Tag Archives: Advanced Individual Training

Army’s first female cannoneer finishes top of class, praises NCOs for their support

By CINDY MCINTYRE
Fort Sill Tribune

Sometimes a person is just in the right place at the right time.

And so it was for Pfc. Katherine Beatty when she learned her chosen military occupational specialty in signal intelligence wasn’t going to work out. Then came an offer too good to pass up.

Why not be the Army’s first female cannoneer?

Pfc. Katherine Beatty is the U. S. military’s first woman to become a cannon crewmember. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty is the U. S. military’s first woman to become a cannon crewmember. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)

“They said I could pick a different MOS,” she said of her nine-week holdover after basic combat training. The combat specialty of 13B cannon crewmember was on the list.

“They said there was a lot of heavy lifting, and it’s a pretty high-speed job, and I would be the first female,” she said. “I was pretty excited about it. I called my husband (in Inverness, Florida) He’s infantry and works side by side with 13 Bravos. He told me what to expect, and I just went for it.”

Not only did she pass, she excelled, earning the title of distinguished honor graduate for Class No. 12-16. She was assistant platoon guide and helped teach her peers. She also earned the top scores in several exams and passed her go/no go events, including the High Physical Demand Test, the first time.

She said none of it was easy, especially the first week.

The Army’s new HPDT was in place for the first time, and men and women both need to pass it to graduate from 13B school.

She said the most difficult task was loading and unloading 15 155mm ammunition shells, weighing nearly 100 pounds apiece.

“That was pretty tough,” she said. “We had 15 minutes to do it.”

That means moving 3,000 pounds – a feat even some men couldn’t do.

Pfc. Katherine Beatty’s platoon fired three shells apiece to qualify on the M119A3 howitzer during live-fire training March 1, 2016 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty’s platoon fired three shells apiece to qualify on the M119A3 howitzer during live-fire training March 1, 2016 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)

“I did power lifting and trained with my husband, Charles (before enlisting),” she said of her ability to pass the test. She also went to the gym in her spare time while at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. She said Charles is her hero because of all the support he’s given her.

Beatty earned high praise from her primary AIT instructor, Staff Sgt. Michael Prater, as well as her battle buddies.

“She’s held her own as an APG, as far as leading the Soldiers where they need to be, keeping up with who’s on sick call, who’s in formation, and who’s not,” Prater said after her platoon’s live-fire training in March. “She took good notes and kept up with the training. Pfc. Beatty was an excellent Soldier.”

Pvt. Marc Etinne, one of Beatty’s battle buddies, said initially he wasn’t sure how things were going to work out with a woman in a combat MOS.

“At first I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be interesting,’” he said. “But then the sergeant talked to us and said anybody in Army green, we have to treat them with respect. She really surprises me with all the physical stuff she can do. She’s been treated just like everybody else. She’s a great Soldier.”

Another battle buddy, Pvt. Jesse Hurtado, agreed. He said having a woman in his 13B class was “awesome.”

“She worked a lot harder than the males did at some point,” he said. “She proved herself. She made her battle buddies push harder because she was there pushing with them. She’s an inspiration, seeing her going through what we’re doing. We all love her. She’s an awesome battle buddy. We all want her to do great in her career.”

Beatty’s platoon specialized in the 105mm lightweight towed M119A3 howitzer. Even though those shells weigh about 30 pounds, all 13B Soldiers need to be able to meet the physical standard with the 155mm shells used in the M777 and the Paladin howitzers. They also need to be able to drag a casualty in combat, so part of the HPDT is to drag a 270-pound skid 20 meters out and back.

Although the physical part of training was grueling, Beatty said she loved it. She and her husband have taken their 2-year-old daughter hiking and lead an active life, she said. Being the first woman wasn’t as much of an obstacle as she thought.

“Everyone treats me like a Soldier, like part of the team,” she said. “There was a lot of positivity from my platoon, the instructors, the NCOs. It’s been really awesome.”

