"It feels good now that it's over," said Staff Sgt. Russell Everett, a drill sergeant with Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. He had moments before faced the final obstacle to determine who Fort Jackson's top Soldiers are -- a board made up of senior enlisted leaders from across post.
Everett, one a many Soldiers vying for the coveted title of drill sergeant of the year, had just finished the last hurdle in Fort Jackson's 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year/Platoon Sergeant of the Year/Non-commissioned officer of the Year/Soldier of the Year competition.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Barsi was named Drill Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Chriss Brooks NCO of the Year and Spc. Amanda Reuter Soldier of the Year.
Soldiers competing faced challenging testing at such places as the Fit to Win obstacle course, the rifle range, and round-robin testing at the Medical Simulation Treatment Facility Aug. 15 -17 under sweltering heat during the hottest summer ever recorded in South Carolina.
It was so hot and humid that Everett's sponsor, 1st Sgt. Sanae Hutchinson, said conducting the Army Physical Fitness Test was like "being underwater."
The competition put all contestants under enormous stress and fully taxed their tired bodies, yet for some it was par for the course.
Being a drill sergeant means being tired, Everett said as he waited for other contestants to finish the Confidence Course.
While he has repeatedly taught Soldiers how to navigate the course, he found some of the obstacles difficult because he is "not as flexible" as he used to be.
Barsi, who fought through some initial trouble and rallied, said most of the physical competition was something he had done before, but the mental side made him stress.
"To be honest I am kind of used to competitions like this, so I would say the board could be the most difficult," Barsi said. "I would say pitching all the modules (was difficult). I went from pitching all the physical readiness training modules right into pitching all of drill and ceremony. So wrapping your mind around pitching all the PRT then going into the position of attention for the push-up. Now I have to not say the front-leaning rest, or whatever. I would say that portion was the toughest.
Barsi from Echo Company, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment followed in the footsteps of last year's drill sergeant of the year, Staff Sgt. Eric Hulien who was in the same company.
The drill sergeants weren't the only ones who were relieved to have the competition end.
Spc. Amanda Reuter, a chaplain assistant with 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, found she had the physical stamina she never thought she had.
"Mentally I can do it," she said.
The idea of being in a small career field also motivated her.
"I'm a Chaplain's Assistant, which is even cooler because we have such a small corps. I am going to go back and tell all the chaplains assistants they can do it themselves."
Specialists Brianna Scott and Babila Fasel-Murillo competed against Reuter.