By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)January 23, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. -- The Fires Center of Excellence is using the experts on being drill sergeants to prepare the future fleet taking the trail.
The current and former drill sergeants of the year, Sgt. 1st Class William Schmidt, 2013 DsoY, and Sgt. 1st Class Victor Marquez, 2012 DSoY, teach the Drill Sergeant Candidate Course.
The one-week course begins with an Army Physical Fitness Test to make sure the candidates meet the minimum requirments to go to Drill Sergeant School.
"About 20 percent of drill sergeants who were showing up to drill sergeant school were not meeting the standard. They were getting kicked out in the first week, first two weeks some of them the first day. It's a program that the brigade commander and command sergeant major wanted," said Marquez.
Marquez and Schmidt make sure the Army is sending Soldiers who are prepared to teach civilians the Army ways.
"We introduce them to Physical Readiness Training, because a lot of people Army-wide still aren't familiar with PRT, and familiarize them with how to conduct the modules," said Schmidt.
Modules are blocks of instruction the candidates will have to know on drill and ceremony. During the week the candidates studied three modules and had to pitch them in front of each other.
The name of the game was not only knowing the information verbatim, it was also about pacing and inflection.
"The hardest part for me were the modules,"said Staff Sgt. Shaun Kelly, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery.
Kelly and the others had to teach when and how to stand at attention. Afterward he said he understood how something so routine in his Army career could be difficult to break down.
"For us it's natural. I know how to put my feet together, now I have to learn how to put it into words so others can understand."
The course is designed so Marquez and Schmidt can catch any issue the candidates have. The first question being, are they ready to take on the responsibilities attached with teaching the Army's newest Soldiers?
"I'm excited just to teach the next generation and be a part of it," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Watford, E Company, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery.
"I like to guide Soldiers in the right direction. That's something I'm passionate about," said Staff Sgt. Isaac Dawson, 15th Transportation Company, 100th Brigade Support Battalion. "I've honestly wanted to be a drill sergeant since AIT. I never really had someone take care of me. The first people outside of my family to do that were my drill sergeants. Drill sergeants had a big impact on my life and my military career."
Marquez stressed the impact the candidates will have on their Soldiers even after Basic Combat Training.
Marquez said when he went through BCT he was afraid to ask questions and that hindered him from fully understanding some of the training. He said that's why the drill sergeant teaching methods have changed.
"If that Soldier comes to you and says 'Drill sergeant I don't understand,' and you say 'Soldier get away from me, he's not going to come and ask you again, right?"
He said drill sergeants should be more approachable, while still being firm and holding their Soldiers to strict standards. That way trainees can make mistakes and learn from them in BCT before they get to their first duty station.
The candidates also learned why their part in training affects the investment the Army makes in each Soldier.
Marquez said their job is to make sure every Soldier graduates BCT. That being said they should never lower the standard, but instead bring every Soldier up to standard.
The other side of helping those who want and need it, is helping Soldiers who have given up on themselves or refuse to train.
They got the chance to talk to Basic Combat Training Soldiers who were either being recycled for medical reasons, or were getting out of the Army.
One trainee, who was getting out to pursue an athletic collegiate opportunity, also said if his drill sergeant would have talked to him about his options in the Army he might have continued training.
"Give us a civilian who is mentally and physically capable of training, and we as trainers are going to turn that civilian into a Soldier. There are going to be some Soldiers who want to quit,"said Marquez. "Find the root cause of that problem and fix it. The Army is making an investment in those Soldiers and we need to contribute to that."
The trainee's decision may have still been the same, but Marquez stressed that drill sergeants need to put in the effort.
After the DSC course was over, the candidates only asked the course be extended another week.
"I'm glad I came because I didn't know anything about modules. I thought the PRT in my unit was the standard. I was wrong. So it taught me a good deal about things especially drill sergeant-wise," said Dawson.
"Any preparation you can get before going to school is a good thing," said Kelly.
"We coach, teach and mentor Soldiers," said Marquez. "With the one-week course we tell them what they're doing wrong, what they need to work on, but for the most part they're going to be familiar so it will be an easier transition for them," said Marquez.
For more information on the course call 580-442-6603.