Pfc. Katherine Beatty records firing data during dry-fire training Feb. 24, 2016, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, during 13B cannon crewmember school. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty records firing data during dry-fire training Feb. 24, 2016, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, during 13B cannon crewmember school. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)

Week 4 of training was hands-on dry fire with the M119A3. March 1, her class fired on the equipment they were trained on. Booms from the M777 and the Paladin interspersed with shots fired from Beatty’s team. Finally, it was her turn.

She fired three rounds, then caught the next gunner’s smoking cartridge when it was ejected, and spent time on the radio and recording firing data. When the last round was called, Prater took out a marker and began writing on the shell. Pens materialized and everyone squeezed in to leave their message on it. Beatty’s read “Miss 13B.”

Then she returned to the radio and called, “last round!” The excited cannoneers echoed her, and rushed the round into the chamber. Prater checked the round, held up his hand, and yelled, “stand by,” for the umpteenth time that day. Then he dropped his arm and yelled, “fire!” The round sped off into the distant hillside, and everyone cheered. Then they started tearing down and had a late lunch of meals, ready to eat.

“Everyone was excited in our platoon. I can definitely say that we had a lot of fun today. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Beatty said.

Although she hoped to go to Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., Beatty was assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado, following her graduation March 11.

Dozens of women have followed in Beatty’s footsteps to train as 13Bs, and plenty more are still to come. Her advice to them: “Go for it. It’s an awesome job. You’ve got to be strong, both physically and mentally, but there’s definitely a lot of support here.”

Pfc. Katherine Beatty gives tips to her teammate, who is holding four excess gunpowder bags that weren’t needed for the three-increment charge during live-fire training on the M119A3 howitzer in March at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty gives tips to her teammate, who is holding four excess gunpowder bags that weren’t needed for the three-increment charge during live-fire training on the M119A3 howitzer in March at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)

SMA: Army needs female NCOs to transfer to combat arms MOSs

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey has asked female NCOs to consider transferring into combat arms military occupational specialties.

More than 100 women have volunteered to join the ranks as combat arms Soldiers, but these Soldiers also need female leaders. Dailey said he hopes female NCOs will answer the call and rise to the challenge.

“These young women have demonstrated the drive and desire to take on some of the most challenging assignments the Army offers,” Dailey wrote in a memo to the force Aug. 1. “As young Soldiers do, they will look for leadership and mentorship from their superiors. Unfortunately, we have not had a sufficient number of serving female Soldiers and NCOs volunteer to transfer into these mentorship and leadership roles.”

In April, the Department of Defense opened the remaining combat-arms MOSs to women, including all positions in 19-series armor and 11-series infantry. Dailey said he personally supports the move to remove all gender-based restrictions, and is glad to see anyone who is qualified, male or female, serve the Army in any capacity.

As it has done in the past when integrating women into an MOS, the Army is taking a “leaders first” approach. Placing female leaders in those MOSs before integrating new Soldiers has been made a priority, but finding those leaders has been a challenge. Dailey is asking more female NCOs to make the change to combat arms because there are still not enough female mentors for the new recruits.

“We need leaders to help shape the next generation of combat Soldiers,” Dailey said. “I know we already have female Soldiers with the drive and ability to be successful in ground combat arms formations. If you think you have what it takes, I am personally asking you to consider transferring to combat arms.”

Dailey noted that it will not be easy. Soldiers are required to pass MOS-specific High Physical Demands Tests, for which men and women are graded on the same scale.

“The standards have and always will be very rigorous,” he said. “You will be challenged both mentally and physically. If you are interested in taking on this challenge and leading our Soldiers into the future, please talk to your career counselor today.”

Pvt. Kaleena Gaeth was one of 16 women in a class of 75 Soldiers who graduated June 3 from Advanced Individual Training as 13B cannon crewmembers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Pvt. Kaleena Gaeth was one of 16 women in a class of 75 Soldiers who graduated June 3 from Advanced Individual Training as 13B cannon crewmembers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

 

NCOs create smooth transition for women integrating into Field Artillery

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Since February, women have been proving that they have what it takes to be 13B cannon crewmembers, and their NCOs have been guaranteeing each an equal opportunity to rise to the challenge.

