'Rhetoric . . . is not a set of techniques to impress (oratory, eloquence), nor a means of manipulating the will and emotions of others (sophistry, advertising), but rather a way of liberating the freedom of others by showing them the truth in a form they can understand.’
- Stratford Caldecott
Ian and I were 14 year olds in our Air Force cadets Flight Drill Squad that competed in the inaugural Squadron Drill Competition.
Our 17 year old Cadet Flight Sergeant didn't know how to execute the drill movements in the sequence that we were to be judged on. Correct drill was whatever his drill instructor had taught him. So he carried on the tradition and made them up.
We came second.
The next year Ian convinced the Flight Commander to allow him to lead the Squad despite just being promoted to Cadet Corporal. 'I promise you we will win, Sir,' the 15 year old told our forty-something Flight Commander. 'I've got a plan.'
Ian found a forgotten copy of the AAP 5135.001 Manual of Drill and Ceremonial, cracked open the spine and studied every drill movement until he knew each command, cadence, timing, foot height, toe angle and the two-three pauses in between by rote.
He then made us copies to study and learn for ourselves.
Our squad of teenagers spent hours and hours practising responding to Ian's commands.
We spent hours and hours practising without his commands.
We won the next two years' competitions. Second the third year. And won the year after that.
(The year we ran second it was to a team led by an ex-cadet from our squad who Ian had trained.)
Cadets Ian had led or who had been trained by ones he'd trained led winning squads from other Flights over the next few years.
Ian taught me to go to primary sources of information.
I took for granted that good leaders are teachers who aren't afraid of their students knowing as much or more than they do.
I haven't had a need to execute a right form from the halt, to the halt at all since then.
I sometimes wonder if should have practised piano for all those hours.