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"Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue"

Photo courtesy of NationalWW2Museum.org.

"By their victory, the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions and other units of the Fifth Amphibious Corps have made an accounting to their country which only history will be able to value fully. Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue." Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

This week marks the anniversary of the land invasion of Iwo Jima. This small island, only eight square miles large, would become the sight of the most intensive shelling of any island during World War II. For perspective on the size of eight square miles, the Great Salt Lake in Utah is 2,100 square miles, the entire state of Rhode Island is 1,214 square miles and even the tiny island of Manhattan is 33.77 square miles. So Iwo Jima is a quarter of the size of Manhattan.

However, this tiny island was the key to the war in the Pacific. For the Japanese it was the last protection before Okinawa and for the Americans it was a greatly needed landing spot close to Japan. Both countries had to have the island.

According to the Navy Library, the initial assault began with the bombings in June of 1944 with the invasion occurring on February 19, 1945. "As with most of the fighting on Iwo Jima, frontal assault was the method used to gain each inch of ground. The 36-day assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. Of the 20,000 Japanese defenders, only 1,083 survived. The Marines' efforts, however, provided a vital link in the U.S. chain of bomber bases. By war's end, 2,400 B-29 bombers carrying 27,000 crewmen made unscheduled landings on the island."

A total of twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and sailors, many posthumously, more than were awarded for any other single operation during the war.

The Face of Iwo Jima

Many of us have been honored to see the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C. For those who haven't, the iconic Pulitzer Prize winning picture by Joe Rosenthal, has been seen by all. The 28th Regiment of the 5th Marine Division was ordered to capture Mount Suribachi and on February 21, 1945, two days after the assault on Iwo Jima began, they reached the base of the mountain. According to the website honoring the men who raised the flag,

"On the morning of February 23, Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, started the tortuous climb up the rough terrain to the top. At about 10:30 am men all over the island were thrilled by the sight of a small American flag flying from atop Mount Suribachi. That afternoon, when the slopes were clear of enemy resistance, a second, larger flag was raised by five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman: Sgt Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon H. Block, Pfc. Franklin R. Sousley, Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, and PhM. 2/c John H. Bradley, USN."

The website has interesting biographical sketches of the men raising the flag. They are wonderful representatives of America including a Czech immigrant from Pennsylvania, a Pima Native American from Arizona who had seldom been off his reservation before joining the Marines, a farm boy from Kentucky, a high school football star from a small town in Texas, and two men who would return to their hometowns and live long lives, one from Manchester, New Hampshire and the other from Antigo, Wisconsin. Two of the men raising the flag were dead within a week and a third died in late March 1945 before Iwo Jima was completely secure.

The Antigo Daily Journal memorialized Bradley on January 11, 1994 at the time of his death:

"John Bradley will be forever memorialized for a few moments action at the top of a remote Pacific mountain. We prefer to remember him for his life. If the famous flag-raising at Iwo Jima symbolized American patriotism and valor, Bradley's quiet, modest nature and philanthropic efforts shine as an example of the best of small town American."

Competitive Drill: How to Build a Routine

I've been familiar with the top-level National's teams for a long time now, but I've spent a proportionally insignificant time looking at the "bad" teams. It's always been said that you can learn more from a routine that's bad than you can from a routine that's excellent, and I do believe this to be true. Recently, I've begun to coach a team, and so I've spent a bit of time thinking about how to build a routine.

1. Avoid Solo Tricks. Solo moves are great for soloists. They're difficult, they're interesting, and they're fun. But the problem lies in their inconsistency. Slight inconsistency is okay for soloists, as recovery can mask your mistakes, but in a team of twelve people, a good recovery is nearly impossible. Keep your moves simple, well-defined, and sharp for the best results.

2. Avoid Flow Tricks. This falls in the same line as avoiding solo tricks, but it needs to be stressed on its own. Flow is a very personal experience, and is conveyed poorly within teams. It's hard enough to structure a routine with single spins, but adding in flow tricks, like the Rising Sun, adds a new dimension of consistent speed within motion - a very difficult thing for even a professional level tandem to accomplish. On the flip side of this coin, power moves and low-level aerials are great for your routine. Getting a consistent stop motion is much easier, and will be viewed as much more impressive.

3. Footwork is Important. Forget tricks - I've always fallen for teams that have wonderful footwork and amazing formations. Marching between ranks, structured split-offs, and cool facing movements, these are a few of my favorite things. Take a moment to forgo the tricks and focus on how you're moving around the box. This will open up a lot of avenues for you to stand out.

4. Keep It Simple...For Now. Don't create one routine - create three. Start with the bones - the hardened structure of the routine. This is very footwork oriented - how do you get around the marching deck. This first routine should include single spins, easy exchanges, and mostly marching. Your second routine is the muscle - add doubles and aerials. Add continuous single spins. Add more advanced marching components. Make it slightly more difficult. The third routine you're going to make is the skin of your routine. Polish it all up - your goal is to make it look so easy that someone else can do it. The skin is to cover up the muscle - everyone knows the muscle is there, but it's hidden behind smooth skin. Focus on your transitions - everything should flow naturally.

Adam Jeup has been an active driller for 10 years and has competed at IWDC. He owns and operates Independent Drill, a learning resource for drillers of all skill levels. Adam is a regular contributor to the Bugler. Stay tuned for his exclusive articles on competitive drill!

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