By Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Hamilton (108th Trng. Cmd.)October 7, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Oct. 7, 2014) -- At first glance, Staff Sgt. Amber Jones may seem like just another drill sergeant doing her best to train a bunch of "ordinary joe's" at Fort Jackson, S.C.
But look closer at the shiny brass buckle that dons the motto "This We'll Defend" and you'll find that Jones is a member of a select group charged with training the best of the best at the United States Army Drill Sergeant School.
It may come as a surprise, but drill sergeants in the Army Reserve make up more than half of the total population of the prestigious position that is both feared and respected by so many. What's even more astonishing is the fact that Jones is one of only 172 female drill sergeants in the Army Reserve today.
"I absolutely love it! It's by far the best thing I've ever done, in my life and in the military."
"For me its about the impact. Nothing can touch the impact you make on these young people's lives. And you see that impact. You see it immediately. That's what makes me want to get up every morning and do it again," said Jones.
Before joining the Army at the age of 27, Jones spent most of her adult life pursuing a career in television and movies. After becoming disheartened with the film industry, she turned to law school and eventually ended up in the Czech Republic as an English teacher.
When her visa ran out she returned to the United States and decided to get serious with what she wanted to do in her life.
"As soon as I got home, I put some interests down on a list of what I love to do and a lot of those things fell in line with the Army," said Jones.
"I thought I was going to do my three years, check the block and move on. But when I stepped off that bus and saw the discipline and professionalism, I fell in love!"
After spending three years on active duty as a parachute rigger, Jones decided to leave the Army but was quickly met by a recruiter for the Army Reserve who told her about a drill sgt. unit in her area.
"I told myself when I first got to basic training, 'you know what, if I ever have the chance to become a drill sgt. I'm going to take it,' and here I am," said Jones.
Jones, now four years under the hat, spent two years on the trail as an Active Guard Reserve Drill Sergeant before being hand picked to tryout for the elite position as an instructor at the school.
Drill sgts. selected as instructors at the Drill Sgt. School are usually either recommended by their battalion commanders or recognized as stellar performers by the commandants out in the field who visit Initial Entry Training (IET) installations checking training.
Jones said, "Once selected, you come to the school where you have to pass an APFT at the school standard, which is 70-70-70 in each event. Then you go through an interview panel with the commandant and senior leadership who decide if you're the caliber of drill sergeant they're looking for. You really are hand picked."
So why is there a lack of interest in females to become members of this elite group of instructors?
Jones says she believes society's indoctrination that females are supposed to be reserved or soft-spoken is partly to blame.
"The type of 'power-persona' or authoritative presence that we encourage as a drill sgt. is really uncomfortable. You really are forcing a female Soldier to step away from her comfort level to embody the type of leadership role that we want as a drill sgt. I think some females can be intimidated by that."
Some would say the toll the long hours of being a drill sgt. takes on a family could also be a deterrent, but Jones disagrees.
She says she's never seen an Army installation in conjunction with a peer group more willing to support mothers as the one at Fort Jackson.
"There is a unique challenge but the resources are definitely in place. One of my closest battle buddy's is a single mother. This installation, along with the peer support group, work together like some fine oiled machine. They really make it possible for her to do her duties as a mom and still continue to do the mission."
"Not having children myself, I look at my battle buddy and say 'how do you balance it all?' I really do have the utmost respect for what this installation, in conjunction with her peer, support does for her," added Jones.
Jones added that the lack of time for NCO development in the Army Reserve has also added to the shortage of drill sergeants, both male and female.
"I was only TPU for about 90 days. You only meet once a month and frankly, it blew my mind at the amount of administrative actions that have to take place in a 24 or 48-hour period. It really leaves no time for mentorship with the younger Soldiers."
Jones said, "We really need to do a better job in the Army Reserve of making time to mentor and develop our Soldiers. We need to sit down with them and ask, 'hey, what do you want to do to enhance your career? Do you want to be a drill sgt. or recruiter?"
"I bet a lot of what's available is not even being passed down to our younger Soldiers. We have to do a better job of presenting those options," added Jones.
As for her plans for the future, the sky's the limit. But for now, Jones is perfectly happy donning the hat of a distinguished group of Soldiers that for 50 years has shaped the Army into the elite force it is today.