Drill sergeants compete to be best
April 19, 2012
Four drill sergeants from the 434th Field Artillery Brigade competed in the grueling Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year competition April 10-13 here.
After intense physical testing, warrior task evaluations, and a board appearance, Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Victor Marquez, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th FA, was announced the winner April 16 at brigade headquarters.
Marquez edged out Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Patrick Adams, B/1-79th FA, Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) James Francis, E/1-31st FA, and Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) JeanMarc Moise, A/95th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception).
Marquez will move on to the Training and Doctrine Command DSoY competition in late June at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
"I'm in shock, I'm very happy," said Marquez, 29, who is originally from Juarez, Mexico. "We had no idea how any of us ranked because all of the scoring was secret."
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Felicia Frailey, the 2011 winner, was responsible for designing and running this year's competition, which included about 30 events. She said the competition was very close with all participants finishing within 10 points of each other.
She designed the competition to prepare the winner for the next level.
"I mirrored this competition off my [TRADOC] experiences, so it will only set them up for success when they get there," she said.
The competition kicked off April 10 at 4 a.m. with physical readiness training testing, Frailey said. Other events included land navigation; weapons qualification with an M16 rifle, as well as weapons familiarity with the M203 grenade launcher, M240 and M249 machine guns and AT4 anti-tank weapon; drill and ceremonies execution; the Army Physical Fitness Test; essay questions; and a board appearance.
Throughout, the competitors never knew what event would be next.
"Everything is a surprise," Frailey said. "They walk into it, get their task standards and then execute."
The competition was physically challenging, said Francis, who has been in the Army about eight years.
"There's a lot of road marches, lots of weight, lots of distance, plus the heat," he said. "We've been starting earlier and earlier as the competition goes on, and the nights have been getting later and later."
On the morning of the third day of competition, the drill sergeants probably had rucked a total of about 25 miles in full "battle rattle," and averaged about fours of sleep a night at a tactical operations center.
Although the drill sergeants were competing against each other, there was a lot of camaraderie within the contest, Moise said.
"I'm going through this with a great group of guys, and we're all supporting each other," said Moise, who is from Queens, N.Y.
Battalions within the 434th FA did their own selection to find their drill sergeant to represent them at the brigade competition with hands-on and board competitions, Frailey said.
Brigade and battalion leaders were at the 1st Sgt. Peden Confidence Obstacle Course April 12 and watched the drill sergeants go through the course and encouraged them.
Col. Gregory Dewitt, 434th FA Brigade commander, presented each of the drill sergeants with the Army Achievement Medal at the award ceremony. He said the competition reaffirms the drill sergeants' ability to train Soldiers.
"It also challenges them," Dewitt said. "They don't know what tasks are coming up, so they have to rely on their training to get them through."
Lt. Col. Betsy Atherton, 95th AG Battalion commander, was at the obstacle course and cheered on Moise.
"We chose him because he's the one who could best represent us," she said. "We're proud of him."
She also presented her coins to all the competitors at the award ceremony.
Marquez said he competed because he wanted to test himself and become a better leader and Soldier.
"I lead my Soldiers from the front," he said, "so this competition is giving me experience building myself as a leader."
Adams, who said he knew he wanted to be a drill sergeant since he was in basic training in 2003, said the competition showed him his strengths and weaknesses.
"I'm definitely learning from the competition, and I'm going to work to improve in those areas where I can be better," he said.
Francis recommended the annual drill sergeant competition to his peers.
"It really lets you know where you stand," Francis said. "It's the equivalent of a placement test -- an assessment of your skills."