Close Order Drill.com

Women's Select Rifle Drill Team
Memories of my experience

By Siri Atma Kaur Khalsa

My transformation from me to we at
Khalsa Women's Training Camp 1978
(KWTC is now 3HO Women's Camp)

Siri Atma Kaur Khalsa


If you cannot walk together, you
cannot work together. Yogi Bhajan

Those who shall not learn to obey shall never
be in a position to command. Yogi Bhajan

A woman who is not a leader is a miserable person…
A leader has three things. First thing, leader has to sacrifice;
second thing, leader has to stand alone; and third, leader has to
lead. And leader has to lead by example, by action and by word.
A leader is one who can stand on the top of the ladder and can
stay balanced and alone. So basically, if you do not want to be
the leaders, and you do not want to lead the home, lead the
family, lead your environments, with grace, with courage and
intelligence, you will have nothing in your life... Yogi Bhajan

The Synergistic Equation: 1 plus 1 equals 11.
When this equation is applied, the 'me' perspective
morphs into the universal 'we' condition. The result is
that every effort happens exponentially for the common
good, i.e., teamwork within the group trumps working alone.


From the very first day of training to the final march on the graduation parade deck,
every recruit practices Close Order Drill, the precise method of marching in formation.
Though no longer used to align combat formations on the battlefield, Close Order Drill
still has several practical purposes today. In addition to providing a standard, orderly
manner for unit movements, it also teaches discipline, instills habits of precision and
automatic response to orders, and ensures new team and squad leaders become
accustomed to issuing proper commands assertively. Marines have always been
known for their flawless execution of drill and their exemplary leadership skills.
U.S. Marine Corps Manual

My Transformation

I take my place an arm’s length distance from each lady on both sides of me. We are to line up by height and I think I should be before Prem Siri Kaur but her turban is such a smokestack it makes her about an inch taller than me. I am twelve years old.

“Eyes, right!” The drillmaster calls.

We snap our heads to the right, adjusting ourselves ever so slightly so the only thing I see is my own shoulder and the next person’s body at firm attention.

“Attention!” He calls.

We snap back, arms down and eyes front. Today we are starting the Select Rifle Drill Team. Only fifteen ladies from the whole camp will work with Hari Singh for hours each day, learning tight maneuvers and fancy steps, how to follow orders on the clip, turn on a dime, and handle those beautiful white parade rifles. Every morning after Sadhana, for the first week of camp, all the ladies march in formation to the call of Hari Singh’s cadence. The Siri Singh Sahib, aka Yogi Bhajan, says we should master this marching ("If you cannot walk together, you cannot work together.") to get our minds disciplined and clear so we can follow orders precisely, without hesitation. Most of the ladies hate it. I hear them groan and moan about the forced marches, sometimes at double time, up Shady Lane and down the dirt road from the ashram, over the dead frogs squashed by the tractor and through clouds of red dust. Yesterday, somebody even fainted while we were all standing in formation. I guess they think it’s hard - either the physical exertion, or the mental focus. It’s clear they don’t like being ordered around, by “that man”, no less. Hari Singh is the only man allowed in camp, other than the Siri Singh Sahib, that is. Maybe that’s why they don’t like it, because they have to take orders from a man during these sacred, women-only weeks.

Yogi Bhajan                      Siri Atma Kaur                         Hari Singh  

I love it! I’ve finally found something in which I can excel at this camp. I’m good at precision, and I even like the discipline. If I know what I’m supposed to do I have no problem focusing and following through. I’m kind of scared of Hari Singh, but it makes me want to do my best. It feels so great to know that I’m looking good with my Khalsa sisters, so beautiful in our white bana, standing tall like soldier saints. Marching all together, even though we are fifteen, it sounds like just one pair of feet. I even like that it’s hard. I revel that I can do this; that I can push through the heat, the sweat, the exhaustion, and the challenge. I can coordinate the difficult moves, too -- even with the rifles. My favorite is “With a Twirl, Left Shoulder, Right Shoulder, Aarms!" And, "Preessent, Aarms!” It took so many tries for all of us to get that move together but when we did, wow, it felt so great, like we were all part of one intricate machine, a Swiss timepiece, with each part moving exactly together. (See Photos). We knew we looked good. We were proud. (See US Marine Corps Drill Team.)

Every day, the Select Rifle Drill Team, those fifteen of us that got to use the parade rifles, worked with Hari Singh for an additional two hours. Usually it is during the morning classes. I don’t mind missing gurmukhi class - I can already sound out the phonetic script. I don’t really get much out of the discussion groups with the other ladies either, they are always talking about how their husband does this, or their husband does that. I don’t have a husband yet, and thank God, won’t for a very long time. So I march. One day, Hari Singh has us marching up and down Shady Lane, even though it was the middle of the day, (not early morning after Sadhana, when there aren’t any cars). He orders me to stand guard, at attention, blocking the road so no cars can come by. The team is marching up and down the street moving to the complicated drill calls. Another lady is stationed at the far rear to block any traffic from the other direction.

