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Drill Is Life

As the bus pulls through the gates aboard Camp Foster, a faint sound of music plays over the speakers. Conversations echo throughout the bus as the Marines of the Silent Drill Platoon stand, swaying back and forth from the motion of the vehicle.


5/10/2010 By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough , Marine Barracks 8th & I

In the front of the bus, Lance Cpl. Oscar Franquez stares out the window. The expression on his face reveals the amount of dedication and concentration that lies within him. Franquez is part of the inspection team, and although its hours until the performance, he is already visualizing the drill sequence in his head.

He knows the routine must be flawless. The platoon is constantly in the spotlight, being praised and critiqued by everyone they encounter. For this reason, the Marines are meticulous when it comes to, well, being perfect. To them, they represent every Marine in the Corps, so perfection isn’t something to attempt, it’s expected.


For the Marines, travel is day after day. In just one week the Marines have already traveled 7,000 miles and stopped at multiple destinations, including the Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Although they have traveled far, it’s just the beginning. The Marines will travel another 8,000 miles over the next two weeks, making stops in Guam, Hawaii and California. Though the schedule is rigorous, the Marines understand the importance of it.

While on the road, Marines are always armed with the essentials: a BlackBerry, an IPod, a camera, headphones, and a good book. For them, these simple comforts keep them connected to their friends and families while on the road.

The platoon is a brotherhood. Each day they spend almost 12 hours a day together. Even the Marines who are married sometimes find themselves spending more time with the platoon then with their families.

Lance Cpl. Joshua Burke, the rifle inspector, is one of the few Marines in the platoon who is married. Before leaving for the West Coast tour, Burke and his wife had their first child, a baby girl. Being away from his family is tough, but his wife’s constant support allows him to focus on his mission.

"My wife is very supportive of my career," Burke said. "Sometimes traveling is tough; however, we just deal with it. We both understand the bigger picture of what I represent."


The SDP is the hallmark of the Corps. These Marines are depicted in commercials, posters, movies and magazines. They travel year round, spending most of the year touring the nation and abroad, demonstrating the discipline of the Marine Corps to both service members and civilians alike.

Although many people throughout the world have seen them perform, few people actual know how these Marines are selected to be part of the platoon.

Members of the SDP are hand selected from the School of Infantry by senior leadership from Marine Barracks Washington. For a Marine to be eligible to be part of the platoon, he must first and foremost be an infantryman. A Marine must also be between 6’0’-6’3" and meet other general requirements.

After Marines are selected and report to MBW, they will then be enrolled in Ceremonial Drill School (CDS), to learn the basics of ceremonial drill. Following CDS, and before becoming a member of the Silent Drill Platoon, the Marines must complete Silent Drill School, which is a painstaking four months of training.

According to the instructors, the school has one of the highest attrition rates in the Marine Corps. While in school, the Marines practice their precision drill routine, spending up to twelve hours daily perfecting each movement.

"Marines who become members of the Silent Drill Platoon are Marines who have earned it," said Cpl. Robert Dominguez, the drill master for SDP. "These Marines have endured the rigorous schooling and have proved they are capable of performing to the caliber that is expected from us."


The Silent Drill Platoon has become synonymous with the word Marine. The platoon understands that everyone who watches their performance will judge the Marine Corps by what they see. They take pride in this fact, knowing they remain committed to demonstrating the professionalism of our Corps.

"We get to carry on a tradition that was passed on to us," Franquez said. "We put our blood, sweat and tears into this because the Marines before us started a legacy of drill. It is our honor as members of the platoon to get to carry that legacy forward."