434th selects drill sergeant of year
April 21, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla.-- The point of this year's Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year competition wasn't just to distinguish the best drill sergeant on post, it was to train the future winner of the Training Doctrine and Command competition in June.
"Test essays, land navigation, ruck marching, shooting, everything was a surprise. We didn't know what we were getting into until we were told we were going to do it," said Staff Sgt. Felicia Frailey, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery.
Frailey broke away from the rest during the arduous four-day competition and is the first woman to win the competition since gender integrated training was re-introduced to Fort Sill.
"She is a role model for female Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Vincent Higgins, current Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year. "They see her and say, I can accomplish big goals like that in this military."
Frailey competed against four other drill sergeants April 5-8. Each drill sergeant has been on the "trail" for at least one year and was chosen to represent his or her battalion.
The competition was a mixture of physical and mental challenges as the group ruck marched 23 miles with 50-plus pounds of gear over three days, running on four or five hours of sleep. If that wasn't enough to exhaust them, it ended with a physical training test.
"It makes us stronger, especially as leaders. I am the type of individual who's not going to give up. I'm going to make something happen or do it to the best of my abilities," said Frailey.
She scored a 284 on her PT test which, she said, is below her normal standards but given the strenuous conditions she was very pleased.
Raising the bar
Higgins was the mastermind behind this year's competition modeling it after the TRADOC competition he went through last year.
"I think that was a key factor he wanted to put in there, OK now that you're drained, let's see how well you can push yourself. How bad do you want it' That's what it boils down to," said Frailey.
He said it took six months to prepare and was extremely careful in making sure no information on the challenges would leak out to the drill sergeants. Higgins wanted them on their toes, just like he said they would be at the next level.
Besides the physical challenges, the drill sergeants were graded on how well they could do their actual jobs: training Soldiers.
"I wanted to see who was the most capable both mentally and physically. What can you do on the job' Because that's what being a drill sergeant is about. We reference [the official training manuals], yes, but most of our work takes place actually out there hands-on," said Higgins.
The drill sergeants had to perform tasks such as teaching Day 1 trainees the new physical readiness regiment making sure to correct their form and ensure they were doing it properly. The drill sergeants were also tested on how well they could handle a Soldier who just wants to give up.
"That's something we encounter often with the Soldiers," said Frailey. "You get a few of them that just reach that stress level and they refuse to train."
The drill sergeants were teaching Soldiers how to zero and qualify their weapons when suddenly a Soldier threw in the towel and walked away. It was then on the drill sergeants to convince them the training was the best thing to do.
"As mentors we have to get to the bottom of it. You have to look at the Soldier and say 'OK, what kind of Soldier is this' I know this Soldier. So what is it' What's bothering you' Is there something that went on' Something at home'' Find out the real reason as to why they're not wanting to be there," said Frailey.
Time to fight
Another surprise twist came on Day 2. The drill sergeants walked through a tunnel and were met by combatives instructors who immediately attacked them. Their task was to defend themselves and achieve the clinch.
Frailey is no stranger to competition but unlike going to the board, the drill sergeants weren't allowed to have study guides or sponsors. They had to do everything on their own. Frailey felt it would be the perfect challenge for her.
"I figured why not. Win or lose, I was getting something out of it. And it was a good assessment of myself."
Higgins will be training Frailey over the next six weeks to prepare for the TRADOC competition at Fort Jackson, S.C. in June.
"We don't want the Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year, we want the TRADOC Drill Sergeant of the Year and that's what we're preparing for. We believe that Drill Sergeant Frailey can be the TRADOC Drill Sergeant of the Year," said Higgins.