The Drill Pad

Army Drill Commands



A drill command is an oral order of a commander or leader. The precision with which a movement is executed is affected by the manner in which the command is given.

The following rules for giving commands apply to the commander when the unit drills as a separate unit and not as part of a larger formation.

  • When at the halt, the commander faces the troops when giving commands. On commands that set the unit in motion (marching from one point to another), the commander moves simultaneously with the unit to maintain correct position within the formation.
  • When marching, the commander turns his head in the direction of the troops to give commands.
  • Exceptions to these rules occur during ceremonies.

When elements drill as part of a larger unit, the rules for supplementary commands apply.

The commander gives the command AS YOU WERE to revoke a preparatory command that he has given. The command AS YOU WERE must be given prior to the command of execution. The commander cannot cancel the command of execution with AS YOU WERE. If an improper command is not revoked, the personnel execute the movement in the best manner possible.

Two-Part Commands

Most drill commands have two parts: the preparatory command and the command of execution. Neither part is a command by itself, but the parts are termed commands to simplify instruction. The commands Ready, port, ARMS, and Ready, aim, FIRE, are considered to be two-part commands even though they contain two preparatory commands.

  • The preparatory command states the movement to be carried out and mentally prepares the soldier for its execution. In the command Forward, MARCH, the preparatory command is Forward.
  • The command of execution tells when the movement is to be carried out. In Forward, MARCH, the command of execution is MARCH.

To change direction of a unit when marching, the preparatory command and command of execution for each movement are given so they begin and end on the foot in the direction of the turn: Right flank, MARCH is given as the right foot strikes the marching surface, and Left flank, MARCH as the left foot strikes the marching surface. The interval between the preparatory command and the command of execution is normally one step or count.

Combined Commands

In some commands, the preparatory command and the command of execution are combined; for example, FALL IN, AT EASE, and REST. These commands are given without inflection and at a uniformly high pitch and loudness comparable to that for a normal command of execution.

Supplementary Commands

Supplementary commands are oral orders given by a subordinate leader that reinforce and complement a commander’s order. They ensure proper understanding and execution of a movement. They extend to the lowest subordinate leader exercising control over an element affected by the command as a separate element within the same formation.

A supplementary command may be a preparatory command, a portion of a preparatory command, or a two-part command. It is normally given between the preparatory command and the command of execution. However, when a command requires an element of a unit to execute a movement different from other elements within the same formation, or the same movement at a different time, subordinate leaders give their supplementary commands at the time prescribed by the procedures covering that particular movement. Example: The platoon is in column formation, and the platoon leader commands Column of twos from the left (pause), MARCH. The first and second squad leaders command Forward; the third and fourth squad leaders command STAND FAST. On the command of execution MARCH, the first and second squads march forward. At the appropriate time, the squad leader (third squad) nearest the moving element commands Column half left, MARCH (for both remaining squads). As the third and fourth squad leaders reach the line of march, they automatically execute a column half right and obtain normal distance behind the first and second squads.

A subordinate leader gives all supplementary commands over his right shoulder except when his command is based on the actions of an element on his left or when the subelement is to execute a column left (half left) or left flank. Giving commands over the left shoulder occurs when changing configuration or a formation, such as forming a file or a column of fours and re-forming.

NOTE: When in formation at present arms and the preparatory command Order of Order, Arms, is given, subordinate leaders terminate their salute before giving their supplementary command.

Supplementary commands are not given by a subordinate leader for the combined commands FALL IN, AT EASE, REST or for mass drill when his element forms as part of a massed formation. However, supplementary commands are given when forming a mass or when forming a column from a mass.

Except for commands while in mass formation, platoon leaders give supplementary commands following all preparatory commands of the commander. When the preparatory command is Company, the platoon leaders immediately come to attention and command Platoon. The company commander allows for all supplementary commands before giving the command of execution.

When no direction is given, the response is understood to be forward; when no rate of march is given, the response is quick time. Normally, when a direction or rate of march is included in the preparatory command, only the direction or rate of march is given as a supplementary command.

Mass Commands

Mass commands may be used to develop confidence and promote enthusiasm. (They are definitely effective in developing a command voice when instructing a leadership course.)

When the instructor wants the unit to use mass commands, he commands AT YOUR COMMAND. The instructor gives a preparatory command describing the movement to be performed; for example, face the platoon to the right. The command of execution is COMMAND. When the instructor says COMMAND, all personnel in the unit give the command Right, FACE, in unison, and simultaneously execute the movement.

To give mass commands while marching, the instructor gives the preparatory command for the movement and substitutes COMMAND for the command of execution MARCH; for example, Column right, COMMAND; Rear, COMMAND.

Mass commands for the execution of the manual of arms are given in the same manner as described in the first three paragraphs of this section.

When the instructor wants to stop mass commands, he commands AT MY COMMAND. The normal method of drilling is then resumed.


Directives are oral orders given by the commander that direct or cause a subordinate leader to take action.

The commander gives directives rather than commands when it is more appropriate for subordinate elements to execute a movement or perform a task as independent elements of the same formation.

Directives are given in sentence form and are normally prefixed by the terms HAVE YOUR UNITS or BRING YOUR UNITS. Example: HAVE YOUR UNITS OPEN RANKS AND STACK ARMS; BRING YOUR UNITS TO PRESENT ARMS.

TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR UNITS is the only directive on which a commander relinquishes his command and on which salutes are exchanged.