By Marie Berberea, TRADOCApril 24, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. (April 24, 2014) -- For most Army Reserve Soldiers, drill time is one weekend a month and two weeks a year. For those who are a part of the Reserve Echo Company Mission, drill time means being a drill sergeant two to 10 weeks a year, or more.
"We come down here and do the same thing the regular drill sergeants do. We've already been to drill sergeant school. In many cases some of these drill sergeants have been a drill sergeant longer than anyone remembers," said 1st Sgt. Gregory Burroughs, 2nd Battalion, 377th Regiment from Lincoln, Neb.
Drill Sgt. (Sgt. 1st Class) Linda McAllaster, 1st Battalion, 355th Infantry Regiment from Round Rock, Texas, is no stranger to trail time.
"She actually has more trail time than all of my active-duty drill sergeants combined," said Burroughs.
In her 10 years as a Reservist, five of them were spent activated as a drill sergeant.
"The thing with being a female drill sergeant is there are a lot more missions for [Basic Combat Training] because there's a shortage of female drill sergeants and they want at least one in each platoon," said McAllaster.
The Reserve Echo Company Program is designed to augment selected training sites with Army Reserve personnel for the purpose of conducting Basic Combat Training and one-station unit training.
"We are a drill sergeant unit. Our whole job is to produce drill sergeants and put drill sergeants on the trail," said Burroughs.
The primary emphasis is placed on the "summer surge," when more Soldiers are trained typically in the May through September timeframe, but the program may be implemented on a year-round basis.
"If war was to break out we could stand up those two batteries and they would come here and train privates just like the active duty so we don't have to take additional active-duty personnel to train the privates," said Scott Lingford, 434th Field Artillery training technician.
Burroughs said during wartime, Reservists would also help cut down the breaks between cycles so as many Soldiers could be trained as possible.
Although the Army is bringing troops home, Fort Sill is still gaining more Echo Mission Reservists because Fort Benning, Ga., has done away with theirs.
An E Company refers to any Active Component that is augmented by Reserve personnel. Currently F Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery and F Battery, 1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery, are setup for two cycles run by active-duty and Reserve Soldiers.
The 434th Field Artillery supplements the mission by supplying an active-duty officer and six drill sergeants. The Reserve units provide six drill sergeants and a first sergeant for the whole training cycle, while the other drill sergeants come in for two week portions.
Burroughs said the way to provide continuity between drill sergeants is through communication and maintaining standards.
"You know what their privileges are at that point. If you know it's wrong, you correct it. You learn to fall in as a teammate. When it comes to the line, the standard doesn't change. There's no question between drill sergeants on how that goes," said Burroughs.
This is the sixth time Drill Sgt. (Staff Sgt.) Randon Harvey has spent his drill time on the training side. But, this is his first time being with a group of Soldiers for their entire cycle.
"It's a lot better than just being there for two weeks because you actually get to have some input instead of jumping into a phase. You get to see them from pickup to graduation, which is nice," said Harvey.
He said when he did have to lead trainees for two weeks, the challenge was going from civilian to Soldier mode and showing Soldiers he knew what he was talking about.
"Soldiers aren't stupid. They can tell what drill sergeant knows what they're talking about. As long as you're up to speed on all your stuff, the Soldiers can tell, and they'll get good training," said Harvey.
If 434th FA needs a drill sergeant for one of their other units, the Reservists are also farmed out to assist.
"The last time I came down here we were doing straight drill sergeant support. We would show up and they would hand us off to 434th and four of us went to [C Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery] because they needed us," said Burroughs.
The Reservists get a break between their two cycles before returning home. Harvey, who is an assistant manager at Quiktrip, said training Soldiers is his reprieve.
"As a Reservist, I'm not burned out. It's kind of a break from my civilian job."
All four Echo Reserve Missions will end by September.