In the Army's various "Of The Year" competitions (Soldier, NCO, Ranger, et al), the winner is usually the participant that's made the fewest mistakes.
Staff Sgt. Carter McSwain, the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion's Drill Sergeant of the Year, admitted his biggest flub during the process involved footwear.
"There's boots you wear to the office and there's boots you wear for a 12-mile ruck march," the Company F drill sergeant remembered. "For the march, I wore the boots you wear to the office."
McSwain overcame that choice, the sores on his soles, and two other staff sergeants for the right to travel to the Training and Doctrine Command-level competition in September.
"It was a tough competition for three NCOs and Staff Sgt. McSwain did not win this by a big margin," said battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Greg Kite.
McSwain and Staff Sgts. Damian Servin, Company C, and Sean Webber of Co. D, completed the land navigation course at Camp Roberts May 19 and on the van ride back out of the range, did their own back-of-the-envelope calculations.
"I kind of had an idea … I was first in land nav and the weapons qualification," McSwain said. "We knew it was close. Staff Sgt. Webber finished one point behind me."
The men faced a gauntlet of tasks May 17-19, tasks that most Army drill sergeants train on weekly.
"Here at DLI we don't get a chance to practice these skills very often," Webber said. "For most drill sergeants, this is stuff they do on a daily basis but for us, this is out of the norm."
All three mentioned that a main motivator in the undertaking was the challenge of taking on tasks mastered long ago and proving to their Soldiers that their drill sergeants practice what they preach.
"I love competition and it's rare to test yourself on what you've learned in training," Servin said. "This is a gut check, to remind ourselves of what we expect from our Soldiers."
For McSwain, the rewards for the 229th MI Battalion drill sergeant title was an Army Commendation Medal and an all-expenses paid trip to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in late August for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Drill Sergeant of the Year competition.
He said he will be taking the correct footwear and probably a few hand towels since he discovered the average temperature there at that time hangs in the mid 90s.