KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
“It’s hard,” said Senior Airman Darren Lawrence. “There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into it.”
Originally stationed in Washington D.C., the U.S Air Force Honor Guard drill team travels to Keesler Air Force Base for five weeks at the beginning of every year to develop and perfect their new routine. They practice formations, steps and sequences to prepare for the unveiling of the routine they will perform throughout the year all over the world.
As the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard drill team lead trainer, Lawrence is responsible for creating the routine from scratch. He teaches the rest of the team new sequences, how to perform them and where to step.
With such little time to perfect a routine, the members need to be focused day in and day out.
“When we’re back at the squadron, people who are not on our team may distract us but when we’re here it’s just us,” said Lawrence. “It’s the drill team all working toward one common goal, which is perfecting the sequence that we’re going to be doing for this year.”
Before the drill team even comes to Keesler, Lawrence already has a drill routine in mind and mapped out on a piece of paper. Even though he is prepared for it on paper, not everything goes according to plan.
“They have a decent idea of what they want before they arrive, but then once we start putting all the pieces together and performing the routine, some things don’t work out,” said Master Sgt. Jason Prophet, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard drill team superintendent.
The first thing Lawrence did was come up with formations.
“In this drill we have about nine different formations,” said Lawrence. “Once we have the formations, we put them in an order that makes sense to where you can get in the correct positions. After we figure out all the steps, we introduce some sequences, how we throw the weapon, and finally we put the whole thing together.”
According to Lawrence, the five week drill camp is the best team-building event throughout the year. One that is necessary for the team’s success.
“This gives us an opportunity to bond as a team because we really have to trust our teammates to spin a rifle in close proximity,” said Prophet.
The team uses an M-1 rifle when practicing and performing their routine for the year which could cause injury if they’re not careful.
“In the drill team you face injuries,” said Prophet. “I mean you’re spinning weapons and some of them sustain wrist injuries and shoulder injuries. We try our best to prevent those by resting, stretching, and simply by taking care of their bodies but minor injuries are inevitable in this duty. The only part worse than the injuries is seeing your Airmen that want to perform but can’t because of their injury. They really enjoy working beside their peers.”
Prophet adds that after five long, hard-working weeks, it is rewarding to perform the drill they came up with.
“My favorite part of camp is the camaraderie we build,” said Lawrence. “It’s just seeing people grow individually as drillers and seeing our team as a whole become more tight-knit.”