Only the sound of distant traffic on Trask Parkway could be heard Friday at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort as a group of Marines silently swung, slapped and hurled their service rifles through the air before hundreds of spectators.
More than 300 people crowded around the lawn in front of the air station's headquarters Friday for an hour-long performance by the Drum and Bugle Corps, the Silent Drill Team and the Marine Corps Color Guard, a four-man unit that carries the official battle colors of the Marine Corps.
The team -- formally called the 8th & I Battle Colors Detachment -- visited Beaufort this week for a pair of free performances. They are based at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., a 207-year-old compound in southeast Washington. The team will perform again today at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Headlining Friday's performance was the Silent Drill Platoon, a unit of 24 Marines who performed, without verbal commands, intricately choreographed maneuvers with polished M-1 rifles with fixed bayonets.
John Stone of Seabrook said the platoon brought him to the air station Friday.
"I've seen these guys before, and how they are able to perform with such incredible precision is pretty astonishing," Stone said. "If you think throwing a 10-pound rifle in the air and catching it with one hand is so easy, you ought to try it sometime. These guys are seriously talented."
Friday's ceremony also featured a 30-minute performance by the Drum and Bugle Corps, an ensemble known formally as "The Commandant's Own."
The band performed several show tunes and closed with John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever," much to the delight of many in attendance.
"This is a Marine Corps town, and events like this really drive that point home," said Amy Matthews of Beaufort. "To be able to see these great musicians and Marines perform in our backyard is truly special."