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Army Drill Sergeant School

Training the Soldiers of Tomorrow

By

Army Drill Sergeant

An Army Drill Sergeant motivates a recruit at basic training.

Official U.S. Army Photo
“The drill sergeant campaign hat is one of the most prestigious and sought-after uniform items in the military inventory,” said CSM Scottie Thomas. “With the drill sergeant patch, worn by current and former drill sergeants, it signifies that a Soldier has accepted one of the greatest responsibilities in the Army today – turning civilians into Soldiers,” added Thomas, the Commandant of the Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, S.C.

“Before we became an Army at war, being a drill sergeant was one of the most sought after positions in the Army,” said Thomas. “The number of volunteers who came here was higher before the war, and every NCO had that ‘warrior spirit.’ Today, NCOs are choosing to take that ‘spirit’ to the front lines with their units and waiting until they return to come to the school.”

The war on terrorism may be keeping some sergeants from pursuing the coveted “brown round” drill sergeant campaign hat, but for others the war has created a new opportunity to make a difference and be a part of training the future force.

“I’ve waited almost three years to come here for the opportunity to train new recruits,” said SFC Leon Casey, a school candidate from the 187th Ordinance Battalion at Fort Jackson. “My basic-training drill sergeant had a tremendous impact on my life, and because of that, I always knew that this is what I wanted from the military. He set a standard for me to follow, and even today there isn’t a pair of shoes in my house that aren’t laced left over right. That’s the impact I want to make on new Soldiers.”

The mission of training tomorrow’s Soldiers may appear to be a daunting task to some drill sergeant candidates, but Soldiers like SSG David Jameson say they are ready for the challenge. “I want the opportunity to turn civilians into Soldiers, and I know when I graduate I’ll have the tools necessary to do that,” said Jameson of the 82nd Airborne Division.

As another candidate explained, the school is not designed to take seasoned NCOs back to basic training, but to get them back to the basics.

“Many of the NCOs who come here rely largely on their own experiences to get things done,” said 1SG Harold Williams, the schools deputy commandant. “They will always have that knowledge with them, but here we want them to go back to the basics and learn to ‘train to standard,’ and then be able to enforce what they’ve learned.”

For drill sergeant candidates, being an NCO is the easy part, explained Williams. Being an instructor responsible for teaching military skills to future Soldiers is the part they need to learn at the school. “The candidates receive the same instruction as initial-entry Soldiers. They receive the instruction in a manner that will help them pass that information on when they become drill sergeants,” said Thomas.

The students have to understand that they’ll be responsible for teaching the material they’ve learned to other Soldiers – Soldiers who may be heading off to the front lines once they’ve learned it, Thomas added. “The only foundation new recruits have is what they’ve learned during their initial training.”

Because of the immense amount of responsibility being handed over to new drill sergeants, candidates must undergo extensive background checks as part of the drill sergeant qualification process.

“One of the major obstacles in qualifying to come here is the security-clearance process,” Thomas said. “Prospective candidates are also assessed by a variety of military agencies, so I feel comfortable that we’re receiving Soldiers who are qualified to be here. They have to be mentally and physically fit for the challenge that lies ahead.”

The candidate’s day begins with physical training, followed by a full day of academic training. Every topic is specifically targeted to the basic training environment. Classes consist of basic rifle marksmanship, drill and ceremony, unarmed combat training and a variety of other basic military skills training. The school’s overall goal is to train each candidate to become the trainer, be able to clearly and concisely relay what he’s learned to Soldiers.

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