"I love to teach, I love to teach!" exclaimed Army Reserve drill sergeant Sgt. 1st Class Kelsie Hagan, Echo Company, 1/518th Basic Combat Training (BCT) Battalion.
Hagan, currently serving his extended combat training (ECT) at Fort Jackson, became a drill sergeant in 2002 and says, "If you are going to put on the hat, then this [Echo Mission] is what you want to do."
"When you make the decision to become a drill sergeant, you make the decision to train Soldiers!"
Echo Mission, held year-round here at Fort Jackson, is an opportunity for Army Reserve drill sergeants to work side-by-side with their active component counterparts doing what drill sergeants do best: train Soldiers.
Because of a shortage of active duty drill sergeants as well as the need to field a fifth company at the 1/13th Infantry BCT, Army Reserve drill sergeants gladly accept the challenge to augment Echo Company. The result is a fine mix of Reserve component instructors supported by a few active duty component Soldiers to provide continuity.
Echo Company noncommissioned officer in charge 1st Sgt. Terry Patterson, 1/518th BCT Battalion, says Echo Mission allows the Reserve component to train real-world in the event the active duty counterpart is called forward.
"[Echo Mission] keeps us up to the standard. The POI changes every six months to a year. This keeps us current so that when they pull our counterparts forward in times of need, we can step forward and fill that gap."
"We can come in and give them a break and remain current on our skills at the same time. This is a perishable skill," Patterson added.
Every three weeks, another group of Army Reserve drill sergeants comes through Echo Company, starting from the company commander and first sergeant, and filtering down to the lowest-ranking noncommissioned officer.
Army drill sergeant Sgt. 1st Class Fenecia Keitt, Echo Company, 1/13th Infantry Battalion, says Echo Mission presents some challenges because of the quick turn around of Reserve trainers that come through, but after a few days of learning each other's strengths and weaknesses, the two components mesh as one team.
"It's challenging at times because of the flip flopping, but we get some great [Reserve Soldiers] that come through. They are part of a team, and it makes things a lot smoother for us."
Hagan added that just because Reserve Soldiers do this on a part-time basis, you shouldn't count them out.
"This has always been an enjoyable experience for me. You meet people who share the same passion as you. But I find Reserve drill sergeants have more passion for what we do sometimes. We get a break where as the active component doesn't get a break."
Hagan also said, "Some of the drill sergeants that come through have been around for a long, long time. I became a drill sergeant in 2002. I think that gives us technically more experience than our active duty counterpart."
Patterson seemed to agree.
"A lot of times with the active component, drill sergeants are DA [Department of the Army] select. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But in their component, drill sergeants are made, whereas in the Reserve component, if you are a drill sergeant, you want to be one. This is something you chose to do."