[April 18, 2020] Drill and Ceremony is a method of moving troops from one location to another. Since its introduction by Friedrich von Steuben to Revolutionary soldiers at Valley Forge in 1778, highly motivated sergeants have used commands to instill discipline in new troops. Following those commands is not easy, but after some experience, troops will often begin anticipating the command. Doing so is not necessarily a good thing.1
Being in the military is not easy. Having someone yelling at you a lot can be upsetting to some folks. If there is one thing that Army Drill Sergeants like to do, it’s telling you what to do and when to do it. They really don’t want soldiers anticipating the command.
However, as we gain experience and responsibility being able to anticipate upcoming events and missions is a good thing. In any employment, if a person can anticipate what the boss wants, one can expect a pat on the back for that effort. Anticipating the command (e.g., task, mission, or problem) is difficult but comes with some risk but with great reward.
General George S. Patton anticipated a German Army breakout in the winter of 1944. He was able to arrange his forces to help blunt the attack when it came. Enter “old blood and guts,” employing a sophisticated and clever strategy where he wheeled his 3rd Army a sharp 90 degrees in a counterthrust. Patton’s army broke through the German lines and ultimately pushed the Germans back east across the Rhine River.2
Today, another military unit prides itself on anticipating the command. The 18th Psychological Operations Battalion’s motto is “Anticipate the Command.” The idea is that they should know what their mission will be before it is issued to them. They understand their roles in combat, have studied the enemy, and understand what they can contribute to combat units as a force multiplier.
Anticipating the command is an idea that has been studied since the beginning of warfare. Figuring out what the enemy will do and what orders you will receive is the epitome of good soldiering. Like the artist who knows what a new client will request, he can arrange a sample display of art that supports it. And, a young teenage football player who knows the other team will get support from his coach.
Let’s also not forget that a good leader has a vision and a method of achieving it. This method is a form of anticipating the command. We would all do better if we learned how to anticipate the future.
- Commands are spoken in two parts. First, the preparatory command and then the command of execution. Troops quickly learn what the latter will be and often will be anticipating the command. But, don’t get caught doing so, or you will earn the ire of one of those motivated sergeants. Here is a link to the U.S. Army’s Drill and Ceremonies publication in PDF format: https://history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/FM_3-21.5_Drill_and_Ceremonies.pdf