“When I first picked this military occupational specialty, I had sergeants telling me it was going to be very hard, that there are going to be males who don’t want me in this job,” said Pvt. Kiara Carbullido, who graduated in June from Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. “But then they said there will be NCOs who are going to look out for your best interests and push you to be your best, and I think that is exactly what our sergeants have done for us. They are helping us out, making everything equal between the males and the females. Whatever they can do, we can do.”

Pvt. Natasha Madison holds up the four excess gunpowder bags that were not needed for the three-increment charge during live-fire training on the M119A3 howitzer in May at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Pvt. Natasha Madison holds up the four excess gunpowder bags that were not needed for the three-increment charge during live-fire training on the M119A3 howitzer in May at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

The move to open most field artillery MOSs, including 13Bs, to women came in the fall of 2015, months before the decision was made in January to open all combat arms positions to women. The first female cannon crewmember, Pvt. First Class Katherine Beatty, graduated from AIT at the top of her class in March.

Many AIT platoon sergeants at Fort Sill said they never expected to see women in field artillery positions during their careers. All of them, however, said the gender integration training is going well and expressed a positive hope for the future of women in their MOS.

“Before I retire in the next few years, I would love to see one of the females here today become an NCO, become a staff sergeant, become a section chief,” said 1st Sgt. Marlow Parks, first sergeant of C battery, 1st battalion, 78th Field Artillery Regiment. “I can’t wait to see that, to be honest with you. I’m proud that I have had some kind of part in it, making sure that Soldier initially got the foundation she needed in order to advance. To me, it’s a very rewarding job for me and my cadre to train these females, to see the Army change to where we are today. It’s good. When I am long gone and retired, I can see a female command sergeant major in field artillery. She may be here now; you never know. The sky is the limit for all of these Soldiers, male or female.”

AIT for 13Bs

Throughout the first three weeks of AIT, 13Bs learn about the equipment they will be required to use in their jobs. The first week covers the basics of communication. They learn the ins and outs of the radios and how to record firing data. During the second week, they study the ammunition they will fire – 105mm or 155mm rounds – and how to calculate targets. In the third week, they are introduced to the three artillery pieces they may work with: the M777 howitzer, the M119A3 howitzer, and the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer.

In the remaining two weeks of AIT, the Soldiers must apply the knowledge they have gained in real-life scenarios and learn how to work as a team. During the fourth week, each platoon takes their specified howitzer into a field near the motor pool for dry-fire training. The Soldiers run crew drills for the first time on the actual weapon. A live fire is conducted during the fifth and final week of training, and each crewmember must fire three shells to qualify on one of the howitzers.

No matter which howitzer a platoon works with, each crewmember must pass the High Physical Demand Test to graduate from AIT. The test levels the playing field, said Staff Sgt. Michael Prater, an AIT instructor for C battery, 1st battalion, 78th Field Artillery. It’s difficult, and the requirements are the same. Both men and women are graded on the same scale.

Pvt. Nareisha George prepares an ammunition round for a fuse during live-fire training in May at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Pvt. Nareisha George prepares an ammunition round for a fuse during live-fire training in May at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“I have no problem with females being integrated into this MOS,” Prater said. “They are just like any other individual. It depends on whether they can stand up to the physical demands of being a 13B. That’s the reason they have to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test as soon as they get here, and then they go into the HPDT, where I have seen males fail just as much as females. It depends on the physical attributes of that person. Are they able to handle that stress? Able to handle those different MOS-related activities?”

Among other strenuous tasks in the HPDT, Soldiers must demonstrate their ability to load and unload 15 ammunition shells in 15 minutes. Each 155mm shell weighs about 100 pounds, so Soldiers are effectively moving 3,000 pounds in 15 minutes – a difficult feat, regardless of gender.

“It feels amazing to be one of the first females here,” said Pvt. Jennifer Moreira, who also graduated in June. “The men aren’t used to it – they don’t expect us to do much, and it feels good to prove them wrong. They tend to say, ‘Oh, hey, let me get this.’ No. We’ve got it. I like to prove them wrong. It’s challenging, and these rounds are heavy, but our NCOs treat us all equally. They give us the opportunity to prove ourselves, and I think we all take advantage of that and prove we can pull our own weight. I am proud of all of us females. I am proud of what we can do.”

