FORT BENNING, Ga. - Staff Sgt. John Heslin was named the Drill Sergeant of the Year Friday after squaring off against Fort Benning's top drill sergeants in a weeklong competition.

Heslin, of 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 198th Infantry Brigade, will compete for the 2011 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year title in June.

There, Heslin and runner-up, Staff Sgt. Robert Garvey, of 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, 192nd Infantry Brigade, will compete against top drill sergeants from active-duty and Reserve commands for the Army title.

Three drill sergeants, one each from the 192nd, 198th and 194th Armored Brigade, competed May 2 to Thursday in a combined competition in conjunction with the Soldier and NCO of the Year competitions, said Sgt. Maj. Steve Murphy, event NCOIC.

The competitors were chosen through a series of boards starting at the company level.

Heslin has been in the Army for seven years and assigned to the battalion for the last eight months. He's deployed twice for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"There was some pretty tough competition out there," he said. "The best part of the competition was the land navigation. The worst part was probably the weapons qualification ... I had a major malfunction with my weapon several times so that probably wasn't the best part of the competition for me."

Heslin garnered an Army Commendation Medal for his win.

Following the Army competition next month, Heslin said his goal is to earn the Ranger tab.

Garvey, also a seven-year Army veteran, has been with the 192nd Inf. Bde. for nearly two years.

"It's a lot more challenging than I originally thought it would be - the hours are strenuous and transforming 50-plus civilians into Soldiers requires a lot of attention ... but the process of transformation and the overall outcome is always fulfilling," Garvey said of his experience training Soldiers.

The second-place finish is "bittersweet," he said, and he's already planning a second run for the title in 2012. He will continue to prepare alongside Heslin for the Army-level competition in the event he's needed.

The most challenging part of the competition, both agreed, was the board on the final day.

The drill sergeants were asked roughly 30 questions each by a panel of five high-ranking NCOs, who judge their demeanor and confidence level as well as their knowledge of a variety of subjects.

"Everything else in the competition is task-based. You either get it right or get it wrong," Garvey said. "With the board, they're critiquing your movement, facial expressions, the way you speak, how you present yourself - it all plays a role."

Other events included an Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons qualification, urban orienteering, land navigation, warrior tasks, written tests and essays and reciting drill and ceremony movements.

Duties of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year include providing input about periods of instruction pertaining to initial entry training, helping to standardize training and giving motivational speeches, officials said.

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