Tag Archives: Drill Sergeant School

Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year will be a ‘force to be reckoned with’ in TRADOC competition

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

A year ago, Staff Sgt. Dustin Randall had plans to join Special Forces. Little did he know that in the span of a few short months, he would instead graduate from drill sergeant school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, be inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club and selected as NCO of the Month, NCO of the Quarter and then Fort Sill’s 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year. He now has his sights set on the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year competitions.

“I absolutely see him going on to TRADOC DSOY and Army DSOY,” said 1st Sgt. Shandrel Stewart of B Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery Regiment, 434th Field Artillery Brigade, who recommended him for the Drill Sergeant of the Year competition. “I think he can win it all. I don’t know who the competition is, but Drill Sgt. Randall is a force to be reckoned with. The other competitors are going to have to be on their A-game, and they are going to have to bring it.”

Randall said he is excited about competing in the TRADOC Drill Sergeant of the Year competition in September.

“I don’t think I will ever have another opportunity in my whole career to do something like this,” Randall said. “I definitely don’t want to look back on it four or five months from now and say, ‘I wish I had given more effort,’ or ‘I wish I had studied more.’ It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got. Hopefully when they call the winner’s name it will be mine. We’ll see.”

Preparing for the competition

“Drill Sgt. Randall is very competitive,” Stewart said. “He will say that he is not, but everything is a competition. He does not like losing, and he is very goal-oriented. You always hear people saying, ‘Oh, I don’t care if I win or lose.’ Drill Sgt. Randall has a way of making you care, making you want to compete with him, making you want to say, ‘Hey, if he did it, then I know I can do it.’”

Randall found time to study for the Fort Sill competition even during the “red phase” of basic training, when drill sergeants – usually two per platoon – are with their Soldiers from 4:45 a.m. until 9 p.m. or later. They get their Soldiers out of bed, lead them in physical training, accompany them to the chow hall for meals and run them through the training events for the day. In the evenings, drill sergeants can be found cleaning weapons, inspecting gear and helping Soldiers deal with personal issues. And then the next day, it’s “wash, rinse, repeat,” Randall said.

“Even though we were still in red phase, he found time,” Stewart said. “He kept 3-by-5 cards in his pocket and studied, studied, studied. During lunch, he studied, studied. So many would have made excuses, but he found the time.”

Randall knew the competition could test him on any task drill sergeants teach their Soldiers. Staff Sgt. Franco Peralta, Fort Sill’s former Drill Sergeant of the Year, designed this year’s competition at Fort Sill to emulate what he experienced last year in the TRADOC Drill Sergeant of the Year competition. Competitors completed a 12-mile foot march, were tested on multiple basic tasks and were placed in simulations of real-life scenarios.

“Situations you think would not be tested, they can throw in there,” Randall said. “For example, we were doing a recovery drill for PT – kind of a cool-down stretch at the end – and one of the Soldiers takes a knee and says she just can’t do it anymore. She wants to quit; she is having all these issues back home. So we were evaluated on our approach – they call it ‘taking off the hat.’ You can’t always be stern. Sometimes you have to show them you are also human and care for their needs. You’ve got to coach them through it and get them back in the fight.”

Taking pride in an important job

Though being a drill sergeant was not what he had planned for this stage of his career, Randall said he takes so much pride in being the face of the Army for new Soldiers. The best part of his job, he said, is seeing not only the drastic change in the Soldiers by the time they graduate from basic combat training, but the drastic change in their futures.

“The Soldiers who come here with nothing else – they were sleeping in a car before they got here, they had no money, no job – that’s kind of how I was when I came into the Army. Just seeing that person transform and have an enormous amount of opportunities when they leave here, that’s my favorite part of this job,” Randall said. “It’s amazing to see those underprivileged individuals come in and realize that hard work pays off, that when they leave here they will definitely have a better life.”

On the other hand, he said, the hardest part of the job is seeing individuals come through who really want to be there, but who ultimately don’t make the cut.

“In the cycle I just graduated, there was one – she was in military intelligence, very smart, I could tell she wanted to be here. She gave 110 percent, but when she first came in she couldn’t do one sit-up. She made progress; she got up to three, and then to seven. But 21 sit-ups is the minimum required on the PT test, so she had to chapter out of the military. It’s hard to see. You coach them, and you want them to succeed, but even though a drill sergeant is there 18 hours a day, they can’t do the work for them.”