Carbullido said she and the other women in her class would never use their femininity as a crutch or an excuse. They are more concerned with proving their worth. They chose this MOS because they know they have what it takes, she said. They don’t want any handouts.

“In this job I feel like, finally, I can do something the same as guys – protecting my family and the United States of America,” Carbullido said. “It’s badass. I’m so honored to be a female in field artillery.”

Sgt. Shannon Johnson, a platoon sergeant for C battery, 1st battalion, 78th Field Artillery, said he had heard NCOs express concerns that women would try to get away with doing less than their male battle buddies. However, the opposite has proven true.

Pvt. Bethany May communicates with her crew on the radio while Pvt. Michael Richardson records firing data during live-fire training at the end of AIT in May at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Pvt. Bethany May communicates with her crew on the radio while Pvt. Michael Richardson records firing data during live-fire training at the end of AIT in May at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“The physical demands testing has pretty much changed everybody’s views of having females in artillery because – you would be surprised – most females are able to pass it, and some males are not,” Johnson said. “There is always a technique. I have had big males that fail it. And smaller females come in here and just knock it out, first time go, with ease. I think most males think, ‘I’m strong; I’ve got this. I don’t need to prep for it.’ But the females come in, and we have rounds laying around. You see them on the weekends practicing, because they feel like they have to go the extra mile to prove they are worthy of being 13B cannon crewmembers. In my opinion, they are way ahead of the game.

“For all of our Soldiers, their hard work is worth it when they actually shoot that first round and see the cannon go off,” he said. “We had some females shoot for the first time last week. That look on their face – yeah. It is worth the hard work they put in to it. I always tell them the hardest part is prepping to go to the field. Once you are out there and are shooting and you see the camaraderie of the team coming together, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m part of something pretty awesome.’”

Adjustments for leadership

For Soldiers new to the Army, working alongside women is all they have known. But senior leadership will feel the minor adjustments, Johnson said.

Practical changes had to be made, including providing separate living quarters and separate outhouses in the field, and before the first woman attended AIT, leadership was required to complete a refresher course on Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention.

“I haven’t had to make too many changes,” Prater said. “Some things, like porta-potties, we have to label them to make sure the males don’t go into the porta-potties that the females use. Sick call is a little different. If a female has a female problem she has to take care of or go see a doctor about, that’s different, as opposed to a regular sprained foot or something to that nature. But training is no different. They wear the same ear plugs, eat the same MREs. So it’s just minor adjustments we have had to make as instructors.”

Pvt. Elisa Chaboya was one of 16 women in a class of 75 Soldiers who graduated June 3 from Advanced Individual Training as 13B cannon crewmembers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Pvt. Elisa Chaboya was one of 16 women in a class of 75 Soldiers who graduated June 3 from Advanced Individual Training as 13B cannon crewmembers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Staff Sgt. Allan Avendrano agreed the changes have felt minor, but said the overall experience has challenged him to be a better, more professional leader.

“Learning to lead females has definitely rounded me out as a leader, as an NCO. I never thought – not once – in my career, ever, that I was going to have female Soldiers to lead. I’ve been in the Army for 11 years, and this is my first time leading them, teaching them. And the No. 1 adjustment I had to make has got to be my language,” he said with a laugh. “You can ask anybody on the gun line, and I’m fairly sure that is going to be the first thing they will say. They have to clean up their language a little bit more, but that comes with professionalism.”

“‘Stop crying like a little girl’ is something you would never say with females in your platoon,” Johnson said. “No belittling language. We see the females work just as hard, and our language should reflect respect.”

Parks said he tells his NCOs to remain confident in their leadership skills. The Army has prepared them well for this. The NCO Creed states “All Soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership. … I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment.” As long as they follow TRADOC Regulation 350-6 [Enlisted Initial Entry Training Policies and Administration,] he said, they will do well.

“If you’ve got one standard for the male, it should be the same for the female. That is what I tell all my instructors. If you are a hard NCO, continue to be as hard with the female Soldiers as you would with the male Soldiers. Go from the book. Go from the manual. You will be all right.”

