No, these are not soldiers practising geometry. Well, maybe they are, in a sense.
This picture from the UK MOD news feed shows British Army NCOs at Sandhurst engaged in a competition. Here’s the MOD description.
“The 2012 British Army All-Arms Pace Sticking Championships saw 14 teams competing at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The teams of four march just over 300 paces, with each person twisting a 30-inch [762mm] wide pace stick as they go to measure their step. They are judged on their drill, performance and skill whilst pacing at two speeds – 65 paces per minute, and a quick speed rate of 116 steps per minute. The annual event dates back to 1952, but the pace stick itself can trace its origins back to the Roman Empire when the engineers used an almost identical device as a measure of two Roman marching paces. When building roads, the Roman ‘sticker’ would turn his pace stick 500 times, which equalled one Roman mile. A milestone marker would then be erected, and this would continue along the entire length of the road.” [Picture: Shane Wilkinson, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
As a matter of interest, the pace stick is still used in the Canadian Army, both for training purposes and, when folded together, as a badge of office for the senior NCO in a unit or formation. Whenever I see a trim figure striding around with a long stick under his arm, I automatically check my bearing and try to look more military.