By Special to GUIDONSeptember 15, 2016
Fort Leonard Wood is again home to the Army's 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Sgt. 1st Class Martin Delaney III won the week-long competition held at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and assured Fort Leonard Wood of a three-peat on two fronts. It was the installation's third consecutive DSOY award presented to military police Soldiers.
Since 1969, Fort Leonard Wood has won the Army's Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition 15 times, including a five-year-consecutive streak of winners from 1998 to 2002.
Delaney is a senior drill sergeant assigned to Company B, 787th Military Police Battalion.
"Winning the competition was incredible," said Delaney, who joined the Army in September 2007. "The way they have the majority of our exercises set up, you're constantly rotating, so you have no idea how your competition is doing."
He said he also looked to his competition for motivation.
"It was great to be out there all week with 14 other like-minded noncommissioned officers," Delaney said. "They all want to excel, they're all putting the extra effort to be here. It was great."
He said he is also looking forward to his new assignment at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy.
"The main goal is to continue to develop and improve the drill sergeant program so we get the best training for Soldiers entering the Army," he said. "That's the sole goal."
Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe was awarded this year's Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year.
He is currently an AIT platoon sergeant with Company A, 169th Engineer Battalion, in Panama City, Florida. He represented Fort Leonard Wood, which is where his unit has its headquarters.
"When we first got here, you could instantly tell everybody here was a professional and very good at what they do," Laspe said. "It was not an easy competition by any means."
Laspe, who joined the Army in 2008, said he had "no idea" he'd won until his name was announced.
"I was excited and honored and humbled at the same time," he said. "It's very good to confirm that all the training you did is validated."
Sgt. Ryan Moldovan is the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. Moldovan is assigned to the 98th Reserve Training Division, Fort Benning, Georgia.
Moldovan, 30, joined the Army in 2004 as a fire direction specialist. Before becoming a drill sergeant, Moldovan served in field artillery, air defense artillery and military police units across Ohio.
"I had no idea who was going to be the winner," Moldovan said. "I felt like I was doing really well, being ahead of the competition in many events, but you never know."
Moldovan, who is a UPS driver in his civilian life, said he is "happy, relieved," that his hard work paid off.
At least since March, Moldovan has juggled training for the competition with his civilian job, Family and home life.
"I put in so many hours, so many miles, so much studying," he said. "There were times when I said to myself, 'I don't know how much longer I can do this,' but I wanted it, and it paid off."
Moldovan also credited his fellow NCOs for pushing him throughout the competition.
"As soon as I saw the other competitors, I knew it was a top-notch batch of NCOs, and I was going to have to put forth a lot of effort if I wanted to keep up with them," he said.
"It's been an incredible experience. I'm happy to represent the Army Reserve and just show that Soldiers in the Army Reserve are just as tough, just as dedicated and professional as the active component. That's one of the things I came out here to prove," he added.
Each received the Meritorious Service Medal.
All three Soldiers also will move, likely sometime in the fall or winter, to the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson, where they will work to help the Center for Initial Military Training shape the way the Army trains new Soldiers.
The Drill Sergeant and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year event is a four-day, "best-of-the-best" contest that puts competitors through physical and mental tests, according to information from the Army.
Competitors must battle fatigue, weather and surprise events to earn the coveted titles.
They must perform and instruct more than 50 tasks and drills, including unknown distance runs and foot marches, rappelling, orienteering, obstacle courses, physical readiness training and appearances before a board of command sergeants major to demonstrate their knowledge of leadership and training tasks.
While the competition is similar to other competitions across the Army, the event focuses on competitors' ability to teach, as their day-to-day job requires them to effectively teach the Army's newest Soldiers.
This year, the Army's top six drill sergeants -- four in the active Army and two in the Army Reserve -- competed for the coveted titles, as did nine AIT platoon sergeants.
The Army has about 2,200 drill sergeants and 600 platoon sergeants that educate some 120,000 Soldiers in the Army every year.
(Editor's note: Michelle Tan is a senior staff writer for ArmyTimes. The article is reprinted with permission from the ArmyTimes.)