By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneSeptember 6, 2018
FORT SILL, Okla. -- The 2018 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year is Army Reserve Sgt. Devin Crawford, who represented 95th Training Division in the competition. The division is headquartered at Fort Sill, and this was the first time the Army-wide competition took place here.
The winner was announced at an Aug. 30, ceremony. As Crawford sat in Vessey Hall beside the other 10 contenders, he was so startled to hear Center of Initial Military Training Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell omit the word "Staff" from his announcement of this year's winner, that he was stunned into silence. He knew instantly that meant himself, because all other competitors were staff sergeants, except for one sergeant first class.
"This is pretty unexpected," he managed to say after a long pause. He quickly thanked those who traveled here to support and push him through the five-day competition.
Mitchell said only a couple points separated the top three contenders, and a foot march was the deciding factor.
The winning contender has served in the Army Reserve all seven years he's been in the military. He's currently assigned to 3-334th Regiment, 1st Brigade, 95th Training Division, 108th Training Command. Based out of Neenah, Wisconsin, his unit preps Army Reserve Soldiers to go to the Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Crawford now gets to go home to Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin for approximately 60 days before he reports to his next duty station at CIMT and Training and Doctrine Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. The win will change his life considerably for the next year.
He has two important items of business to take care of first. He's marrying his fiancée, Heather Treffert, Oct. 6. And he has to inform his employer of his new job. Crawford has been a police officer with the Kenosha Police Department for one year.
Crawford's military occupational specialty is 12 Whiskey, a carpentry and masonry specialist. Before he became a police officer, Crawford served in the 327th Military Police Battalion, Arlington Heights, Illinois. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2013-2014. To reach the Army-wide level of competition, he had to win a pair of competitions at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Just before the Army Drill Sergeant of the Year competition, Crawford and one other Army Reserve Soldier, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Roy of 98th Training Division, were put on active duty for 20 days and sent to high country in Montana.
The Department of the Army's Best Warrior Competition is coming up, and they were fortunate enough to participate in the train-up for junior enlisted and non-commissioned officer of the year. The elevation forced them to strain harder as they trained on any task that might be thrown at them.
Though Crawford and Roy tried to outdo each other here, Crawford found it nice to see a familiar face and another person from the Reserve.
"It was a great competition ... We wanted to do well. Definitely in every event we would look at each other like, 'You got this.' Since we were representing the Reserves, and this is the first year ever that the Reserves are on the same level. There's only one winner, we were pushing each other to the limit to make sure we represented well for the Army Reserve," Crawford said.
He said the last four days tested his mental and physical toughness. The days have been pretty long, and the competition covered everything he's had to train with or know in the military.
Crawford credits his win to persistence and drive and being resilient. He knew he did not win every event because he saw others finish the 12-mile ruck march ahead of him.
"We got up about 2 o'clock in the morning (Aug. 30) and stepped off at 3:30 and took about two hours and 46 minutes to complete it. Pretty tough after three long days of training," he said. "I was beat by three other individuals I was trying to chase down the entire time."
Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year Michael Hnat won the 1st Sgt. Tobias C. Meister Army Physical Fitness Test Award. Mitchell pointed out that Hnat outscored everyone on the new Army Combat Fitness Test, earning 555 out of a possible 600 points. Before Hnat's award was announced, Army Reserve Sgt. Maj. Blaine Huston shared his personal memories of his buddy Meister from Jenks, Oklahoma, the 2002 Reserve Component Drill Sergeant of the Year, who was killed 13 years ago while serving his country in Afghanistan.
For 44 years, there was an active component and a Reserve component Drill Sergeant of the Year. In 2017, the competitions merged, and the winner of the annual competition receives what goes by the name of the Stephen Ailes-Ralph Haines Jr. Award, named for a former Secretary of the Army and a former commander of the Continental Army Command, respectively.
This year, 11 drill sergeants representing Basic Combat Training, One-Station Unit Training, and Advanced Individual Training all competed for the award. Despite blistering heat, lack of sleep, and covering more than 40 miles of dismounted movement, all 11 completed the competition. They were tested on their physical abilities, their knowledge of leadership, drill sergeant duties and responsibilities, Soldier issues, warrior tasks and battle drills, ability to instruct, and the BCT program of instruction.
TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Guden told the entrants he was proud of every single one of them. He thanked them for what they do for the Army and TRADOC on a daily basis, as well as what they represent.
2017 Platoon Sergeant of the Year Bryan Ivery helped recognize five individuals from Fort Sill who made sure the Army competition went off without a hitch. Robert Young Jr. got the Army Commendation Medal, and Army Achievement Medals were presented to Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Metz, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Stankevich, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonzalez Jr. and Staff Sgt. Peter Leahy.
Staff Sgt. Lyra LebronBrown of Fort Lee, Virginia, was presented a special award for her perseverance in every event.