How The Cadets learn drill

Joe Roche joins The Cadets for a week

Joe Roche, a bulldoggish Army recruitment officer and 80s Cadet alum, arrived in Johnstown late last night (somewhere around 2:00 a.m.), but he was up in plenty of time for coffee before Stretch and Run this morning. Joe has been The Cadets’ beloved (though anxiously awaited) physical training instructor and visual staff member as often as he can come on tour for several years. He’s completely bald, very strong, and no matter how hot it is, he’s always wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt and athletic shorts. He’s also passionately into sports analogies and inspirational speeches, and he facilitates some of the most genuinely meaningful and memorable moments on tour every year.

But when it comes to the physical demands of this drum corps, Joe means business. He instituted a PT format in 2007 that has remained nearly unchanged since. After some stretching with Kendra, Joe led the corps in some stationary exercises this morning (anything from push-ups to crunches to high-knees) and a run/walk for about a mile and a half around the stadium track. On the last day of Joe’s week at Spring Training last year, The Cadets ran behind him for three and a half miles, but he does a good job of working them up to it and pushing them to a new limit each day.

After PT and some water, The Cadets continued learning drill to “Carol of the Bells Part Two” in their sections this morning. Joe stuck with the tubas for the most part.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the drill learning process here, notice that the corps learns drill without their horns/drums/equipment so that they can learn where to go without bludgeoning a fellow member with a rifle or dying at the bell of a tuba. They each carry a drill binder in their backpack at all times which contains every drill set in the show. Members are responsible for highlighting their coordinate, the members of their section, the college hashes and the 50 yardline on every page. Then they write their dot (coordinate), on the page so that it’s easy to see at a glance.

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Each Cadet must also wear their dot book to every rehearsal, which contains cheat sheets (quick references with only their dots) and a small, more detailed page for each set on which they write their coordinate, the number of counts to get there from the previous set, their foot placement, and a very rough sketch of the drill shape.

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Drill books and dot book pages take up a lot of time in the evenings at Spring Training, but they also really help the members learn their show well. Each section also has multiple dot book tests in which each member has to write down a certain set of dots (e.g., pages 20 to 34) from memory. When it comes to cleaning 200-plus pages of drill, each Cadet has to know their show down to the quarter-step.

I got Joe’s first impression of the full corps in ensemble tonight, and he was sincerely impressed. “Yeah guard!” he interrupted himself as he got distracted by the full flag line spinning practically perfectly together.

There’s much work to be done, of course, but as George told the corps in tonight’s Hop meeting, “You guys sound like a million bucks.”

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