WASHINGTON -- Each year, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon conducts Silent Drill School from November until the beginning of March in order to select new Marines for the upcoming parade season.
Silent Drill School is the first step in assembling this elite Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., unit. Whether students spend a few weeks or a few months in the course, the instructors seek to ensure each Marine is set up for future success at the Barracks. Discipline, bearing, attention to detail, and work ethic are all important points that are stressed throughout SDS. Additionally, these traits will make the Marines successful during their time at the Barracks and beyond.
At any given time, SDS will have between 30 and 90 students along with 15 to 20 instructors. Throughout December, instructors will focus on helping the students perfect their individual movements.
First, students spend time in SDS perfecting what they initially learned during Ceremonial Drill School - the baseline course for all new marchers at the Barracks. Once they have demonstrated a solid proficiency at this skill set, they will start learning the much more difficult and complicated drill movements used by the Silent Drill Platoon. These movements are known as Slide Drill.
After a break for the holidays, students return in January and start piecing their individual actions together to form a larger, unit drill sequence. Each Marine is assigned one of 24 spots to learn within this larger sequence.
As each week goes by, the student body is slowly whittled down to the very top performers. After drilling six to eight hours a day for months, eventually the top 15 to 20 students are identified and taken with the platoon to Yuma, Ariz., to complete their training.
While in Yuma, the SDS students, along with older members of the platoon, spend 10 to 12 hours a day perfecting the upcoming parade season’s drill sequence. This arduous period of training helps forge the unit and develops camaraderie among the platoon’s new members. Eventually, new and old members alike all compete head-to-head to earn a spot on the coveted ‘Marching 24’ during Challenge Day - the final phase of platoon tryouts.
The Marines of the Silent Drill Platoon will then spend the next year traveling around the country and abroad, representing the Marine Corps in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators.
Over the past few years, the platoon has traveled to Belleau Wood, France; Fort Henry, Canada; Guam and Iwo Jima. In the United States, the platoon regularly performs at schools, parades, and special events around the country, including professional football, baseball, and basketball games.