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Formal Parades During Plebe Summer at the United States Naval Academy

parent's guide plebe summer Jul 13, 2017

With a formal parade tomorrow, I thought it would be helpful to both explain why we have parades and also break down what is actually happening during them.

The Importance of Parades

In the words of the United States Naval Academy, “Parades are a visual presentation of the military discipline, professionalism and teamwork necessary to succeed as a member of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and have been a part of Naval Academy training since its establishment in 1845.” 

Formal parades and parades in general recognize and provide a salute to the ‘Reviewing Party’, or a high ranking government or military officials. The Reviewing Party can be, but is not limited to, a government civilian (i.e. a senator) or a Flag Officer (a military officer with a rank of O7 or above, such as an Admiral or General). Click here for more information on officer ranks.


Nearly every night after dinner during the First Set of plebe summer, the plebes go out onto Worden Field (the large grass field across from Alumni Hall) and practice drill.

They will go through everything from individual skills like marching movements and the manual of arms, to full-on parade practices where they will do multiple run-throughs of the entire parade under the instruction of typically a USMC Gunnery Sergeant.  During my time as a detailer, we had the absolute honor and privilege to be taught by First Sergeant Abbott.

*Side Note: The Navy follows and uses the Marine Corps Drill Manual, therefore the video of the Marine Battalion performing the manual of arms is consistent with the manual of arms that is executed by the 4/C Regiment.*

The Marine Behind the Scenes   

One of the best things about the Academy is the caliber of Senior Enlisted Leaders (SELs) assigned to work with, mentor, and teach Midshipmen.  First Sergeant Abbott, USMC, who was Brigade Drill Master during my time is the best of the best, to put it simply. (To learn more about Marine Ranks, click here.)

In addition to being the 6th Company SEL, she also served as the Brigade Drill Master during the Academic year, meaning she was in charge of all formations, parades, and evolutions of military drill.  And just in case you were wondering if she is qualified to teach drill…Following combat deployments to Iraq, she reported to Drill Instructor School at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC where she graduated as the Iron Woman and began her tour as a Drill Instructor.  During her tour at Parris Island, she served as a Drill Instructor, Senior Drill Instructor, and Battalion Drill Master. She’s as good as it gets.  

The Marines on the Yard are the best!

If you remember what I wrote earlier, I am a firm believer in the power of a person’s attitude and effort.  Having worked with her for two years, I can’t express what an amazing person and leader First Sergeant Abbott is.  

She has a relentless work ethic and an infectious positive attitude at all times.  I am a far better man for having worked with her, and plebes had the opportunity to learn from her on a daily basis.  

When you watch your plebes in a parade and are amazed by how sharp they all look, just know that the Marine Corps Senior Enlisted Leader made everything possible.

How Parades Actually Work [An Overview]

Once the entire regiment has formed up in Tecumseh Court, the Regimental Commander will call them to attention. The Regimental Commander will then call “forward march” and will begin to march towards Worden Field.

Leading the march over is the Regimental staff, followed by the Port Battalion Staff, then Alpha Company, then Bravo Company, and so on. If you are still confused by the Plebe Summer Organization, refer back to my previous article or podcast. Each set of staff and each company will march exactly 10 paces behind the preceding unit.

Once they complete the march, and the Regiment is set on Worden field, the command “Fix Bayonets” will be called, and the Plebes will place their bayonets on their rifles.

There will then be a presentation of the colors (American flag, Brigade of Midshipmen flag, Navy flag, and the Marine Corps flag), where the color guard will “march on the colors” towards the center of the field, the national anthem will be played, and then they will “march off” back to their original position.  

After the presentation of the colors, the “sound off” command will initiate the Naval Academy Band’s performance as they march across the field and play a musical salute to the reviewing party.

The next major event in the parade will be the manual of arms, referenced earlier in this piece, as the 4/C Regiment will move their rifles in unison with great precision.

The Regimental Adjutant will then go out and yell “Report.”  The Port Battalion and Starboard Battalion commanders will report that their battalions are accounted for. The Regimental Adjutant will then report to the Regimental Commander to which the Regimental Commander will respond, “publish the order.”

The Regimental Adjutant will then begin to yell a long monologue ending in “Officers … Center … MARCH!”

In Officers Center, the company commanders will march towards the center of the field in tandem with the plebe company guide on (the plebe carrying the company blue and gold flag). Once aligned, all the commanders will march forwards and approach the Regimental Staff. Historically, Officers Center was the last chance for the commanding officer to address all subordinate commanders together and give words of advice before battles started.

After the completion of Officers Center and the Company Commanders have returned to their companies, there will be a gun salute (cannon shots) in honor of the reviewing party.  The number of cannon shots is representative of the rank of the senior member of the Reviewing Party.  

Following the Salute, the Regimental Commander will address the Reviewing Party and report that the parade is formed for review.  

In a final salute to the Reviewing Party, every company will “pass in review” and march past the Reviewing Party executing an “eyes right” maneuver before marching back to Bancroft Hall.


Now during the course of the parade, you may notice that there are people behind all the companies wearing their NWUs (Navy Working Uniforms, otherwise known as the blue or now green camouflage).  

Those brave detailers are what we affectionately refer to as “body snatchers.”  

The body snatchers are there to snatch the bodies of those midshipmen who faint during the parade and drag them to the shade to give them water and cool down their body temperature.  

There is an immense focus on proper hydration days leading up to the parades, and plebes are often reminded to “not lock out their knees.”  However, even with proper hydration and slightly flexed knees, standing still in the Maryland heat while carrying a rifle for an hour will cause a couple of people to require the services of the body snatchers, which will always lead to a funny story a couple of years down the road.

I hope this article has been helpful and will allow you to more greatly appreciate parades whenever you choose to watch them in the future.

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