The Drill Pad

Air Force Drill Commands

Types of Commands

A drill command is an oral order. Most drill commands have two parts, the preparatory command and the command of execution. On this web site we capitalized and printed the first letter of preparatory command in boldface (Squadron), and we printed the command of execution in all caps and boldface (ATTENTION).

The preparatory command explains what the movement will be. Military Training Instructors often call this the thinking command. It allows the individual performing the drill movement to form a mental picture in their mind of the movement that is about to take place. When calling a unit to attention or halting a unit's march, the preparatory command includes the unit's designation. In the command Flight, HALT, the word Flight is the preparatory command. At the same time, it designates the unit.

The command of execution follows the preparatory command. The command of execution explains when the movement will be carried out. In Forward, MARCH, the command of execution is MARCH.

In certain commands, the preparatory command and the command of execution are combined, for example: FALL IN, AT EASE, and REST. These commands are given at a uniformly high pitch and a louder volume than that of a normal command of execution.

Supplementary commands are given when one unit of the element must execute a movement different from the other units or must execute the same movement at a different time. Two examples are CONTINUE THE MARCH and STAND FAST.
Informational commands have no preparatory command or command of execution, and they are not
supplementary. Two examples are PREPARE FOR INSPECTION and DISMISS THE SQUADRON.

General Rules for Commands: When giving commands, the leader is at the position of attention. Good military bearing is necessary for good leadership. While marching, the leader must be in step with the formation at all times.

The commander faces the troops when giving commands except when the element is part of a larger drill element or when the commander is relaying commands in a ceremony.

When a command requires a unit to execute a movement different from other units (or the same movement at a different time), the subordinate commander gives a supplementary command over the right shoulder. Supplementary commands are given between the element commander's preparatory command and command of execution. When the squadron commander's preparatory command is Squadron, the flight commander's preparatory command is Flight.

When flights of a squadron are to execute a movement in order, such as a column movement, the flight commander of A Flight repeats the squadron commander's preparatory command. The commanders of the other flights give a supplementary command, such as CONTINUE THE MARCH. When the squadron commander gives the command of execution, A Flight executes the movement; and, at the command of the appropriate flight commander, each of the following flights executes the movement at approximately the same location and in the same manner as A Flight.

Use the command AS YOU WERE to revoke a preparatory command. After the command of execution has been given and the movement has begun, give other appropriate commands to bring the element to the desired position. If a command is improperly given, the individuals execute the movement to the best of their ability.

When giving commands, flight commanders may add the letter of their flight to the command, such as A Flight, HALT or B Flight, Forward, MARCH. When commands are given to a squadron in which one flight stands fast or continues to march, the flight commander commands STAND FAST or CONTINUE THE MARCH, as appropriate.

The preparatory command and the command of execution are given as the heel of the foot corresponding to the direction of the movement strikes the ground.


Cadence is the measure or beat of movement. Commanders must match the rhythm of their commands with the cadence of their unit. The interval that produces the best effect in a movement is the one that allows one step between the preparatory command and the command of execution. In some instances, you should lengthen the interval enough to permit proper understanding of the
movement to be executed and allow for supplementary commands when necessary. Measure the interval exactly in the beat of the drill cadence. When marching, give commands for executing movements to the right when the right foot strikes the ground; give commands for executing movements to the left when the left foot strikes the ground. In commands containing two or more words, place the point of emphasis on the last word. For example, in Right Flank, give the command Flank as the right foot hits the ground.

For a squadron or larger unit, the interval between the squadron or group commanders preparatory command and the command of execution should be long enough to allow the marching elements to take three steps between commands.

Counting Cadence:
The instructor counts cadence to acquaint students with cadence rhythm. When trainees get out of step, the instructor either corrects them by counting cadence or halts the element and then moves them off in step. Counting cadence helps teach coordination and rhythm. Cadence is given in sets of two as follows: HUT, TOOP, THREEP, FOURP; HUT, TOOP, THREEP, FOURP. To help keep in step, unit members should keep the head up and watch the head and shoulders of the person directly in front of them.

The command for the element to count cadence is Count Cadence, COUNT. Give the command of execution as the left foot strikes the ground. The next time the left foot strikes the ground, the group counts cadence for eight steps, as follows: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR; ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR. Do not shout the counts. Give them sharply and clearly, and separate each number distinctly.

In counting cadence in the movement Right Step, the count of ONE is given on the right foot because the right foot is moved first.

Mass Commands:
Mass commands help develop confidence, self-reliance, assertiveness, and enthusiasm by making the individual recall, give, and execute the proper commands. Mass commands are usually confined to simple movements with short preparatory commands and commands of execution executed simultaneously by all elements of a unit.

Each person is required to give commands in unison with others as if that person alone were giving commands to the entire element. The volume of the combined voices encourages every person to perform the movement with snap and precision.

When the instructor wants to conduct drill by mass commands, the command is AT YOUR COMMAND. For each exercise and cadence drill, the instructor announces the movement to be executed and commands the element COMMAND. Personnel then give the commands and execute them in unison.

The following are examples of mass commands:
Instructor: AT YOUR COMMAND, Call the Flight to Attention, COMMAND.
Mass: Flight, ATTENTION.
Instructor: Have the Flight Stand at Parade Rest, COMMAND.
Mass: Parade, REST.
Instructor: March the Flight Forward, COMMAND.
Mass: Forward, MARCH.
Instructor: Halt the Flight, COMMAND.

When desiring to end mass commands, the instructor commands AT MY COMMAND.