National High School
Drill Team

SOP Updates/Clarifications Page

Below are the Event Update/Clarifications that have been implemented into the coming NHSDTC since the initial posting of all event materials. These items listed below are found in inverse chronological order to their date of implementation. All schools are encouraged to download and prepare for these changes in advance.


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#1 - 7 September 2022: Initial Website Set-up
SOP Updates site established - Score sheets Posted - SOPs Posted
These are used by so many teams, we post this first. Floor layouts will come in the ensuing weeks
PLEASE read the SOPs carefully to best prepare your school. Involve your cadets in reading them!
School Entry site will be open in a few weeks, along with posting of the floor layouts and other items
Good Luck to all Teams!

#2 - 09 September 2022: MAJOR CHANGES for 2023
Several major changes have been instituted. It is more imperative than ever for instructors and cadets to READ THE SOP and SCORE SHEETS CAREFULLY! Much off-line conversation has been made of the one change/addition to the ARMED REGULATION drill card of Change Step while Marking Time. As an all-Service meet, there are MANY instances where cadets are asked to perform drill items not specified within THEIR SPECIFIC manual. No service has been asked to do MORE than the Marine Corps. The USMC JROTC has thrown their regulation card away and will be using the NHSDTC card in near entirety (NOTE:The Air Force Open Nationals and the Army Nationals WILL NOT maintain this command as this is a single-service event, all commands will conform to ONE REGULATION MANUAL)

For those looking for the correct execution of change step while marking time, I have included the written regulation from the Marine Corps Order BELOW that will be the standard used for SNI judges. It is very simple and should take little time for cadets to pick this up. In the coming weeks, I will also include a CHANGE STEP VIDEO HERE to better bring the words to life for those still unclear:

From the Marine Corps Order 5060.20:
"To Execute Change Step (2. While Marking Time): While marking time you receive the command, CHANGE STEP, MARCH. The command of execution will be given as the right foot strikes the deck. CHANGE STEP, MARCH (Step) (NOTE: "Prepatory Command" can be called on EITHER foot so "Army" commands or more typical Marine patter will work). At the command of execution MARCH, your next steps will be two more two-inch vertical steps in place with your left foot (Step, Step). You will then continue taking alternating steps in place, beginning with your right foot to continue to Mark Time. Swing your arms to conform with the change in step, and continue to mark time until given another command."

#3 - 10 September 2022: A 30" Step is Problematic - BUT We Do Want a "FULL STEP"
The military manuals are written for grown men. All establish a 30" step. AF JROTC realized this and went to a 24" step. We will be entrusting the judges to look for cadets to take a "FULL STEP" from cadets where a 30" step is required. Teams should closely review their use of a full step as those who deviate from this will be marked down by the judges. Judges have been using this method for years knowing 30" steps were impossible for many smaller people especially from the halt - this rule simply makes it obvious what was happening all along.

#4 - 10 September 2022: Color Guard Organizational Color MISTAKE in the original SOP
Several schools used POW/MIA Flag and other non-standard organizational color choices in the past. To limit this, the direct we received originally was invalid. This has been corrected. IN 2023 and beyond, SNI will require all schools utilize their: STATE FLAG or SCHOOL JROTC FLAG. Any of these choices are fine. Additionally no direction from the meet will be given to schools on their choice of pole-ending finial. Those services where the manual is very specific on what shape and type finial is to be used, judges will likely expect the manual to be followed. Consciously or unconsciously, this is something we know judges look for.

#5 - 26 September 2022: Largely Cosmetic Changes to the Armed & Unarmed Reg Score Sheet
Title on Judge ONE was changed to reflect Platoon/Flight Sequence and the Close & Extend March Command (done by the Marines was worded with Close Interval March & Normal Interval March to be in the non-Marine Verbiage. Forward March (if your service requires it) is listed as well.

#6 - 28 October 2022: Minor Change - Armed Regulation Sequence
Because in Command #41 we have placed cadets at "SHOULDER ARMS", in Command 44a) will keep the BOLDED, PAUSED, unscored command PLATOON (or Flight) HALT. After the required 5-second-pause, the next command will be "Order Arms" (without any pause to give command #45 so the cadets may properly execute the facing movement coming soon after). Most teams would have done this without further instruction BUT for uniformity, this has been implemented on the sheet.

#7 - 8 February 2023: Flag Size and Imparting General Wisdom - Color Guard Sequence
Currently, the SOP states a 3' x 5' flag is required. It also made mention of fringe, etc. This was a mistake and was NOT to be placed in the SOP this year. HOWEVER I WILL GO ON RECORD AS SAYING THIS. Many units are utilizing the flag, staff and finial required by their service manual. Despite what we ALLOW teams to use, SOME JUDGES are definitely seeing this, noting the degree of difficulty this takes, and scores are reflecting this. People with all flag, pole and fringe combinations are still doing quite well, but teams need to be aware that: 1) this is happening and 2) in the next 3-5 years, it is LIKELY the SOP will move to be in line with the service manuals. There will be at least a one-year notice before we make such a change, but it is going to happen. But for now in 2023, the smaller 3'x4' flags, aluminum staffs and unguided finials are allowed in all levels. Therefore, teams are NOT REQUIRED to buy any new equipment.

#8 - 21 February 2023: Change Step & Mark Time Made Service Specific on both Armed & Unarmed Reg Sheets
The Commands on BOTH the Armed & Unarmed Regulation Sheets included the provision for teams to execute the movement Change Step from Mark Time. While understanding this movement is NOT prescribed within the Army TC, this competition requires Marine Corps and Navy teams to undertake MANY movements not maintained within their service manual. It was felt as a true all-service competition, this one small area could easily be learned by Army units. However, despite the relative EASE with which this movement is executed, SNI has relented and made the change to allow Army teams to switch these commands to execute "Change Step, March" while on the move, THEN give the command, "Mark Time, March". NOTE: Hold your execution of Mark Time, March for five full seconds to allow the judge a good look at your execution.

