FORT SILL, OKla.--Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) John Folger said when he was a new private 12 years ago that he wanted to some day become a drill sergeant. "A private coming out of basic training looks at a drill sergeant as the epitome of what a noncommissioned officer should be a trainer," said Folger, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, 434th FA Brigade.

After becoming a drill sergeant a year ago, Folger then set his goal to become drill sergeant of the year. "I'm always looking to set myself apart from my peers, so this is logically the next step," he said.

Folger was one of four drill sergeants who competed in the Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year competition April 5 through 8 here.

The brigade will announce the winner next week. He or she will compete at the Training and Doctrine Command DSOY competition June 12 through 19 at Fort Monroe, Va., against drill sergeants from the four other basic combat training centers: Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Jackson, S.C.; Fort Benning, Ga.; and Fort Knox, Ky.

Reigning Fort Sill DSOY (Sgt. 1st Class) Arron Barnes and senior enlisted leaders from the brigade administered about 20 events which tested the Soldiers in fitness and combatives, marksmanship, warrior tasks, first aid, military bearing, communication skills, and, of course, drill sergeant abilities.

Over four grueling days, the competitors were not given any feedback about their performances, ate MREs on the run and often learned of the next event just hours before it occurred. That was to see their reactions to stress and surprises, Barnes said.

The four candidates were all quite different and well-qualified. It takes heart, motivation and all-around drill sergeant skills to win the competition, said Barnes, whose reign will end in June.

The competition began April 5 at 5 a.m. with the Army Physical Fitness Test, followed by a quick breakfast and then a five-mile road march to a weapons qualification range.

Drill Sergeant (Sgt. 1st Class) Michael Iozzo, A Battery, 1st-19th FA, said he achieved the standard on the APFT and described the road march as "a walk in the park" on the cool, overcast morning.

Iozzo saw the DSOY competition as a way to enhance his career and was encouraged to compete by his then-mentor 1st. Sgt. David Billingsley.

The Fort Sill drill sergeant of the year position is the senior drill sergeant to the 434th FA brigade's commander and command sergeant major and is responsible for the teaching and mentoring of the brigades almost-300 drill sergeants.

One of the responsibilities the incoming drill sergeant of the year will have is the implementation of a new program of instruction, Barnes said.

"Basic combat training is changing their job is to ensure all the units have the updated versions of the POI," he said.

Sgt. Maj. Euripides Perez, 434th FA operations sergeant major, assisted with the competition. He described the DSOY title as prestigious and the winner must love to train Soldiers.

"What we're looking for is those who go above-and-beyond on their own, and wear the (drill sergeants') crest 'This We'll Defend,'" said Perez, a former drill sergeant.

Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Vincent Higgins, C Battery, 1st-19th FA, saw the DSOY competition as a chance to better himself and he was encouraged to participate by his Command Sgt. Maj. Jenny Clement.

"I wanted to do something that my peers weren't doing and this would set me apart from my peers," Higgins said.

Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) La Toya Clay, B Battery, 1st-40th FA, said her strategy in the competition was simple: give 100-percent effort in every event. She felt her strengths were in the physical events, such as the road march.

She said that it would mean a lot for her to win the competition.

"I think it would show that females can hang tough with the males," she said.

Early in the competition, Higgins said he was already gaining valuable insights from the events that he could take back to his job.

"I'm already starting to take new ideas to train my Soldiers and to check if they're grasping what you're trying to teach them," he said.

Higgins described his competitors as top notch. "It's an honor to be around them."

Folger said there was much comraderie among the competitors and that they were encouraging each other between events.

"I think we're all trying to help each other out and motivating each other," he said. "The competition is going well because of that."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16