By Staff Sgt. Shejal PulivartiJuly 8, 2014
Grass still wet from the morning dew, thick fog hovering over the ground, the darkness of the night fighting against the rising sun, a line of drill sergeants march out in perfect precision. Once reaching the physical training pit, they immediately assume their grading positions to administer the record Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) for Cadets attending Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) during Cadet Summer Training (CST) held at Fort Knox, Ky.
The cadets were completely noiseless while watching the noncommissioned officers with their distinguishing hats set up for a morning that will greatly affect their future prospects.
"The Army Physical Fitness Test is a key event for cadets in a sense that it helps to determine what job they get, which unit assignment they get. It's so important the drill sergeants administer it because they have the professionalism and neutrality necessary," said 1st Sgt. Albert Rhodes, noncommissioned officer in charge, APFT Committee.
The drill sergeants, assigned to the APFT Committee supporting CST, are made of up Soldiers from various units within the 98th Training Division, 108th Training Command. All committee members, or cadre, are assigned to Task Force Wolf while they support CST, which educates and trains college students to be potential officers and leaders in the U.S. Army.
The APFT Committee is one of the few committees staffed by drill sergeants. Taking an APFT is a normal part of Army life and usually isn't a worrisome occasion, however, during this particular test a tangible air of anxiousness blanketed the APFT pit housing the pushup and sit-up portion of the test.
Once the timer began, signifying the official start of the APFT, the silence was broken with groans of exertion and other audibles -- the loudest of which came from the drill sergeants themselves cheering the Cadets on with "get some, you got this, one more, push it out."
"When the drill sergeant encourages them it's like the greatest thing a Soldier or cadet can feel because here this person that they are looking up to, who is teaching them, molding them and guiding them from their transition from civilian to a Soldier at the same time is rooting for them. That makes all the difference in how hard they perform," Rhodes said.
For the drill sergeants, coaching, mentoring, training and being professional is second nature.
"We live and breathe this -- that's why we are all drill sergeants. It comes very easily to us, and we are willing to put in that extra effort in training and teaching Soldiers so they can be the next leaders," said Miami, native Staff Sgt. Denise Waite, drill sergeant, APFT Committee.
Being the bridge between a civilian and a potential officer, NCOs of the 98th Division thrive on portraying the example in hopes of affecting their future progression.
"I'd like to think that these Cadets that are going to become officers remember the drill sergeants that are training them and they remember the training that they get here," said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bryan, drill sergeant, APFT Committee.
Although they engage with the cadets for only a morning, the drill sergeants see that time with them as an influential opportunity.
"That's my biggest hope for doing this mission -- that they remember us for the rest of their career. That it makes an impact on them as a military leader, as an Army leader, as a combat leader," said Bryan, who hails from Houston.