My final week of ROP

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New Soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) participate in marching rifle manual positions, May 4, 2017 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. This is part of the Regimental Orientation Program, a three week hands-on-developmental training for new Old Guard Soldiers. (U.S. Army photos by Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes)

Story by Sgt. Nicholas Holmes

JOINT BASE MYER – HENDERSON HALL, Va. – The Regimental Orientation Program, more commonly known as, ROP amongst The Old Guard members, is a three week, hands-on, developmental training program for Soldiers new to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.

After successfully completing week two of ROP on my second attempt, I made it to my final week of ROP.

“The purpose of week three is to train new Old Guard Soldiers so they are proficient with the marching rifle manual positions before going to their companies,” said Spc. Matthew Gibbs, a week three instructor.

In order to complete the final week of ROP, we were required to pass an Army Service Uniform inspection, complete a 75-minute stand and properly execute all marching rifle manual commands.

Like in previous weeks, the 75-minute stand would require us to move from the position of attention and parade rest as the instructors reviewed our uniforms.

During the evaluation, instructors assessed our ability to execute each command called by the proctor as we marched.

The commands required us to move our rifles to various positions, as well as change direction of movement.

We needed to complete the evaluation without any major mistakes and no more than three minor mistakes.

“The strategy for this week is outcome based training,” said Gibbs. “We start from square one and work up from there until Soldiers are proficient enough to test.”

The first day of training focused on marching without rifles. The instructors reviewed the marching commands and demonstrated how to properly execute them to The Old Guard standards.

The Old Guard has a distinctively different standard for marching that differs from what Soldiers are accustomed to, said Gibbs.

This can cause an issue for Soldiers new to The Old Guard, said Gibbs.

“It’s just because it is new for them,” continued Gibbs. “It just takes time and practice to break those habits and get them use to Old Guard standards.”

Initially the change was difficult for me, executing commands to this standard felt unnatural.

On the second day, the instructors began to incorporate our rifles, while marching around for hours.

The rest of the week we continued to march around the installation as the instructors critiqued us.

We did an exercise that required us to march in a circle on a curb while moving the rifle from our left and right shoulder.

At first it was difficult to keep my balance while making the movements, but toward the end of the exercise I was doing much better.

I was confident about my progress this week.

The morning of the test I felt I would do well. I had learned a lot, but I was ready to return to my company and focus on upcoming missions.

With my uniform freshly pressed and my medals shined, I was ready to start my 75-minute stand.

I was not concerned about being able to complete the 75-minute stand, however I was not looking forward to it.

After passing this portion of the evaluation, we were given time to review the marching rifle manual evaluation. This was all that was between me and graduating from ROP. Each Soldier would march individually during the evaluation.

I was the first Soldier to be evaluated. Unlike my first attempt at the stationary rifle manual evaluation during week two, I was not nervous at all.

The evaluation went much faster than I was expected. I passed the evaluation without a mistake.

I was excited to be done with ROP and looked forward to graduation where I will receive my Buff Strap. My experience in ROP was a privilege and I am honored to have earned the right to say “I am an Old Guard Soldier.”

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