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.”
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.”
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.
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.