By Spc. Ryan Stroud, 59th Ordnance BdeNovember 20, 2008
EGLIN AFB, Fla. -- Four drill sergeants entered the theater at Eglin Air Force Base, walking toward the stage where a ceremony was being held in their honor. These drill sergeants for Bravo Company were about to end their term as drill sergeants and begin their next job as platoon sergeants of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training Battalion (Provisional). They, for the last time, recited the Drill Sergeant's Creed to the trainee Soldiers in attendance. They walked onstage and handed over their campaign hats, the visual staple of all drill sergeants.
On Nov. 3, the very last drill sergeants were removed from the Training and Doctrine Command.
"The reason why we removed drill sergeants out of AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is really quite simple," Command Sgt. Maj. Reginald Battle, command sergeant major of 59th Ordnance Brigade, explained to the trainees in attendance. "The TRADOC commanding general realized that as the Army grows, we need drill sergeants in Basic Combat Training.
"Not everyone can be a drill sergeant, so his thought process was 'If I need these critical skills, let me first put them in Basic Combat Training. Instead, in AIT, I will use platoon sergeants so that we can slowly transition new Soldiers into our operational Army and they can slowly feel what our operational Army is like.'
"A few things go along with transitioning from drill sergeant to platoon sergeant," Battle continued. "One of them is the head gear. The duties and responsibilities of these non-commissioned officers will not change. The authority of these non-commissioned officers will not change. What will change is the distinctive head gear they wear and how they will slowly transition (the trainee Soldiers) into the operational Army."
"This ceremony is full of mixed emotions," Sgt. 1st Class Gary Carter, a drill sergeant from Bravo who participated in the ceremony, said. "You put a lot of heart and hard work into earning this hat, but if the Army says this is the new direction they want to travel then that's what we'll do. I'm all aboard with it. If (the Army) likes it then I love it."
"I'm a little bit (disappointed) because I have to take the hat off so soon, but the job's not going to change, I'm still going to be doing the same thing - leading Soldiers," Staff Sgt. Benjamin Merker, also of Bravo, said. "I'm still happy to be here, working with and leading Soldiers."
Carter reflected back to when he officially became a drill sergeant.
"It was an amazing feeling," Carter said about becoming a drill sergeant and placing his campaign hat on for the first time. "It was something I once never thought I would be able to accomplish but once I earned it and I look back on those nine weeks of hard work (toward earning the hat), all I can say is wow, I actually did it. All the time and effort was worth it and receiving the hat and earning the right to wear it, really was an amazing feeling."
"Being a drill sergeant is a goal of many (Soldiers) but very few can ever obtain that goal," Battle said to the trainee Soldiers. "Drill sergeants are, perhaps, our best trained trainers in the entire United States Army. Not only do they train for peacetime training, but also for wartime operations.
"They mold a citizen into a Soldier," Battle continued. "I believe we are truly fortunate and truly blessed in the EOD Battalion (Provisional) that our highly-trained non-commissioned officers will stay in our fold. They've done a magnificent job, they will continue to do a magnificent job and we are fortunate to still have that nine weeks of intense training under their belt as they go about their business of taking care of Soldiers.
"The Non-Commissioned Officer's Creed says one thing that really stands out in my mind - 'All Soldiers are entitled to good leadership and non-commissioned officers will provide it,'" Battle said. "These (trainee Soldiers) will still get the same quality non-commissioned officer leadership out of these fine, distinguished NCOs. With that said, I'm glad (the trainee Soldiers) were here for this occasion, because it's history. This also gives us the opportunity to respectively honor these non-commissioned officers who have obtained the goal that fewer of 10 percent in our entire Army gets to obtain - to become a drill sergeant."