By Chesnee Green (Leonard Wood)March 9, 2018
From the very first utterance of "I am a drill sergeant," the life of a noncommissioned officer is forever changed. They have been accepted into one of the highest honors for an NCO in the United States Army, becoming a drill sergeant.
A drill sergeant is a symbol of excellence in initial entry training, an expert in all warrior tasks and battle drills, lives the Army values, exemplifies the warrior ethos, and most importantly is the epitome of the Army as a profession.
Having one of the most demanding yet rewarding jobs in the military, drill sergeants are the heart of initial entry training in the U.S. Army. They will spend 10 weeks coaching, counseling, and mentoring Soldiers as they transform from a civilian to a combat-ready Soldier.
"I volunteered (to be a drill) so the orders weren't unexpected like they are for many, but being (communications), we don't get to do a lot of crazy things that others get to experience," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan O'Neil, Company D, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, drill sergeant. "It has been really fun being able to get out and do these fun training (events) throughout the cycle."
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pino, Company D, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, drill sergeant, was also excited about the new opportunities that came with orders for drill sergeant academy.
"Prior to being a drill sergeant I wanted to get out of the Army to become a high school teacher. Once, I received orders for drill, I decided that would be a great way to work on my teaching abilities," Pino said. "I was really excited for the opportunity to teach and work on my career. Now, I get to see the progression, and yesterday was the culmination of that. I am able to take someone who has never shot a weapon in their life, seeing them qualify when two weeks earlier they never thought they could."
The job comes with high demands for the drill sergeants and their families. A typical day as a drill sergeant starts before dawn, and are with your Soldiers until it is time for lights out. Many days they spend 18 or more hours with trainees, not including field exercises.
"First, it's been entertaining, frustrating, and lonely, but it is also extremely rewarding. It made me proud to see my husband be a part of training these new men and women becoming Soldiers," Romero said of her experiences as a drill sergeant's spouse.
"I've found that keeping yourself busy, getting involved in the community and meeting other drill wives is extremely important. We now have a new definition for quality family time, which is very important to succeed," she said.
Her husband agrees.
"I like the ability to shape the individual that has no clue what they are doing in the military and turning them into someone who could potentially be a great leader one day. It's rewarding, although it can take a toll from time to time on our families," said Sgt. 1st Class Henry Romero. "On the good side, it teaches our spouses/families to be self-sufficient and self-supportive, be more prepared mentally for a deployment. On the other hand, limited family time with your wife and kids really makes you re-evaluate quality family time."
According to the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, "as a drill sergeant, you are all your Soldiers know of the Army, and they emulate everything you do. Being a drill sergeant is one of the most demanding and difficult jobs in our Army, it is also one of the most rewarding."