half right face and other drill sergeant sayings
General Military Questions

Half Right Face Explained (& Why Drill Sergeants Say It)

If you are heading off to basic training soon, you need to prepare yourself for some of what you will hear, including “half right face.”

Your drill instructor is not your friend and is not there to give you warm fuzzy feelings. There is no participation trophy for showing up, and you can expect your civilian self will dissolve as you become a soldier.

Boot camp is not the time for tenderness.

While every drill sergeant is a little different with colorful phrases and words, there are some universal truths regarding drill sergeant vernacular.

The point is — you do not move until your drill instructor tells you to move. Usually, they have some interesting ways to command your movements.

Related ArticleHow to Prepare Physically for Navy Boot Camp

What Does Half Right Face Mean?

Half Right Face Explained and other drill instructor sayings
Image: marines.mil

While an “about face” is a complete 180-degree turn left or right, a “half right face” is different depending on your instructions.

For a “half right face,” you turn 45 degrees to the right. If you hear just “right face,” you will turn 90 degrees.

If you are in formation, a half-right face opens up the formation with everyone being shoulder-to-shoulder.

If you hear this command, expect to be chewed out at best. You are probably going to do a whole lot of pushups.

Ultimately, though, you all screwed up badly enough that you got your drill instructor’s full attention. Don’t worry; it builds character.

Half Right Face Origins

While there is no way to pin down the exact origins of the phrase half right face and what it has come to mean, there is a history around the commands while in formation.

When you are in formation with your unit, you are in a line and a column.

Your drill instructors have the job of controlling recruits and teaching them to conform, including (and especially) during drill formations.

In order to get a whole unit of new recruits to run drills correctly, the drill instructor teaches a series of commands. The command includes a precursor, such as right or left, to prime the recruit to know which direction to turn.

The rest of the command then is the action.

The problem is that recruits often make mistakes, and most of the time, the entire unit pays for the error.

Therefore, when you hear “half right face,” it means you are about to have your drill sergeant colorfully “correct” the mistake.

Other Drill Sergeant Sayings and Their Meanings

Drill instructors give clear 'directions'
Image: marines.mil

Several other drill sergeant sayings are unique and colorful.

Also, it is essential to remember a drill sergeant’s responsibility is to create a military unit out of a bunch of civilians. It is not about the individual; it is about the group.

It is vital to understand your role in bringing your ‘A’-game and not letting your unit down.

‘Don’t Call Me Sir, I Work for A Living!

The phrase, “Don’t call me Sir, I work for a living” meaning depends on the military branch.

However, the general meaning is that drill sergeants are non-commissioned officers, and they had to earn their rank the “hard way.” The implication is that an NCO is different than a commissioned officer.

Some drill sergeants wish to hear sergeant rather than Sir. 

‘Toe The F#$ing Line!’

When you first walk into your barracks, you will notice two lines running down the center of the room.

The lines are a good five feet apart, and the lines create a hallway of sorts down the center of the room.

On either side of the lines are the bunks.

If you are in your barracks, a drill instructor might walk in and holler, “Toe the f#$king line.”

When you hear this command, you need to stop whatever it is you are doing and promptly line up with your toes on the line.

Once lined up, wait for further commands.

Related ArticleMarine Corps Basic Training Guide

Forward-leaning Rest Position

I am going to be honest. You are going to hear the phrase “forward-leaning rest position” a lot. You will never think of pushups the same again.

When you hear this phrase, you will squat down and thrust your feet backward with your arms straight. You are about to do a whole lot of pushups.

The “forward-leaning rest position” command frequently follows the “half right face” command. It means someone messed up, and everyone is going to pay for it.

The good news is, your pushup game will be on point.

Are you eyeballing me?

A quick word of advice here is not to make direct eye contact with your drill sergeant.

If you do, you will likely hear the question, “Are you eyeballing me?” I promise it will be the last time you make direct eye contact with your drill sergeant.

Your best plan of action is to have a dead stare straight ahead. Do not look anywhere unless your instructor tells you where to direct your gaze.

Also, as a follow-up, do not smile at your drill instructor either. They are not your friend. 



Rob V.
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Learn more about the phrase Half Right Face, including why drill sergeants say it, its meaning, its origin, and much more.

Originally posted on 06/06/21

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