Army names top drill sergeants for 2009
June 26, 2009
FORT MONROE, Va. (June 26, 2009) -- Staff Sgt. Michael Johnston, active-duty drill sergeant from Fort Benning, Ga., and Staff Sgt. Joshua Marshall, reserve drill sergeant from the 95th Division, were named the 2009 Drill Sergeants of the Year at a ceremony at Continental Park on Fort Monroe.
"This award spawned from my experience as a private in basic training to going to drill sergeant school," said Johnston. "All the privates, all the officers and all of the peers I've worked with and trained are all encompassed into the Drill Sergeant of the Year award."
"You study all of the major army regulations, all of the FMs, everything. The total Soldier concept led to [winning] the drill sergeant of the year competition," said Marshall.
The 2009 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition ran from Sunday through Friday at Fort Monroe and Fort Eustis, Va. The competition tested the Army's best drill sergeants on warrior tasks, battle drills and their ability to instruct young Soldiers.
Drill sergeants selected for the competition hail from the five basic combat training centers and two reserve training divisions. The seven drill sergeants have worked their way from battalion and brigade competitions to win the title of drill sergeant of the year from their respective locations.
The 2008 Drill Sergeants of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Herbert Thompson IV and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Noland represented Fort Jackson, S.C. and the 95th Reserve Division, respectively. Winners of Drill Sergeant of the Year spend a year serving as liaisons between drill sergeants and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, which oversees all Army training. The 2008 winners also planned and executed this year's competition.
"The whole week was, mind games," said Thompson. "We didn't want them to think, we wanted them to adapt."
The competition began with the Army Physical Fitness Test at Continental Park on Monday. The first day also included combatives and firing range activities such as a stress shoot, reflexive fire. Throughout the competition, the drill sergeants travelled mainly on foot for up to four miles at a time.
"I wasn't expecting to do any kind of road marching. Right there, that was a big shock to me," said Johnston. "80 percent of it has been physical, also that mental anxiety because you never know how far you're going to go on that road march or what's next; it just keeps building and building and building."
Tuesday's events began with a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call followed by land navigation and orienteering combined with surprise warrior tasks. The surprise tasks tested each drill sergeant on tasks they teach new enlistees including: how to administer emergency care, their knowledge of improvised explosive devices, and instructing young Soldiers how to enter and clear a room.
"It's pretty intense; it's a little more physical than what I thought," said Marshall. "I like the diversity of the events; instead of doing 9 or 10 major events, I think there's over 50 events we're doing, including smaller and larger tasks." They were tested and graded on over 60 events.
The third and fourth days had the drill sergeants complete an essay, deal with Soldier issues, complete and obstacle course and interview before a board of TRADOC leaders. New to this year's competition, the drill sergeants addressed issues among the Soldiers, including a scenario involving a suicidal Soldier.
"Along with teaching Soldiers how to do their task, there was a 'no Soldier left behind' scenario where a Soldier was contemplating taking their own life," said Thompson. "The drill sergeant has to serve as a coach, teacher and mentor."
"Think about what they do. They take a civilian volunteer and forge that raw material into a Soldier," said TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Bruner. "Each and every one of these Drill Sergeants has proven themselves already, just by being here."