By Staff Sgt. Andrea Smith, 108th Training CommandAugust 12, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Command officials describe drill sergeants as "top-quality, professional noncommissioned officers (NCOs) from virtually all branches of the Army". Their role is to turn citizens into Soldiers. Approximately 2,000 drill sergeants train 160,000 new Soldiers each year.
What makes these individuals vital to the Army is their passion for the profession and the composite mastery of transitioning civilians to Soldiers.
Six of the Army's top drill sergeants spent the past week enduring a mentally and physically grueling competition to win top honors as the 2013 Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY). The days were long and exhausting and the drill sergeants were required to perform the same tasks as the trainees they lead, evaluating their endurance, stamina, and character.
Sgt. 1st Class David E. Stover, representing the Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C., was named the 2013 active duty U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year; and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan J. McCaffrey, representing the 98th Training Division (IET), was named the 2013 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Sgt. Maj. Blaine Huston, the deputy commandant of U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, S.C. and a former DSOY competitor, referred to the selection process as the "Drill Sergeant Super Bowl".
"Drill sergeants from across the county and from both components go head-to-head to determine who are the most talented and subject matter expert drill sergeants in the nation," said Huston. "The competition serves to evaluate their professionalism and expertise and the organizations they hail from."
McCaffrey, who is a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, currently serves as a drill sergeant with C Company, 1st Battalion, 321st Infantry Regiment, at Fort Jackson, S.C.
"I became a drill sergeant because I wanted the ability to train and leave a good impression on Soldiers before they arrive at their first duty station."
McCaffrey explained that during every recruit's initial entry training period, drill sergeants work to set the tone for their entire military career.
"We are the first impression of the Army that new recruits coming though Initial Entry Training get so it's important for us to be able to set the best example."
During the selection process, the competitors were evaluated during several round robin sessions on a variety of Army challenges to include: the Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons qualification, night land navigation, Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, a foot march, written exams and essays, and a sergeants major board appearance.
For McCaffrey, every aspect of the competition was challenging and the selection process served to test his abilities with his peers, both active and reserve component.
"I learned a lot of the areas I need to improve on as a drill sergeant," said McCaffrey. "I learned a lot from all my fellow competitors. We're learning from each other at all times, everyone was there to help you get better and succeed."
"Training Soldiers drives my passion for being a drill sergeant," McCaffrey added. He continued on to express that Initial Entry Training becomes more than just the tradition of learning for many recruits. Friends become family, drill sergeants and cadre turn into mentors and the tradition itself becomes a haven of memories.
McCaffrey who is an officer trainer at a correctional academy also credits the Army for his success in his civilian career.
"As far as being a role model in my civilian job, I carry the same values and discipline there as I hold in the Army. Many of my civilian peers appreciate the discipline I bring because it is important for the correctional environment that we work in. Winning this competition gives me an example of how hard work and diligence pays off."
McCaffrey was presented the Meritorious Service Medal and will be presented the Ralph Haines Jr. Award at a later date in a ceremony in Washington.