Annual US Army Twilight Tattoo
A "tattoo" is a military tradition traced from the early 17th century's 30 Years War. The sounding of the bugle signaled soldiers to close the tavern and return to their quarters. Someone would "tap to" the keg stoppers. Through the years, "tap to" evolved into "tattoo." Although "Tattoo" is sounded now, it is only in the spirit of military tradition.
Traditions are a part of each individual, group, and community. They enable us to recall the past, help us understand the present, and prepare us for the challenges of the future. Traditions and customs are particularly important to military organizations where morale, leadership, and caring for each other are important parts of our effectiveness.

The annual "Twilight Tattoo" features the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own." The U.S. Army Drill Team performs before the troops march onto the field. The reviewing official inspects the troops as they stand at attention, be it on the Ellipse, at the Jefferson Memorial, or on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

As we recall history by sounding the "Tattoo," we trace our American history through the history of her army. Campaign streamers from each war we participated in are attached to the U.S. Army flag by soldiers in period uniforms. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the troops pass in review.

The solemnity and beauty of the annual "Twilight Tattoo" reminds all present of the many traditions of our country and of the sacrifices made by thousands of men and women in our armed forces.
Organized to support The Old Guard's ceremonial commitments, the Drill Team has thrilled millions of youngsters and proud Americans for more than 25 years with their daring and complex performances. When not performing for the President or visiting dignitaries and heads of state, the Drill Team travels extensively supporting Army recruitment, acting as "good-will ambassadors" for the Army and participating in major military and civic functions.

The soldiers are selected for this elite team after six months of rigorous and competitive drill practice. Trim military bearing, strength and dexterity are mandatory for qualification to the Drill Team. For those selected for the team, the rigors of training never stop.

To execute their complicated routines as close to perfection as possible, the team practices constantly.

The Drill Team performs a variety of intricate maneuvers that have extremely high risk factors. One such maneuver is dubbed the "daring front-to-rear overhead rifle toss,' and it is deserving of such a glorified title. During this dangerous routine, four members of the Drill Team alternately toss their spinning, 10-pound rifles from the front rank to the back, often as high as 15 feet into the air and 12 feet to the rear. Then four soldiers in the back rank catch the revolving weapons one-handed in a true demonstration of courage and concentration. In most cases, revolution of the rifle ends as the bayonet arcs just past the soldier's right ear.

Other noted drill sequences in the Drill Team repertoire include the manual of arms in unison and the Queen Anne Salute - a favorite of audiences young and old.

Also, there is a specialty drill during which the drill master stands in the center of the formation surrounded by four soldiers who toss their bayonet-tipped weapons above and around his head.

Marching cadence of the drill team is 90 steps per minute, considerably faster than regulations march tempo.

Timing must be letter perfect, as all routines are performed without vocal cadence or musical cues. Only the team's superb discipline enables its members to continuously challenge fate, and win.
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