I am incredibly nervous. “What if a car comes and wants to get through?” I think. “These Espanola people won’t put up with this. We’re blocking traffic. We should get out of the street.”

But my commander has given me an order and I have to stay firm. In parade stance, with my feet firmly planted, shoulder width apart I hold the rifle with both hands diagonally across my chest. I look straight ahead, focused on the horizon, down the street towards the intersection with the highway. Soon, a car turns our way. It is a purple low-rider, crawling slowly towards me. I can hear the stereo pumping a low base. I can feel the surprise, incredulity, even hate, seep from the occupants towards me.

“Stand your ground!” I hear Hari Singh shout to me.

I continue my resolve. I don’t look at the driver, just hold firm to the rifle. It is solid wood, but maybe the driver will think it is real. He blares his horn and yells at me. Will he run me over? Will Hari Singh come over and talk to him or move the ladies out of the way? The honking, the shouting, and my monkey mind keep going. My body is shaking with fear. After what seems like an eternity the purple car backs up, does a quick U-turn and speeds out of there leaving a cloud of dust. I stay at attention and let out a huge exhale of relief and gratitude.

Hari Singh calls the team to Halt, and orders me back to the formation. At attention, we all listen as he praises my steadfastness, my focus, and how I caused the gangster-type, low-riders to retreat since they knew they had no chance against a strong Khalsa woman. I feel eleven feet tall. -- See WomenWimpsOrWarriors.com.

This is where COD starts.

Click on 'Post'
Post by 3HO Foundation.



Sat Nam. Here's a testimonial from Vince (Henry) Melito, a former '70s resident of the 3HO Denver ashram, which was discovered online by my wife. It is the only first hand account I've heard from a person who has also experienced spiritual insight while performing Close Order Drill.*

Vince Melito

One of the highest spiritual practices I ever did was Close Order Drill at the Denver ashram. I learned so much about responding over reacting -- about authority over disrespect -- about the other over the self. Thank you, Hari Singh Bird, the greatest spiritual teacher I ever had." Vince Melito --

And here's a recemtly received note from a woman who attended KWTC when Close Order Drill was part of the program.

I too had a profound experience in that long KWTC march through Espanola one summer. It was hot and gruelling, not my kind of thing at all. I'm more the type to lounge at the beach. Yet, at the core of the marching I found a fountain of courage and strength far beyond my own. It was what enabled me to make it through the ordeal." --

Reading these accounts causes me to reflect on my training and experiences with Close Order Drill in the Marine Corps, and when Yogi Bhajan requested that I go to the Phoenix, AZ and San Francisco, CA 3HO ashrams back in the late '70s to lead COD during morning sadhana. It also makes me wonder why this training is not a part of today's 3HO/Sikh Dharma experience as when Yogiji introduced it to the women at KWTC many years ago. I've often wondered too if people understand the technology and its role in teaching leadership skills.


One of the cornerstones of Marine Corps customs, courtesies and traditions is our execution of close order drill and ceremonies. These traditions are perpetuated from one generation to the next through constant use and practice. The “esprit de corps” of every Marine has been brought about by their ever-present feeling of pride, not only in their unit, but also in themselves. The preservation of traditional discipline, our customs and courtesies, and the heritage of our Corps is our duty. It is our further duty to see that the same high standard of discipline and esprit de corps is not only preserved, but also further strengthened. These intangibles must be passed on to the future Marines who will take their place among the ranks of our Corps.

The object of Close Order Drill is to teach Marines by exercise to obey orders and to do so immediately in the correct way. Close Order Drill is our foundation of discipline and esprit de corps. Additionally, it is still one of the finest methods for developing confidence and troop leading abilities in our subordinate leaders." Marine Corps Drill and Ceremonies Manual

Those who shall not learn to obey shall never be in a position to command." Yogi Bhajan

Close Order Drill
Walkin' in rhythm

Historical Background

General von Steuben with General Washington

The current U.S. military Close Order Drill is still based on the contributions of Major General Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian Army officer who served as a volunteer in the Continental Army. He is otherwise known as 'Savior of the Army' for his leadership in organizing American troops in America's Revolutionary War.

von Steuben instructing troops

During their 1778 winter quarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, von Steuben taught a select company of 100 soldiers musket and close order drills. During this process, these men experienced working together towards a common goal where their individual 'me' became their collective 'we'. These soldiers, in turn, taught the remainder of the Continental Army, which in turn endowed the Army with the vision, discipline and determination to overcome many hardships with dauntless courage and sacrifice. The rest is history.