Across the board, though, no matter how much a Soldier struggles through basic combat training, they come to admire their drill sergeant, Randall said.

“If you ask any Soldier who they think the best drill sergeant is on this post, they will tell you it’s their drill sergeant,” Randall said. “They may not say that during the first three or four weeks of BCT, but there is something about the last 4-and-a-half weeks – a transformation to where they really want to be like their drill sergeant. Their drill sergeant is the best and can do no wrong. On graduation day, everybody wants to take pictures with their drill sergeant. I think it’s because, deep down, they know their drill sergeant had their best intentions at heart from the get go. Looking back, they know he or she was looking out for them, turning them into a better person.”

Drill sergeants play such an important role in shaping the future Army, and Randall said he is honored to have been selected as the standard-bearer for the drill sergeants at Fort Sill.

“Day in and day out, I am setting the example for all of the drill sergeants to follow,” Randall said. “I’m mentoring, guiding them as needed. And I am the liaison between the drill sergeants and the command team. So anything they need, anything I can do to make their job easier, that’s what I’m here for.”

Randall has plans to create a drill-sergeant parliament to get all of the battalions on the same page. The Drill Sergeant of the Year has the ear of the sergeant major, Stewart explained, and if Randall can get all of the drill sergeants to agree on a need or issue, he can better facilitate a change.

Stewart said she hopes the drill sergeants at Fort Sill learn a lot from Randall during his year as drill sergeant of the year: self-discipline, going by the book, prioritizing their time.

“He is the total 360 of what they are looking for in an NCO,” Stewart said. “He leads by the book, has a very strong presence. He is very knowledgeable, whether we are talking about weapons, drill and ceremony, field operations. He knows it all. He was the prime candidate. He had so many ideas he wanted to bring to the table, things in the program for the drill sergeants in general that he wanted to change. I hate that I lost him, but I’m glad he won it. It was time for him to grow. He was the best person for the job, and I’m not even surprised that he got it. I knew he was going to win it.”

Staff Sgt. Dustin Randall, Fort Sill’s Drill Sergeant of the Year, is already preparing for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Drill Sergeant of the Year competition in September.  “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got,” Randall said. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Dustin Randall, Fort Sill’s Drill Sergeant of the Year, is already preparing for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Drill Sergeant of the Year competition in September. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got,” Randall said. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Week of competition ends with drill sergeant reunion

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By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

A week of competition wrapped up with a night of memories as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School celebrated its 50th anniversary with the opening of a Drill Sergeant Hall of Fame and a drill sergeant reunion dinner at Fort Jackson, S.C.

More than 300 people attended the dinner Sept. 12, and another 500 watched the festivities online through a live feed, said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Campbell, the G3/5/7 (operations/plans/training) sergeant major for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Va. This year was the first drill sergeant reunion, but there now will be one every year to coincide with the AIT Platoon Sergeant and Drill Sergeant of the Year Competitions.

Each year, the events will take place the week of Sept. 10th (the date the Drill Sergeant School was founded), with the competitions running Monday through Thursday, and the reunion dinner on Friday.

“There are people right now making plans to attend the 51st anniversary reunion because they couldn’t make the 50th,” Campbell said.

Conrad Ragland, who was a drill sergeant from 1996 to 1998, and who retired from the Army in 2004, said he was glad drill sergeants were starting to get some of the recognition they deserve.

“[Coming to a drill sergeant reunion] is something that I always wanted to do,” Ragland said. “I always felt that there was something that was missing. They never recognized the drill sergeants. So, I just wanted to come and be a part of this and meet people who I hadn’t met before. It’s been excellent, and I’ve run into a bunch of friends that I was ‘on the trail’ with.”

Fred Glenn served in the Army for only three years. But two of those years were as a drill sergeant. Glenn served as a drill sergeant at Fort Bragg in 1966 and 1967 after he did a tour of duty in Vietnam.

A poster for the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School was signed by all the attendees of the drill sergeant reunion Sept. 12 at Fort Jackson, S.C. At left is the signature of the 2014 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester)
A poster for the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School was signed by all the attendees of the drill sergeant reunion Sept. 12 at Fort Jackson, S.C. At left is the signature of the 2014 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester)

“When we were pushing troops at Fort Bragg, I had already done a tour in Vietnam,” Glenn said. “So when I came back to the States, they sent us to Drill Sergeant School because of our experience in the infantry.

