Week 2 – Pennant Test (Part 1 of 3)
TD8 – TD12
As I recall Week 2 is when we started to settle into the rhythm of what I considered would be normal OTS. I don’t think I had much time to do my own thing on Sunday because we had drill practice and dorm standards on the schedule in the afternoon. I spent my religious time in the morning in my dorm room by streaming the church service from my church back home on Livestream. Church during those first few weeks was crucial in keeping me grounded on reality and maintaining my mental sanity.
Going into the previous weekend we knew our pennant test would be Monday morning. Throughout OTS the schedule for the following week was usually available by the end of the previous week. The course director would upload the schedule to blackboard so you could log in and download it at your leisure. During my normal life I am a planner and usually keep close mental track of the next few weeks, but during OTS I wasn’t able to think farther ahead than a few days. It was great for me to have the schedule in the back of my mind but I always had something else taking up my immediate attention.
The pennant is the flag portion on the guidon. The guidon is the flagpole (staff with pennant) which the Guidon Bearer for the flight carries in the front of the flight when they march. Flights who march around with the staff and no pennant are not allowed to march without OTS staff escort. The pennant is essentially a driver’s license which tells the staff your flight knows what it is doing and can march itself safely without discrediting military discipline and tradition. The pennant test is how you earn your pennant at OTS.
A picture of two Guidon Bearers holding their guidon which includes the pennant:
The pennant test is graded by the MTIs. Your flight will select someone in your flight to march you around the drill pad and at the end you will either pass or fail. The results will be released during the pennant award ceremony which immediately followed the tests. If you pass, your flight will march itself to wherever it needs to go for the remainder of the course. If you fail, your MTI will schedule a time to re-accomplish the pennant test to give you another opportunity. The staff wants you to pass your pennant test because they will no longer have to babysit you, so they have a vested interest in ensuring you know what you need to know to pass.
The test has a time limit and physical boundaries on the drill pad. The MTIs set up a few cones to mark the boundary but I think we would all have preferred a lot more cones. The person in charge of marching your flight around is called the Flight Leader (FL). The FL is given a card with different commands which they must accomplish within the time limit of the test. The FL may have to add different commands between commands on the card to ensure they are all covered and you don’t bust the boundary. For example, if the card lists a column right then a column left the FL may need to do two column rights before the column left so they don’t march through the boundary.
The MTIs graded both the FL and the individuals in the Flight. The individuals in the flight were supposed to carry out the commands correctly which involved executing on the correct foot, keeping hands cupped, etc. There were also individual drill commands on the card such as left face, about face, etc. Everything was graded so if an individual didn’t do something correctly points were lost. The FL was graded by their ability to maintain control of the flight. A big part of this was catching and calling out individuals if they didn’t do something correctly. If the FL called a right face command and everyone executed but someone then adjusted to correct their feet, the FL would have lost a point for losing control of the flight and the individual would have lost a point for adjusting. If the FL called an about face and two people don’t pin their hands but the FL doesn’t catch it, two FL would have lost points and the two people would also have lost points. I can’t remember exactly how the grading worked but I think every three mistakes by the flight counted as one point and every one mistake by the FL counted as one point. This weighted scoring helped because early in training a lot of people still made a lot of drill mistakes. So basically as long as the FL generally knew what to do and didn’t march the flight through the boundary they were good to go.
For the award ceremony all flights were told to line up on a line on the pad. The MTIs called out the flight numbers for the flights who passed their pennant test and the Flight Commander attached the pennant. My flight passed our pennant test and this was one of my proudest moments of OTS. I wasn’t even the FL but when they called our flight number I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride. Looking back most of the emotion was probably due to the stress of TFIT and knowing we finally accomplished something good instead of getting yelled at all day long. But regardless, the thoughts going through my mind were that we were faced with an obstacle and we came together and overcame the challenge. Out of 16 flights I think four or five failed their pennant test. Most failed for marching across the boundary but I am not sure about the others. Most of the flights who failed re-tested within a few days and passed. A few flights had their pennant taken away for messing up drill badly, but they earned it back a few days later. The bottom line is you want a pennant and you don’t want to have it taken away because it is embarrassing.