Since February, women have been integrating into the 13B Cannon Crewmember military occupational specialty. Pvt. Natasha Madison was one of 16 females in a class of 75 Soldiers who graduated June 3 from Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Since February, women have been integrating into the 13B Cannon Crewmember military occupational specialty. Pvt. Natasha Madison was one of 16 females in a class of 75 Soldiers who graduated June 3 from Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Camaraderie grows among drill sergeant, AIT platoon sergeant competitors

Previously in The NCO Journal:

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

With the heat and humidity soaring at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on Thursday, the 15 NCOs competing to be named the top drill sergeant and AIT platoon sergeant had to survive on the small pleasures, like running through some cool mud on the obstacle course, or getting five minutes of shade while talking to a journalist.

Besides those moments, it was just one test after another, whether it was running and marching, training new recruits on the Army Physical Fitness Test or how to clear a room, combatives, a medical situational training exercise and more.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott puts junior Soldiers through the Army Physical Fitness Test on Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, while competing for the title of Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. (Photos by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott does pushups during an obstacle relay Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, while competing for the title of Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. (Photos by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

Staff Sgt. Emanuel Olivencia of Company D, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, was one of the nine competing for 2016 Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year. He was impressed by his fellow competitors.

“It’s been a challenge, in a very positive way,” Olivencia said. “I’m learning a lot about myself, trying to measure up to the best NCOs out there. I can tell from their performance that we are striving and improving our force.”

Staff Sgt. Jacob Meyers of Company D, 344th Military Intelligence Battalion in Pensacola, Florida, said he prepared for the heat and humidity by doing his training under the noontime sun in Florida. Meyers was also competing for AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

Staff Sgt. Jacob Meyers works his way over an obstacle during the AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson.
Staff Sgt. Jacob Meyers works his way over an obstacle during the AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition Thursday at Fort Jackson.

“It’s going pretty well,” he said. “They don’t tell us our scores, so as far as we know, we’re all in the lead. I went to school with one of the competitors, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Sisk. He impressed me in school, and he’s doing the same thing here. My roommate, Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, is an incredible competitor. Everybody out here is just giving it everything they’ve got.”

The camaraderie was clearly growing as competitors got to know each other. Because it’s a competition, that camaraderie included some trash talk as the NCOs took on the obstacle course Thursday.

After his turn on the course, Staff Sgt. Dominique Curry of Company C, 1-81 Armor Battalion, Fort Benning, Georgia, spent some time letting Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson of Company E, 369th Signal Battalion, 15th Regimental Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon, Georgia, know that he might as well not waste his time trying to beat him. Both were competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

“I almost set a new course record,” Curry told Johnson. “You might as well skip it. I would have set the record, but Usain Bolt was just a little bit ahead of me.”

Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing, competing to be 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, goes through a graded on-camera media interview Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson.
Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing, competing for 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, goes through a graded, on-camera media interview Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Johnson wasn’t having it, though he admitted there were some strong competitors.

“I’ve been very impressed, both on the drill sergeant side and the platoon sergeant side,” Johnson said. “I hope I win, first and foremost. But if I don’t, it goes to show that [even as] a seasoned staff sergeant, I still have the grit and get-up about me to go and compete for these things. It shows I want to get better, do better and push my peers to get better as well.”

Part of what makes the Drill Sergeant and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competitions so special is that the winners don’t just go back to their units. Instead, they spend a year working at the strategic level with Training and Doctrine Command.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works his way through an obstacle course Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing to be named AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works his way through an obstacle course Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Previously, they spent that year at the Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia. But this year the winners will do the same job out of Fort Jackson, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, command sergeant major of the CIMT. That way, necessary changes can more quickly reach the force.

“When they go out on the staff assistance visits with us, they can bring the lessons back to the schoolhouse and be like an adjunct professor to teach into the course the habits and trends that are in the field,” Gragg said. “They can bring that right back into the schoolhouse to stop bad habits from happening.”

Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Enriquez is one of the organizers of this year’s competition after winning the title of 2015 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year. Now finishing up his year of working at the TRADOC strategic level, he said the experience made him understand the Army better.

