FORT JACKSON, SC -- In a battle to be named the best of the best, 20 determined and highly trained drill sergeants are competing this week to earn the coveted title of Fort Jackson's 2010 Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Today marks the fourth day of the competition in which these top drill sergeants will have to push their mental and physical capacities to their limits in order to run, jump and climb their way through the Fit to Win Obstacle Course this afternoon.

Since the competition began Monday with an Army Physical Fitness Test, the cadre members have endured no less than 30 miles of road marching and several other physically and mentally grueling combat related tasks to pave their way to the finish.

Sgt. 1st Class Nicole Thomas, a drill sergeant for Company C, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, said although the competition has been tough and demanding, she's proud to say she, a logistics noncommissioned officer, can "hang" with the infantrymen.

Thomas, a 19-year veteran competing in a contest like this for the first time, said she credits her chain of command for creating a program to help her prepare for the strenuous competition.

For three weeks she brushed up on Basic Combat Training, maneuvered through practice obstacle courses, completed 5-mile runs and anything else she and her trainers felt would whip her into shape.

She said getting in shape may give her a slight edge over those who had less time to train, but she said she must still face her biggest challenge, speed.

"Men are faster and stronger than most women," Thomas said. "Not in all cases, but let's be honest here, their speed is really something difficult to keep up with. I have to give it to them, they're fast."

And road marching with all her gear on doesn't help, she said.

Staff Sgt. Daisy Martinez, Company C., 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, another among only five female competitors, agreed that the heavy equipment is a burden to carry.

"Before I put my gear on, I weighed 135 (pounds)," Martinez said. "After putting it on, I weigh 195, and that's not including my weapon."

Martinez, who has been in the Army for 12 years, said she was "volun-told" she would be competing just two days prior to the start of the competition. Even with almost no time to prepare, Martinez said she's still going to do her best to compete against what she calls "outstanding competition."

If either Martinez or Thomas wins the competition, it will be the first time a female has been named Fort Jackson's DSoY since 2003.

Last year, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cavezza, Company A, 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, won.

As the reigning DSoY, Cavezza designed this year's competition based on his experiences competing for the TRADOC DSoY title last year. He included more obstacles, foot marching and elements of surprise for the contenders, he said.

"The main emphasis this year was to have the competitors execute the tasks while under stress," Cavezza said. "Putting them in full gear, road march a couple of miles, then go ahead and execute a major task. Not knowing what's coming up next is the biggest obstacle," he said.

Staff Sgt. Richard Love, Company F, 1st Battalion 34th Inf. Reg., said the unexpected events in between each major event is exactly what he finds to be the most challenging.

"I'm sure they're trying to break us down between events," Love said. "The surprises may just be what make or break you, as far as physical fatigue."

The competition ends tomorrow with a formal board, which Martinez said she is anticipating.

"It's all knowledge," she said. "I can (display) that better than I can do physically. I think I'll do well."

The winner will be announced Saturday and recognized later in a ceremony. The winner will serve as the liaison between drill sergeants and the post command group, and will also compete in the TRADOC DSoY competition in June. In the event the Fort Jackson DSoY wins the TRADOC title, he or she will make a permanent change of station to Fort Monroe, Va. Hence, the runner-up will serve as the Fort Jackson DSoY.

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