Battle drills: Fort Jackson hosts TRADOC competition
June 9, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- or the first time in the competition’s history, the Army’s six top drill sergeants will converge on Fort Jackson next week to compete for the title of TRADOC’s Drill Sergeant of the Year.
They will compete for the titles of active and Reserve component drill sergeants of the year. The competition previously took place at Fort Monroe and Fort Eustis, both in Virginia.
Staff Sgt. Melissa Solomon, the current Reserve component drill sergeant of the year, said that because of Fort Jackson’s role as a training installation, it will provide the necessary infrastructure for the competition.
“There are more opportunities to incorporate what a drill sergeant has to do because of the facilities that are here at Fort Jackson that we don’t have on Fort Eustis,” Solomon said. “That did open the door for us to change up the competition and incorporate different tasks that we wouldn’t have been able to do due to resource constrictions at Fort Eustis.”
Solomon and her active-duty counterpart, Staff Sgt. Timothy Sarvis, have been planning the competition since November. Candidates will be tested in a variety of ways, but the specifics of the competition are kept under wraps, she said.
“It is definitely top secret. (The drill sergeants) will just go through various tasks that are mentally challenging, physically challenging, a test of their endurance,” Solomon said. “The days will be what a real ‘drill sergeant day’ is. A drill sergeant usually wakes up around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and usually doesn’t come home until 9, sometimes 10 (o’clock) at night. That’s the type of day that the competition is centered around. It’s not going to be a 9-to-5 thing because that’s not the realistic life of what drill sergeants actually have to go through while they’re on the trail.”
During a recent visit to Fort Jackson, Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, TRADOC’s deputy commanding general for Initial Military Training, said he is excited about the competition.
“The Drill Sergeant of the Year competition takes these noncommissioned officers whom we’ve already said are the cream of the crop in our Army, and then we seek to find who is the cream of that crop,” Longo said. “So it’s an incredible opportunity for a young sergeant to compete and to win this, and it’s an incredible opportunity for the Army to get the benefit of their expertise.”
The two winners will be stationed at TRADOC headquarters for the next year to advise IMT Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena on drill sergeant issues.
Staff Sgt. Samantha Goscinski, a drill sergeant with Company E, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, will represent Fort Jackson in the competition.
“I’m excited, but nervous. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know how to prepare. You can only prepare based on the last competition that you did or what you’ve heard. You don’t know how everybody else is preparing. You don’t even know (your competitors),” Goscinski said.
For Goscinski, whose military occupational specialty is Military Police, taking part in the event is a way to demonstrate that Soldiers from any MOS can be effective as drill sergeants, she said.
“I wanted to compete to distinguish myself, to prove to myself that I’m just as good as the next guy,” she said.
The competitors will be evaluated by drill sergeant leaders from the Drill Sergeant School. Solomon said she hopes the winners will be passionate about drill sergeant issues and not be afraid to articulate their opinions at the TRADOC level.
“I want to see somebody who has a passion about being a drill sergeant, who cares about what (drill sergeants) do, the effect they have on the Soldiers, the effect that they have on the whole Army in itself,” Solomon said. “I hope it’s a challenging competition, and I hope we designed the competition to get the type of person who would be (the) best fit (at TRADOC).”
The event will culminate with a ceremony at 9 a.m., June 17 at the Solomon Center, during which the winners will be announced.
“I hope that everyone on Fort Jackson supports the competition and actually comes to the ceremony to hear the announcement of the 2011 Reserve and active component drill sergeant of the year,” Solomon said. “This is the home of the drill sergeant. It would be a shame if the Solomon Center wasn’t packed.”