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings trains junior Soldiers on the Army Physical Fitness Test on Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Cummings was competing to be named 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings trains junior Soldiers on the Army Physical Fitness Test on Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Cummings was competing for 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

“It was a eye-opening experience,” Enriquez said. “I was glad to experience the Army at a strategic level. Instead of seeing what other people have dictated down in policy, I got to actually see the decision-making process that affects the Army. I got to understand why the Army makes these crazy decisions that they make. Turns out they are not so crazy.”

And last year’s winners will be there to help the new champions find their way, said Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller, the 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year.

“Once the winners are announced, they will have a crash course with me and the others about what to expect, and they’ll have my number if they have any questions,” Miller said. “Because there is going to be a lot thrown at them all at once. It’s a very rewarding job, being able to represent the drill sergeants in the Army.”

But a high-speed job for the winners is only part of what makes this particular Army competition special, Gragg said.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott enters the Multiple Simulation Training Facility to find a wounded soldier during the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year competition Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Scott must determine the status of the soldier's injuries and well being, and administer first-aid while gunfire blasts in the background.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott enters the Multiple Simulation Training Facility to find a wounded Soldier during the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year competition Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Scott must determine the status of the Soldier’s injuries and well being, and administer first aid while gunfire blasts in the background.

“The uniqueness of this competition is that these individuals, their sole mission, day in and day out, is to transform civilians into Soldiers,” he said. “Unlike other Army jobs, the mission that these Soldiers do every day affects the defense of the constitution and the nation for the next 20 to 30 years. Because the Soldier they are training today could possibly have a 20- or 30-year career. They are possibly training the future Sergeant Major of the Army or Chief of Staff for the Army.”

All 15 competitors made it through a lot to be here, but on Friday the best of the best will be chosen. Check the NCO Journal on Friday night to learn who came out on top.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works his way through an obstacle course Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing for AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works his way through an obstacle course Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

‘If you’re not bleeding, sweating and pushed to your brink … then you didn’t do enough’

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

After a formal board interview and written test Tuesday night, the 2016 Drill Sergeant and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competitions kicked into high gear Wednesday, with the 15 competitors taking on challenges like a physical training test, day and night land navigation, basic rifle marksmanship and teaching new recruits.

Sgt. Maj. Kevin Artis, the G3/5/7 (operations/plans/training) sergeant major for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, said he told the competitors their days and nights would be challenging through Friday, but he hoped they would stay motivated.

Staff Sgt. Martin Delaney, competing to be 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, reaches the last part of the hand grenade course, in which he had to name each grenade in the case and their function. (Photos by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Martin Delaney, competing for 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, reaches the last part of the hand grenade course, in which he had to name each grenade in the case and its function. (Photos by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

“I expect the Soldiers here to do their best and strive to be the best they can be,” Artis said. “I expect them to show that they are top professionals, not only in the NCO Corps, but in their respective jobs.

“These are the top trainers in the Army, so we expect them to adhere to that standard,” Artis continued. “We expect them to be very professional and to execute all the tasks and requirements that we have laid out for them. Most of the tasks will be surprises to them. They don’t know what they are going to run into when they get here.”

Staff Sgt. Dominique Curry of C Company, 1-81 Armor Battalion, at Fort Benning, Georgia, is one of the nine NCOs competing to be named 2016 Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year. As Artis predicted, Curry said the unforeseeable nature of the tasks he was being put through made the competition difficult.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Barsi, competing to be 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, instructs Basic Combat Training Soldiers in changing the direction of a column, column left, Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Barsi, competing for 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, instructs Basic Combat Training Soldiers in changing the direction of a column, column left, Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Curry said. “Every day is a surprise. You really don’t know what to expect, so you are definitely on edge all the time. It’s a huge opportunity, not only for myself, but to represent Fort Benning. I’m definitely humbled. I’m out here to do my best and see where that takes me.”

Staff Sgt. Keith Lovely of D Company, 1-222 Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade, at Fort Eustis, Virginia, is also competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year. Despite the surprises, he said he could predict one thing about the coming days: The events were only going to get more difficult.

