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'Commandant's Own' to perform in Yuma
The syncopated rhythms of a precision marching drum line called out perfect cadence as the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Silent Drill Platoon and the Official Color Guard marched onto the field at MCAS Yuma in perfect precision Saturday.
These three entirely unique units were featured during the U.S. Marine Corps 2009 Battle Color Detachment Ceremony.
To see their free show live and in action, the three units will be on the football field at Kofa High School on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The show lasts 45-50 minutes.
"This ceremony celebrates the pride, professionalism and esprit de corps that are hallmarks of the United States Marines," said Sgt. John Parry.
"They represent all Marines around the globe who embody our Corps' values of honor, courage and commitment."
The Drum and Bugle Corps were the first on the field to demonstrate their skills, which have been honed by many hours of unceasing drill.
"Celebrating 75 years of service to our Corps and country," said Parry, "the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps continues its tradition of showcasing the finest musical and marching excellence of Marines. Officially known as The Commandant's Own, these Marines represent the Marine Corps throughout the United States and abroad."
The Drum and Bugle Corps plays at various civilian and military functions throughout the year, which means they spend a lot of time on the road.
"Traveling in excess of 50,000 miles, this unit performs for thousands of spectators in more than 500 ceremonies annually," said Parry. "They have the distinction of being the only drum and bugle corps currently serving in our armed forces."
Even though it requires very specialized talents, drum major of nine years Mark Miller said, anyone with enough drive can get into the Commandant's Own.
"It is difficult but attainable to get into the band," he said. "We are always interested in new musicians. People can audition before they join the Corps, or after they have already enlisted.
"Our mission is to motivate, entertain and inspire; and we love what we do. We are not better than any other Marine."
After the final notes of a rousing rendition of "Stars and Stripes Forever," it was time for the Silent Drill Platoon to take the field.
"These Marines represent over six decades of marching and rifle drill precision," said Parry. "This is a legacy of honor, commitment and discipline.
"Premiering at the Marine barracks during the Sunset Parades of 1948, these Marines perform for hundreds of thousands of spectators throughout our nation and abroad each year. In addition, they represent the Marine Corps at numerous ceremonies in the national capital area; honoring visiting dignitaries and heads of state.
"The platoon executes its drill sequence without verbal cadence or commands. This came about because the Marines could not hear commands over crowd noise.
"The 10-1/2-pound M-1 rifles they carry, with fixed bayonets, are the standard for all Marine barracks ceremonial platoons and are fully operational."
The honor of serving in the Silent Platoon is one that takes great dedication and discipline.
"Out of 93 students in Silent Drill School, 16 made it," said Gunnery Sgt. Reginald J. Bradford. "We have 39 in the platoon, but only 24 march in ceremonies.
"We practice every day for about 10 hours. In Washington, D.C., which is where we are stationed, we get two days off. But since we came to Yuma, we have been practicing seven days a week."
Even with an extreme amount of practice, with all of that sharpened cutlery flying around, the platoon members must constantly keep on their toes.
"We drill so much that we do our best," said Bradford. "But sometimes we do get cut."
After the harrowing close-quarter bayonet thrusting and rifle spinning was completed, both the Silent Platoon and the Drum and Bugle Corps stood at attention as the Color Guard of the Marine Corps was serenaded with the national anthem.
"The Marine Corps Color Guard is unique," said Parry. "In addition to the national flag, carried by the color sergeant of the Marine Corps Corey Wunderlich, it includes the official battle color of the Marine Corps.
"The 54 streamers and silver bands displayed with the battle color commemorate the military campaigns during which Marines have participated.
"They span the life history of our nation, from the Revolutionary War to the present. Decorated with palms, oak leaf, cluster and stars; they represent more than 400 awards and campaigns of the United States Marines."
"We do all presidential functions, like the inauguration," said Wunderlich. "We are all infantry Marines, and this is an extreme honor. There is no other unit that has the absolute privilege of carrying these colors."
Tuesday's performance will feature musical favorites as "Stars and Stripes Forever," "Olympic Spirit," which was written by composer John Williams for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea; and "Another Opening, Another Show" from the musical "Kiss Me Kate."
The detachment will also perform "Birth of the Drum Corps," which was written by the detachment's director in honor of its 75th anniversary.