The First Teachers

Those who shall not learn to obey shall never
be in a position to command. Yogi Bhajan

Create dependable children, not dependent children. Give your children
the basic values to face their own tomorrows, not be blinded by yours. Make
them proper personalities, not helpless puppets. Position them for success;
do not paralyze them with the commotion of your emotions.
Yogi Bhajan

The basic aspect of you as woman is not in your sensuality and in your dramas.
You are not only the givers of life, you are the manufacturers of character. Whatever
character you will give to your children, that shall be their future. Yogi Bhajan

Your reliability will give people the courage to trust you.
Their trust will give you the power to carry a situation. A leader
carries and serves people. Learn to lead as a ‘seva’ (to sacrifice your
time and resources for the benefit of others without wanting anything in
return); people will love you, and you will continue to expand. Yogi Bhajan

Children are born with intrinsic leadership traits that prepare them for life.
These must translate positively into the lives they lead as citizens of the world.
The traits are: Service, Justice, Courage, Compassion, Decisiveness, Reliability,
Integrity, Initiative, Knowledge, Loyalty, Enthusiasm, Endurance. Hari Singh Bird

The New Mexico Military Institute can provide it.
A two-year leadership program is available.

Sat Nam, Khalsa Ji! I am a passionate proponent of a more equitable balance between our collective Saint-Soldier mind set as Sant Sipahi. In this context I strongly urge Khalsa parents, especially our women, the first teachers of our children, to consider the following points.

.) I urge you to consider enrolling our children at the New Mexico Military Institute, located in Roswell, New Mexico. My kids graduated high school with honors at NMMI in the early '80s, the first children of Sikh Dharma to attend a military school in America. The Siri Singh Sahib expressed pleasure upon observing cadet training when he visited NMMI in 1983. He advised us then that he would have enrolled his own children at NMMI if he had known of its existence. Another group of youth who attended school in India later attended NMMI in the early '90s.

Sikh minister, M.S.S. Hari Singh Bird, addresses Sikh cadets in front of the NMMI chapel, 1992.

New Mexico Military Institute offers an outstanding two year college option for your sons and daughters after they complete their time at Miri Piri Academy. For those families for which MPA is not an option, NMMI has an excellent four year high school college prep program in addition to their two year college program. New Mexico Military Institute has been ranked No. 5 on a list of the nation’s top 50 community colleges by an independent organization, i.e., TheBestSchools.org, which has described the Roswell, New Mexico school as the “only state-supported, coeducational, military boarding school in the United States.” The school offers college prep, a four-year high school and a two-year junior college. See NMMI Strategic Measures Statistics.

Each of the former Sikhi students/graduates of NMMI provide a testament to the advantages of attending NMMI, which include a rigorous and challenging lifestyle, camaraderie and fellowship, and outstanding leadership training especially, along with NMMI's excellent scholastic program. This experience prepared them for additional university training, and exciting careers all over the world. NMMI is the only American prep school I know that has a history of accommodating the Sikhi lifestyle, i.e., sadhana, kesh, turban, sipahi training, and vegetarian diet. And it is an excellent environment for Sikhi youth to learn leadership and soldiering skills for which the Siri Singh Sahib was a passionate proponent.

The NMMI program offers MPA students and other Sikh youth a unique and reasonably cost-effective opportunity to transition from the Indian program into the American experience as a unit, and the obvious advantage of continued bonding with their peers. See NMMI Admissions, or click admissions@nmmi.edu, or call 800-421-5376.

.) I urge you to support a resurgence of the Women's Close Order Drill Team, about which the Siri Singh Sahib frequently commented, "If you cannot walk together, you cannot work together." He initiated this training back in the late '70s at Khalsa Women's Training Camp in addition to the Women's Select Rifle Drill Team and Firearms Training.

.) I urge you to reflect on the Siri Singh Sahib's words, "Human is a blend of Saint and Soldier (Sant Sipahi); this is a complete person. If you are not a Soldier your sainthood will be kicked around. If you are only a Soldier, not a Saint, you will start kicking others around."

Again, our youth deserve leadership training going forward. I know of no readily available source of formal leadership training available to our Sikh youth other than the New Mexico Military Institute.

Your thoughts?


Mukhia Singh Sahib Hari Singh Bird Khalsa --

"I want woman to be strong. I am a believer that when a woman falls,
a generation falls; when a man falls, an individual falls." Yogi Bhajan

Yogi Bhajan hosts group of women at Women's Camp

Women of Sikh Dharma on parade

Siri Atma Kaur and husband Guru Meher Singh

Siri Atma Kaur today with husband and children

The above article was originally featured at
OurTrueTales.com January 29, 2007



Pages And Points To Ponder




Pages And Points To Ponder



3HO Women's Camp
Creativity - Essence of the Divine Feminine


3HO Legacy Links

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Early History Jot Singh Khalsa
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Soul Singh Khalsa Siri Atma Kaur Khalsa
Yogi Bhajan Profile
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Library of Teachings Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
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First Solstice Sadhana Guru Fatha Singh Khalsa
Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa Christmas In New Mexico
Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Profile Solstice Sadhana Security
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More Our True Tales

Women: Wimps or Warriors

True Tale by Sat Mandir Singh

Khalsa Women's Training Camp

Women Are Much More Than This

New Mexico Military Institute Drill Team

See How The Marines Transform Me Into We

The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Team With Rifles

See how the U.S. Marine Corps transforms 'me' into 'we'.


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