Tag Archives: ait platoon sergeants

‘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

NCOs grow during time as Drill Sergeants, AIT Platoon Sergeant of Year

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

Winning any U.S. Army competition brings honor and glory to the victor. But the winners of the Drill Sergeant and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competitions get an additional perk. During their year as reigning champions, they get a new job.

In September 2014, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller was named Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin was named Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year and Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Russell was named AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year. After their victories, Miller and Russell immediately went to work at the strategic level at TRADOC’s U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

The three said their experiences during the past year inspired them and showed them the big picture on Army issues.

“It’s been a learning experience,” Miller said. “Serving as Drill Sergeant of the Year has opened my eyes to a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of before. Working at the strategic level is much different than working as a squad leader or team leader, which is what I was used to. Seeing the big picture up here is truly awesome.”

Russell, who has been in the Army for 13 years and deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, also enjoyed his time working at Fort Eustis.

“It’s been eye opening to see the Army at a strategic level and be able to travel and see how other sides of the Army train, how they prepare Soldiers in Advanced Individual Training and basic training,” Russell said. “You get to see the whole picture.”

Croslin served his year as Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Croslin said he originally joined the Army Reserve so that he could stay near family in Oklahoma.

“I always wanted to serve in the Army and fight for my country,” Croslin said. “I joined in 2004 because of my desire to serve. The way I saw it, our country was at war, and I need to be over there. Whatever it was that I could do, I would serve however they needed me. But at the same time, I love my civilian side of life. I didn’t really want to be moved around the country my whole life. I’m a very family-oriented person, and all my family lives here in Oklahoma. I had the need and the want to serve, but at the same time stay close to my family.”

Though Croslin wasn’t sent to the Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, his year was still busy at Fort Sill, working with new recruits there, as well as traveling for various duties.

“I think everybody’s experience being Drill Sergeant of the Year is different,” Croslin said. “What I have pulled from it is the experiences I’ve been able to have with senior leadership — working with my command, getting their knowledge on what it means to be a leader. This is a position where you really get to spend some time with those leaders.

“And there was a lot of mentorship with other drill sergeants,” Croslin said. “A lot of drill sergeants look up to you when you become that pinnacle of a drill sergeant, so you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. Because everybody is basing it on: You are what’s right. There is a pressure that comes along with that. I knew that would come with it, but at times, you really realize that all the eyes are on you.”

Croslin credited the NCOs he started his career learning from with jumpstarting his Army Reserve career.

“To start it all off, it would have to be my drill sergeants in Basic Training,” Croslin said. “I remember them like it was yesterday. They set that example from day one in basic training of what it meant to be a Soldier. They showed what it meant to pay attention to detail, and that dedication to your country and to those around you, as well as the development of a team and what it meant to be part of a team.”

Miller said that early example is what made him want to become a drill sergeant.

“NCOs have been a pivotal part of my time in the Army,” Miller said. “As a young Soldier, NCOs were there to help guide me, to help correct any deficiencies that I had and to shape me into not only the Soldier that I was but the NCO I have become. It started with my drill sergeants. Everybody remembers who their drill sergeant was regardless of how long ago they served. Everybody remembers that influential person in their life. And that led me to want to become a drill sergeant, because I realized how pivotal they were in so many Soldiers’ lives.”

Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Russell, from left, Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller led the way on a ruck march during the 2014 competition at Fort Jackson, S.C. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Russell, from left, Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller led the way on a ruck march during the 2014 competition at Fort Jackson, S.C. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

A year spent working at the strategic level didn’t change what Miller saw as the problems that need fixing in the Army.

“The biggest change that I’d like to see across the Army is the overall discipline,” Miller said. “We see a degradation of the discipline that Soldiers have nowadays. There’s not the level of competence and discipline that I expect. I may have high hopes, but I think we’ve become lax, and I’d like to see us go back to a much more disciplined Army. Get out of the friendship mentality and get back to the leader-driven Army.”

Russell said he hoped to see more NCOs getting directly involved with their Soldiers’ training and not attempting to use technology as a quick fix.

“I want to see us getting back to the Army as a profession, getting back to the Army ethics,” Russell said. “We need to put more emphasis on training Soldiers and developing the individual Soldier instead of looking for technology to do that.”

Though Russell, Miller and Croslin all enjoyed their year at the top, their stint has come to an end. Recently, three NCOs took their places, as Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller was named 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Mark Mercer became the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year and Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Enriquez was named AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

And the Army goes rolling along.