“I just felt it was my duty, once I was a drill sergeant, to train them best I could,” he said. “There was no way we could train them for all they were going to face over there in those jungles. But what we could try to do is train them to stay alive and help their fellow Soldiers. My thing was the four life-saving steps. We lost a lot of troops because they bled out or went into shock and just died. So I focused on teaching the Soldiers the life-saving steps. I just felt like it was a blessing that I was in that position to give them the experience I gained from my tour in Vietnam.”

As one of the oldest attendees, Glenn said he wanted to attend the 50th anniversary reunion because he wants to make sure he remains part of the history.

“I came through Fort Jackson as a trainee 50 years ago, this year,” Glenn said. “And then for me to be trained as a drill sergeant in 1966, it was only two years after the whole drill sergeant program started, so I feel like I’m part of the history. I’m here representing. I see these young drill sergeants, and they are emulating what we started. That’s why I came, because I feel like I’m part of the history.”

Regina Farrow, a drill sergeant from 1987 to 1989, admitted her years as a drill sergeant weren’t easy and weren’t filled with rosy memories. But she came to remember, nonetheless.

“Out of 21 years in the Army, the two years that were so challenging for me as a noncommissioned officer were those two years that I was on drill status,” she said. “Coming back is part of healing. I feel good here now. It feels good to sit back and say everybody here has been where I’ve been at. They might not have had the same struggle, but we’ve all been through the drill sergeant program and got something in common.”

As well as the first reunion, the year marked the beginning of a new U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Association, and the start of a Drill Sergeant Hall of Fame located at the Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson.

“On Sept. 13, we had the first Drill Sergeant Association meeting ever,” Campbell said. “It’s brand new, but it’s growing rapidly, faster than we can keep up with.”

Those wanting to be a part of the Drill Sergeant Association can get more information at the association web site, www.armydrillsergeants.com.

“From that page, they can join, they can pay their dues, they can buy drill sergeant memorabilia,” Campbell said. “We’re going to build a drill sergeant brick garden at the Drill Sergeant School, and they can go in there and buy bricks to go in the garden. And we’re not going to seal the time capsule until later in the year. So if they still want to put stuff in the 50th anniversary time capsule, they can get information on how to do that.”

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Army’s best drill sergeants contend for top honors

By STEPHANIE SLATER
TRADOC

The Army’s top drill sergeants are competing at Fort Jackson to see who can out-drill, out-teach and outlast their fellow command barkers and capture the Drill Sergeant of the Year award.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jarod Moss, 95th Reserve Division drill sergeant, completes the final obstacle of the Fort Eustis, Va., confidence course before sprinting to the finish line June 27, 2012. Moss and four other contestants competed for the fastest time as part of the 2012 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition, hosted by Initial Military Training, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. (Photo by Senior Airman Wesley Farnsworth)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jarod Moss, 95th Reserve Division drill sergeant, completes an obstacle during the 2012 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition at Fort Eustis, Va. (Photo by Senior Airman Wesley Farnsworth)

Army spokesman Pat Jones said the service’s top six drill sergeants are competing Monday and Tuesday. The award will be announced Wednesday.

Contenders endure physical and mental challenges during the 30-hour event, which tests their knowledge of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills and their ability to teach these tasks to new Soldiers. Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills are the fundamental combat skills that all Soldiers must perform in order to fight and win on the battlefield.

The selection process concludes with each drill sergeant appearing before a board of command sergeants major to evaluate their knowledge of leadership and drill sergeant training tasks. One challenging aspect of the selection process is that the drill sergeants are unaware of the tasks they will be required to perform.

The Drill Sergeant School, Initial Military Training Center of Excellence, will host an awards ceremony to announce the winners at 5 p.m. July 17 at the Fort Jackson NCO Club, 5700 Lee Road, Fort Jackson.

The active Army Drill Sergeant of the Year receives the Stephen Ailes Award, initiated in 1969 and named for the Secretary of the Army from 1964 to 1965 who was instrumental in originating the first Drill Sergeant School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The Army Reserve winner receives the Ralph Haines Jr. Award, named for the commander of the Continental Army Command (forerunner of TRADOC) from 1970 to 1972.

Drill sergeants are the cornerstone of Army readiness, entrusted with the task of preparing new Soldiers to fight and win our nation’s wars. The skill of producing quality Soldiers demands that only the Army’s best and brightest serve as drill sergeants.

The competitors include four active-duty and two U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants. One winner will be selected from each service component.

Click here → to view the drill sergeants’ biographies and photos.