DRILL HALL OF FAME
2018 INDUCTEE OF THE MILITARY DRILL HALL OF FAME
Mr. M. Keith Warren - Fern Creek, Kentucky
Growing up in high school at the national powerhouse drill program at Fern Creek HS just outside Louisville, Kentucky, Keith caught the passion for armed exhibition in a way that was very different than the vast majority of drillers at his then young age. Certainly he maintained the long hours of practice both individually and with his team, and took more than his share of time with routine construction. But Keith took a cerebral approach to performing exhibition drill from an early age. See, Keith did not simply wish to do his best, he wanted to win. He wanted to be the best at anything he touched. So along with his legendary instructors, he carefully devised a plan to certainly show all the moves of a champion, but also to design a routine that would separate him from the pack to win the coveted 1996 National High School Drill Team Championships Armed Division Solo Exhibition Championship. The plan maintained a huge risk move near the end of the routine that caused the head judges to step back startled at a sudden rifle thrust forward causing the crowd to go crazy and sealed his name in immortality, win or lose. His scores overwhelming took home the gold (in fact, to this day it remains the largest margin of victory in NHSDTC solo history). But this title is won every year by a different individual. What made Keith so integral to the drill world was the continuation of his mental understanding of all facets of military drill, the psychology behind it, and to use this understanding in numerous ways to benefit cadets directly and the world of competition drill as a whole. This he has done in a scope and depth unlike any other individual in the history of competition drill befitting any and all who ever enter the drill competition floor - even those who have never met him!
Of course after high school, this brilliant individual went on to do great things in business working directly with several of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the world developing customized software to meet their technological needs from a company he founded. But "Mr. Warren" to the young drillers kids he still talked with never lost his passion for military drill. Seeing the need at the Nationals to upgrade their scoring system without losing the human oversight that makes it special, he pushed to develop a customized scanable scoring system that allowed every score sheet at the Nationals - generally over 5,000 during the weekend - to be scanned and presented to drill knowledgeable graders and checkers to double check before allowing his system to tally, total and print customized reports to ensure every team gains not only all of their original score sheets, but fully listed scoring reports. But this was just a small part of his legacy that lives on.
Mr. Warren had studied competition drill through both the scoring aspects and the performance aspects for over a decade. He maintained a detailed understanding of what drillers could execute that would receive the largest payoff, and conversely, many items large and small, some here to for not considered by most drillers. This extended into every detail of a performance, from the uniform choices, verbal report in/out choices, rifle and floor maneuvers, routine construction, having those few big moments that STICK in a judge's mind before they put pencil to paper, etc. As a driller himself, he could not only understand these intricacies but explain and demonstrate his knowledge in a way that was easy to understand for others in the drill world. And share he did. Not only did his work with his local school Fern Creek High School in 2008 and 2009 (especially when the program found itself down to one instructor for a time period due to illness), but Mr. Warren provided information and training both within on-line forums and newsgroups, as well as taking weeks out of his busy schedule to fly to Texas several consecutive Summers to help train young drillers from around the world at the Nationals Drill Camp in the art and science of competition drill. Taking these drillers under his wing for hours at a time for days on a stretch, his tutelage proved invaluable. In 2008, he coached two soloists, Sam Ratliff and Megan Dickerson who BOTH won their respective competition divisions in Daytona (Only school to EVER gain dual; championships the same year!). One could see his fingerprints on drillers both high school and post high school.
His infectious personality belied his intensity that came out whenever he talked in detail about drill. And just a few years later, the drill bug bit him hard all over again. The World Drill Championships began for post high school drillers in 2006 and Keith was itching to get back into the coliseum to tangle with the lions. Knowing that with a busy life, family and business he would likely never be able to capture the overall title against people with more athleticism and longer opportunities to practice, he still worked and trained to ensure he would put forth a good show. In 2008, Keith Warren finished 3rd overall in the world. But NOBODY could have expected his 2009 performance to be the memorable experience that has since become legendary in the drill community. Keith took the floor in the world championships and was performing admirably when just before his report-out, he noticed that his gorgeous, high gloss M1 competition rifle had cracked slightly. Without missing a beat or breaking bearing, and without the knowledge of the crowd to this fact, Keith modified his report out, snapping the rifle in half over his knee while throwing a perfect salute to the Head Judge. The rafters of the Ocean Center shook from the wild, seemingly endless cheering coming from the stunned crowd. This report out remains the most dramatic, amazing and impactful departure from a drill floor ever seen at any time during the Nationals weekend.
Mr. Warren put up his competition rifle for good after that performance. He hosted the Midwest Regional Drill Competition in 2010 and 2011 in his hometown of Louisville. He has also judged the WDC three times and NHSDTC solo championships one time. His desire to give back to the greater drill community has not died. As a trusted member of the drill community, he still provides insight and instruction to drillers looking for assistance. He also flies to the Nationals most every year in May serving as the Assistant Judging Director for the Nationals, as well as the head of the on-site interview process for the Jean K. Weil Scholarship Foundation. He continues to support his scoring system making the needed tweaks and changes to ensure it remains the premium system to ensure the teams receive the scores the judges feel they deserve with transparency and security!
Mr. Warren has impacted all levels of military drill from high school through professional drill, from the National All-Service Championships to local competitions where drillers are better prepared to excel thanks to his guidance. His work with scholarship selections and drill training gives him an amazingly diverse and impactful legacy, to say nothing of his never to be forgotten accomplishments on the drill floor. His presence is always a welcome addition to anything he chooses to be a part of. It remains one of the largest honors to date to induct Mr. M. Keith Warren into the military Drill Hall of Fame.