“It’s going great so far,” Lovely said. “A lot of good NCOs out here competing against each other. It’s a lot of fun. I foresee it getting more difficult. I’m not saying it’s not already difficult, but we still have two-and-a-half more days ahead of us, so I think it’s going to get rougher.”

Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing to be 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, puts on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense gear on during a station Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe dons nuclear, biological and chemical protective gear during the 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

 

Maj. Gen. Anthony Funkhouser, commanding general of the Center for Initial Military Training, was at the Hand Grenade Assault Course on Wednesday, watching as the competitors went through different stations demonstrating their knowledge of their craft, as well as their ability to pass that knowledge down to new Soldiers.

“It’s amazing the level of effort the sergeants put into this, to be very technically and tactically competent,” Funkhouser said. “You walk around here and you see them assemble and disassemble weapons, all the knowledge that we ask of them, the physical ability to do their mission, warrior tasks and battle drills. They are great role models. What’s really neat is that we have some trainees here from reception station — who haven’t even received basic training yet — learning from these guys as their role models.”

Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wood, competing to be 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, conducts an in-ranks inspection Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wood, competing for 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, conducts an in-ranks inspection Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing of C Company, 1-46 Infantry Battalion, 194th Armor Brigade, at Fort Benning, was one of the four NCOs competing for the title of 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year. He talked about the preparation necessary for the difficult days ahead.

“I spent months preparing once I was selected as post drill sergeant of the year,” Cushing said. “Preparation was pretty grueling. A lot of physical training, a lot of mental training and a lot of studying. I feel very fortunate being able to compete against all these great drill sergeants.”

Sgt. Ryan Moldovan, E Company, 1-390th Infantry Regiment, 98th Training Division, 108th Training Command, is one of the two NCOs competing to be the 2016 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. He also spoke about his preparation in the past few months.

Staff Sgt. Emanuel Olivencia, competing to be 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works to camouflage his helmet during a station Sept. 7 at the Hand Grenade Assault Course on Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Emanuel Olivencia camouflages his helmet during the 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition Sept. 7 at the Hand Grenade Assault Course on Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

 

“I did a lot of studying, a lot of reading, reading deep into the regulations, looking paragraph by paragraph, looking into the weapons regulations and seeing what every little piece is called,” Moldovan said. “I did lots of running, lots of foot marching. I try to get to the range as much as I can, but it’s hard to because of my civilian job” as a UPS delivery driver in Canton, Ohio.

“I’m just glad to be here, glad to be competing, happy to represent the Reserves,” he said. “All of the NCOs who are here are great. They’re the best of the best; I’m proud to be counted among them.”

Staff Sgt. Mark Mercer, 2015 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year, helped organize this year’s competition. He said his message to this year’s group was to give “110 percent” during each event.

“Don’t let Friday come and you say, ‘I didn’t leave it all out there at Fort Jackson,’” Mercer said. “Because if you’re not bleeding, sweating and pushed to your brink after the last event, then you didn’t do enough. You need to come out here and give it your all.”

As Major General Anthony Funkhouser, commanding general for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training (from left); Sgt. Maj. Kevin Artis, the G3/5/7 (operations/plans/training) sergeant major for the CIMT; and Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller, 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year, look on, Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing conducts a disassemble/assemble/functions check on a weapon. Cushing is competing to be 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Maj. Gen. Anthony Funkhouser, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training (from left); Sgt. Maj. Kevin Artis, the G3/5/7 (operations/plans/training) sergeant major for the CIMT; and Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller, 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year, look on as Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing conducts a disassemble/assemble/functions check on a weapon. Cushing is competing to be the 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Competing for the title of 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year are:

• Sgt. 1st Class Martin Delaney

• Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing

• Staff Sgt. Dustin Randall

• Staff Sgt. Daniel Barsi

Competing for the title of 2016 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year are:

• Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott

• Sgt. Ryan Moldovan

Competing for the title of 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year are:

• Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wood

• Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings

• Staff Sgt. Keith Lovely

• Staff Sgt. Jacob Meyers

• Staff Sgt. Dominique Curry

• Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson

• Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe

• Staff Sgt. Emanuel Olivencia

• Staff Sgt. Jonathan Sisk