Yokota's drill team - one of a kind
TOKYO, Japan -- In the Manhattan II Ballroom at the Tokyo American Club, seven Airmen in full service dress stood side-by-side. Each held a polished M1 Garand rifle in close proximity to their face, muzzles precisely alligned. Thus began a series of disciplined movements.
The Airmen were running through a final practice before their performance during the Independence Day Ceremony at the club, June 30. It was the inaugural event for the only honor guard drill team in the entire Pacific Air Force.
"We got in contact with some of the other honor guard teams around PACAF and none of them had a drill team," said Staff Sgt. David Eiler, lead trainer of the Yokota Air Base Honor Guard Drill Team. "We're hoping that this starts something and other bases form drill teams."
The team consists of Staff Sgt. David Eiler, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron; Senior Airman Simon Tarango, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron; Airman 1st Class Ronald Sloane, 374 LRS; Staff Sgt. Jarrod Leonard, 374 CES; Senior Airman Tiffany Jones, 374th Medical Operations Squadron; Airman 1st Class Virbon Frial, 374th Dental Squadron; and Senior Airman Ariful Haque, 374 CES.
The seven Airmen are from a variety of career fields, age groups, nationalities and ranks, but when they perform, none of that matters as they cohere a small, disciplined unit. The ability to work together as a team became crucial with the limited drill experience each individual initially had.
"Almost everyone started out with a clean slate," Eiler said. "No one really had any experience throwing rifles. I've had some experience and I'm glad that the other Airmen were willing to take my guidance and work with me."
Even the routine itself came together as a team effort. Members would come to Eiler with movements that they could use and he would help fit them in to a cohesive performance.
Just like learning to ride a bike or swim, you first learn the basics and then improve upon them, Eiler said.
"First we started out with learning to spin a rifle properly and how to move our body," Eiler said. "After that, we learned how to incorporate all the steps together and how to transition from one movement to the other. It took a while, we practiced for three months and a total of roughly 145 hours, but having the honor guard background really helped."
Following the drill team's performance, audience members weighed in with their approval.
"They're wonderful people and the performance was great," said Allan Smith. "They were very acrobatic and they did a fantastic job."