By Laura LeveringApril 23, 2018
FORT GORDON, Ga. -- The U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon held a Drill Sergeant Conversion ceremony at Alexander Hall, April 13.
Fourteen noncommissioned officers from 15th Regimental Signal Brigade received drill sergeant hats after completing a two-week conversion course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Drill sergeants were first introduced to the Army at Fort Gordon and Fort Jackson, as pilot programs in 1963. Success of the program led to the first Drill Sergeant School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in 1964.
Fort Gordon Advanced Individual Training drill sergeants hanged up their hats during a de-hatting ceremony and traded them for a pistol belt and AIT Platoon Badge identifier, Oct. 18, 2007.
After the drill sergeant hat was retired, the Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant Course was implemented at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy in Fort Jackson. This brought AIT platoon sergeants in to replace drill sergeants.
"More than 10 years ago, the Army introduced the concept of the advanced individual training platoon sergeant: a noncommissioned officer who would lead new Soldiers, fresh out of Basic, through their second round of training before heading into their first units," said Col. Daniel Ruder, 15th Regiment Signal Brigade commander. "One decade later, we are now witnessing on this stage the reverse transition ... with the first wave of noncommissioned officers graduating from a conversion course qualifying them to wear the drill sergeant identification badge."
Fort Gordon is authorized 82 drill sergeants. Remaining AIT platoon sergeants currently assigned to Fort Gordon will attend the two-week conversion course, and upon successful completion, will return as AIT drill instructors.
Incoming Soldiers who are appointed as drill instructors that have not served as an AIT platoon instructor will attend the full 10-week Drill Sergeant Course at Fort Jackson.
Ruder described the change as a natural continuation of transforming civilians into Soldiers.
"At basic training, drill sergeants are the number one sphere of influence in a young person's transformation from their civilian way into our culture, our Army values ... yet we know that the process is still far from complete after just 10 weeks of basic training," Ruder said.
Eligibility requirements and standards for a drill sergeant and AIT platoon sergeant are basically the same. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is in the way they portray themselves, said Command Sgt. Maj. Sheldon Moorer, 15th Regimental Signal Brigade.
"The purpose of a drill sergeant is to be loud, to have enthusiasm, to have energy, and to show Soldiers how to adapt to a very challenged and confused training environment so that ... they'll be able to adapt on the battlefield if they need to go to battle," Moorer said.
Sgt. 1st Class Toby Quichoco, 15th Regiment Signal Brigade senior drill instructor, was excited to put on the drill sergeant hat. Quichoco said he originally submitted a packet to become a drill sergeant, but then was selected by Department of the Army to be an AIT platoon sergeant.
"Upon hearing about the conversion course, I was pumped up to get into the course," Quichoco said. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."
Even though Quichoco stands out among most of his peers now that he wears a hat, he is quick to say it does not change him as an NCO.
"That hat doesn't make me," Quichoco said. "I'm still doing my job as a noncommissioned officer to train, mentor Soldiers, and also maintain discipline and order."
Ruder said the effect of replacing AIT platoon sergeants with drill sergeants is something the Army will be able to determine over time.
"Ultimately the output we're looking for is the quality in that Soldier and that leader that we're producing out of here to the operational force," Ruder said. "That's going to tell us how well we're doing."