching them at 8th & I last year, at Drifters (rest in peace) and Freebirds leatherneck reunion.

Ya'll start saving up and making plans for reunion next year. Watching the drill was great, but hearing an entire Company snap to attention, and that M1 butt hitting the deck, as only Marines can do..... well, come to reunion.

We'll get CAS3 to setup another invitation to the evening parade.