First for the Corps: Female Marine To Command Silent Drill Platoon

Silent Drill

Capt. Kelsey M. Hastings, a native of Seattle, Washington, was selected to serve as the Silent Drill Platoon Commander for the Marine Barracks Washington 2023 parade season. She will be the first woman to command the platoon and will take command on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

For the first time in its 74-year history, the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon will be commanded by a woman.

Capt. Kelsey M. Hastings, a field artillery officer from Seattle, takes the helm of the 24-man ceremonial marching team on Monday, Nov. 21, and will command it through the 2023 parade season.

The Silent Drill Platoon is famed for its highly precise movements — often punctuated with a flurry of hand-polished M1 Garand rifles with fixed bayonets — performed without verbal cadence or commands.

“Kelsey displays a tireless work ethic and high standard of performance that makes her a stand-out performer at Marine Barracks Washington,” said Col. Robb Sucher, commanding officer of Marine Barracks Washington, in a prepared statement emailed to Coffee or Die Magazine. “I’m excited for her to represent Marine Barracks Washington as a representative of the Marine Corps in this role.”

Silent drill

The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs in Manhattan’s Times Square to celebrate the Marine Corps’ 244th birthday, Nov. 10, 2019. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marvin D. Chavez.

US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marvin D. Chavez.

A graduate of the US Naval Academy’s Class of 2017, Hastings commissioned as a Marine artillery officer and served as a platoon commander, fire direction officer, and battery executive officer at 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

In 2020, Marine Barracks Washington selected her to attend Ceremonial Drill School, the three-week course that trains officers and staff noncommissioned officers for its touring parade mission. She learned ceremonial marching, the sword manual, voice commands, and how to prep a uniform.

In 2021, she served as a marching platoon commander, the first woman — commissioned or enlisted — to serve in any capacity at the unit. She became Bravo Company’s executive officer in 2022.

“It is exciting to be selected as the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon Commander,” said Hastings in a prepared statement. “SDP is oftentimes the face of the Marine Corps, showing the world how elite and professional our organization is, and being selected to lead them is truly an honor. I look forward to working with my new Marines and being a face that a little girl can see and envision herself as.”

Silent drill

US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger, Col. Donald J. Tomich, then-commanding officer of Marine Barracks Washington DC, and Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, render a salute during a wreath laying ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 8, 2019. Small teams of Marines also visited several gravesites of former commandants of the Marine Corps to render honors to these Marines. These ceremonies are held to celebrate these Marines’ love and devotion to their Corps and country, and to celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Bourgeois.

US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Bourgeois.

As the commander of Alpha Company, she will administratively control — and perform with — the Silent Drill Platoon. She also will command the Marine Corps Color Guard Platoon.

Her Marines perform ceremonial commitments as ordered by the commandant of the Marine Corps, such as ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the White House, the Pentagon, and other venues throughout the Capitol region.

As the commander of Bravo Company, Hastings oversaw three ceremonial marching platoons and the Marine Corps Body Bearers.

They’re the Marines who carry caskets at Arlington National Cemetery and conduct military funerals there and abroad.

Silent drill

Marine Corps Body Bearers, Bravo Company, Marine Barracks Washington, DC, prepare to fold the national ensign during a full honors funeral for repatriated World War II Marine Pfc. Harry Morrissey, at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Sept. 22, 2020. Morrissey, a native of Everett, Massachusetts, was killed in action during the main offensive of the Battle of Guadalcanal on Oct. 9, 1942, while serving with Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. His remains were found atop Hill 73 on Aug. 28, 2017, and identified on Dec. 17, 2017. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp.

US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp.

Hastings’ decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the National Defense Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Marine Barracks Washington spokesperson Lt. Kayla Haas told Coffee or Die the Marines for the Silent Drill Platoon are being selected this fall and are slated to begin training soon in DC before shipping out to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona to perfect their routines.

“While the performance calendar is not yet solidified, we expect Silent Drill Platoon to perform in several locations in Yuma, Arizona, in early-mid March 2023,” Haas said.

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Carl came to Coffee or Die Magazine after stints at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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