FORT JACKSON, S.C. - The Army's best trained noncommissioned officers descended on Fort Jackson, S.C., Sept. 8-11, to compete for the prestigious title of the 2014 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year. The competitors included two U.S. Army Reserve Drill Sergeants, Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin from the 95th Training Division (IET) and Sgt. 1st Class Alex Montero from the 98th Training Division (IET). Only one winner will be selected from each service component.

The Drill Sergeant of the Year competition is one of the most mentally and physically demanding challenges any Soldier can face in a U.S. Army competition. For four days, competitors performed all associated tasks and drills from Basic Combat Training.

The days were long and exhausting. The drill sergeants were required to perform the same tasks as the trainees they lead, evaluating their endurance, stamina, and character.

"You have to continue to maintain motivation and drive on through a lot of physical, as well as mental stress," explains Montero, "but you also feel a sense of accomplishment knowing you are entrusted to train Soldiers and future Soldiers in the Army."

During the selection process, the competitors were graded and timed on several events to include: numerous ruck marches, a confidence course, the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, weapons qualification, day and night land navigation, written exams and essays, and finally an appearance in front of a Sergeants Major Board.

"The overall competition level has been challenging. You get hit with the physical tasks followed by the mental tasks. Sometimes you are so drained, you know the answers, but can't remember them. You just have to fight through it," stated Croslin.

To win, and be named the Drill Sergeant of the Year, they must not only be experts in training Soldiers, but also be the best of the best and rise above the competition.

"When these contestants got up this morning and looked in the mirror, they saw honor and pride, but a shadow of discontent was in the back of their minds," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Allen G. Carpenter. "They knew they had put forth their best effort in the tasks, and the tasks were complicated and challenging, but that little bit of disappointment was still there."

The final event of the week was the awards ceremony, Sept. 11, 2014, at the Fort Jackson Solomon Center. None of the candidates knew who the winner was until the announcement was made at the ceremony.

"Right now these candidates are full of hope, they feel honor, but at the same time in the back of their minds, they're wandering about that little bit of disappointment. There is no room for disappointment in this group, whether they come out first or last, it doesn't matter. They should be honored because they are here," added Carpenter.

Those selected will move on to different positions, those not selected will go back to their unit and continue with their every day jobs. "They need to go back and hold their heads high and be proud. There are no losers here, they are all winners. They will always remember this day. This is a historical event," concluded Carpenter.

And the winner is -- Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin, representing the 95th Training Division (IET), was named the 2014 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. was selected as this year's Drill Sergeant of the Year for the Active component.

Croslin said, "I studied at every opportunity I had, during lunch breaks at work, at my son's practice, staying up late/getting up earlier for work and at every opportunity knowing I was up against the active component and they were going to be stellar."

"After being here, I know that the Reserve Component was represented very well by Drill Sgt. Montero and myself," said Croslin. "We ran beside the active duty the entire time, performing all tasks to standard, just as the active component did. After this competition, I feel the Army Reserve can stand next to the active component as equals."

Command officials describe drill sergeants as "top-quality, professional noncommissioned officers (NCOs) from virtually all branches of the Army". What makes these individuals vital to the Army is their passion for the profession and their ability to transition civilians into Soldiers.

The winning Army Reserve drill sergeant receives the Ralph Haines Jr. Award. Haines was commander from 1970 until 1972 of the Continental Army Command, the forerunner of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

The active Army Drill Sergeant of the Year receives the Stephen Ailes Award initiated in 1969. Ailes was Secretary of the Army, from 1964 to 1965, and was instrumental in originating the first Drill Sergeant School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.