By Jonathan Koester, TRADOCSeptember 22, 2014
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Sept. 22, 2014) -- A Fort Leonard Wood Soldier is the Training and Doctrine Command's 2014 Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller, 787th Military Police Battalion, 14th Military Police Brigade, was declared the winner, Sept. 11, at the Drill Sergeant, Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year event held at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Miller, who also took home the 1st Sgt. Tobias Meister Award for achieving the highest score on the Army Physical Fitness Test during the competition, talked about the emotions he felt when he heard his name called.
"I knew it was a tight race from the very beginning," he said. "Really, to hear my name called was overwhelming. I was filled with emotions, a lot of pride, honor."
"This competition was truly the most difficult, most challenging, the best competition that I've ever been a part of. So for that, I'd like to thank Drill Sergeant [David] Stover (2013 Drill Sergeant of the Year) and Drill Sergeant [Ryan] McCaffrey (2013 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year) and their team for really putting together a tough, awesome competition," Miller added.
As a winner, Miller will now move into a new job at the strategic level at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, a special perk of winning this special competition.
Miller said he was looking forward to his new role.
"As we move forward, as we progress, as our Army evolves, I just want to make sure our Soldiers, our NCOs, our officers are getting the very best training," he said. "I want to make sure that we continue to develop the absolute greatest training for our Soldiers."
The 2014 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year is Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin, with the 95th Training Division, U.S. Army Reserve, at Norman, Oklahoma.
The 2014 Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year is Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Russell, with 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery Regiment, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
During the five-mile ruck march on the first day of competition, Miller, Russell and Croslin were ahead of the pack. As they walked, they began to talk and realized they were each from different components, and, if things worked out, they could be the three winners.
"All three of us kicked off and were rucking together, and we came to the conclusion that we weren't competing against each other," Russell said. "We ran together and kept pushing each other to keep going. We all looked at each other and figured out that all three of us could potentially move on and be working together for the next year."
After a bit of hesitation, Croslin agreed that the three competitors came together during that first ruck march.
"Well, what happens on the ruck march stays on the ruck march," he said. "But I will say that we knew at that moment that the three of us were definitely big competitors for our respective components. We also knew that the other sergeants were just as willing to win as we were, and just as capable of winning. So, we just made a pact to push each other through all the physical events. It wasn't something that was necessarily said. You just knew after that ruck march that we were going to push each other."
In a special moment for all the competitors, they got to hear from the first Drill Sergeant of the Year, Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Allen Carpenter. Carpenter was introduced at the awards ceremony by Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Woods, senior enlisted adviser for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
"This is a year of firsts," Woods said. "This is the first year that we've come up and and started a national Drill Sergeant Association. This is the first year that, here at Fort Jackson, we're establishing a Drill Sergeant Hall of Fame. What we want to do with this is have a reminder of the past that made possible our present, and we want to honor the past that makes possible our future. And I am here to introduce the first Drill Sergeant of the Year, to commemorate all these other firsts, [Retired] Command Sgt. Maj. Allen Carpenter."
Carpenter said he was thrilled and honored to share the stage with all the competitors. He spoke of the drive these top NCOs have to always push to be better.
"When these competitors got up this morning, and they looked in the mirror, they saw honor and pride," Carpenter said. "But there was a shadow of discontent in the back of their minds. 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 there.
"Right now, they feel honor, but at the same time, in the back of their minds, they are wondering about that little bit of disappointment," he continued. "Well, there is no room for disappointment in this group. Whether they come out first, or they come out last, it doesn't matter. They should be honored, because they are here."
Carpenter couldn't resist getting a few digs in on some newer Army traditions.
"Whoever come up with 'hooah' must have been smoking rope," he said to nervous laughter from the crowd. "Don't 'hooah' me. What happened to 'yes, sir, no, sir; yes, sergeant major, n, sergeant major; yes, first sergeant, no, first sergeant; yes, sergeant, no, sergeant?'"
To be a part of this moment, to stand on the stage with the first Drill Sergeant of the Year, and to share the moment with two great NCOs -- two NCOs who he got to know back on that first ruck march -- was something special that can never be taken away, Miller said.
"To be here on the 50th anniversary of the drill sergeant program, to share that honor and legacy, is forever going to be with us," he said. "To be a part of that is the single most proud moment in my life."
(Editor's note: Koester is a journalist who writes for the NCO Journal.)