#9 - 1 March 2023: Utilization of non-standard drill gear - gaining permission for same
The NHSDTC attempts in many cases to do something very difficult - provide a safe and exciting drill competition that maintains a balance between the service differences that allow judges to fairly and impartially evaluate drill within a set of rules that provide a somewhat even playing field between teams. This is not a measurable concept and it requires much judgment and educated guesswork. Reviewing scoresheets and final finishes by gender and service, time of day competing, service of the judge, speaking with other meet organizers and service heads, comparing scores and event aspects for service bias, regional bias and other issues to attempt to formulate a complete set of rules and standards that give all schools the most even shake possible within a completely uneven drill world. Generally, we believe looking at the teams that have done well at the NHSDTC, we believe that we have done that in most all regards. New items and concepts come forward and hard decisions have to be made. We learn from these and always keep an very open mind going forward.

SNI is very adamant about all schools looking for a ruling on items NOT clarified within the SOP to contact SNI well in advance. Advances and innovations in rifles and other gear, uniforms, footwear, performance aids and of course the thousands of clarifications to existing rules (i.e., can we pull out a flag or play a bugle in exhibition drill? Can we coin a judge for report out? Can we put lights on our rifles? Can every cadet bring in TWO rifles for armed exhibition? etc etc etc. When you call, make sure you fully and completely detail what you are trying to do. Even better, send an email because that reply email is your permission slip or rejection letter as it were.

So far this year, we have been asked about these listed above and more. Lighted rifles (declined), lighted shoulder patches on uniforms (declined), THROWING sabers for armed exhibition and use of bayonets in team exhibition (BOTH already covered in the SOP - declined). All of these are judgment calls on items NOT maintained within the SOP (lights will be added to the official banned items of the SOP going forward).

One other item we were approached with in later January was a velcro sling primarily for color guard. This I could not make a call on as I could see pluses and minuses and did not have enough information and really wanted input. The sling manufacturer kindly sent me a sample and I was HIGHLY impressed. He also told me about the sling, how long it had been "public", etc. I can actually see JROTC service heads moving forward in the coming years to use these as they seem far more durable and far less expensive to use within JROTC drill (no brass getting scratched up, etc.). I approached several people who I consider EXPERTS in color guard and many had never heard of this item. We also approached the four service heads wanting to at least make sure they knew these were on the horizon. Also needed to get their feedback on their use for their own service championships in the fast-approaching March and April timeframe in just a few weeks in several cases. Navy JROTC HQ was no immediately as it does not meet their current rules. They also felt it was FAR to close to their competition date to make such a dramatic change for the few schools forunate enough to know about these. USACC also felt the difference between the velcro sling and the traditional "buckle adjust" sling gave too much advantage to the velcro sling making a comparison by a judge unfair. Air Force JROTC took a week and they did their own fact checking finally coming back with a no because the difference was too dramatic and it eliminated much of the points of failure teams often lose points within color guard. Couldn't very well compete them against each other. The Marine Corps JROTC had a rules committee meeting the following week for their championships and two weeks later, we learned they approved the sling for their meet and they are even distributing some to schools under their umbrella.

Bottom line, after weighing and considering many factors and gaining much input, the velcro sling is a non-standard piece of equipment not commonly known about in the greater drill community as of yet. Using this sling without question gives the user a large advantage within the movements sling and unsling arms versus a traditional and provided brass adjusting sling. Because of these factors, it was decided teams may NOT utilize this for competition drill at the 2023 Nationals. A 30" step is required by AF units competing here. Navy & Marine teams uncase colors, and Army teams, while making up the vast bulk of the drill units across the nation, Have aspects of color guard and inspection that go against their manuals. Marines have amazingly impressive uniforms and Air Force JROTC...well, yes, um....So many variables but teams compete with distinction and a wide trophy variety seems to be the rule, not the exception.

Again, two items to take away from this: 1) If you plan to utilize a piece of non-standard gear in competition drill, check with the meet director in advance to ensure they will allow it (note: much like lights on a rifle, etc. Just because something is NOT referenced in the rules directly does not mean it is allowed, it simply means it is not addressed as of yet. And you do NOT want that to be addressed just before use on-site! 2) Know that every rule is reviewed annually. As this sling becomes more widely distributed and its user base becomes more diverse, it is entirely possible like ANY rule it may change in the future.

#10 - 03 March 2023: Minor Change - AFMAN 36-2203 has been replaced
For the few people that have not been made aware, PAMPHLET 34-1203 - dated 13 SEPTEMBER 2022 is the current unarmed drill & ceremony manual for both the U.S. Air Force and the Space Force. Armed Drill (the parts involving rifle manipulation) are still government by the Army Manual TC 3-21.5 - dated May 2021. Downloads are available on our service manual section to the new Phamplet.

#11 - 11 March 2023: Change Step & Mark Time Made Service Specific - Army AND AIR FORCE
The Commands on BOTH the Armed & Unarmed Regulation Sheets SNI made the change to allow Army teams to switch these commands to execute "Change Step, March" while on the move, THEN give the command, "Mark Time, March". This should have stated Army OR AIR FORCE TEAMS may follow their manual and execute Change Step, then give Mark Time.

As the event draws near, no further SOP updates/clarifications will be allowed on this site for the upcoming Nationals. NO NEED TO CHECK HERE FURTHER - THIS IS IT! Any other minor issues will be discussed at Event Registration before the competition begins.

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