By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)March 28, 2019
A new face has been put to the Fort Jackson Drill Sergeant of the Year name, and he will represent the installation at the TRADOC DSOY competition and help plan next year's preliminaries as the post's subject matter expert in Basic Combat Training.
Staff Sgt. Mychael Begaye, a Phoenix native and drill sergeant with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, earned the title March 22 after three days of competition.
"I definitely had to push myself and test my limits," Begaye said. "It's very tough."
Competition was fierce, he added.
Candidates took the Army Physical Fitness Test, weighed in and raced through the Confidence Course and Fit to Win.
They were tested in marksmanship, rucking, warrior tasks, battle drills and modern Army combatives.
The drill sergeants pitched modules, took a written exam and oral boards, and had their land navigation skills put to the test.
Even their levels of motivation, uniform appearance, attitude and communication skills were factored into their total point tallies.
Begaye said he was "not at all" expecting to come out on top, and during the competition, he just focused on the tasks ahead of him.
"I was kind of shocked (to win)," and the reality still hasn't sunk in fully, Begaye said. "I was worried about it because I haven't done drill sergeant stuff in a while."
He planned to compete for the title last year, but instead he went to Ranger School.
In February, he started "trying to get in shape again," but said he didn't actually train up to become DSOY.
"The way it was designed … you didn't really know what you were going into next," Begaye said. "(The competition) definitely tests most of your physical and mental capabilities."
He said that knowing he'd completed harder tasks and that he was capable of pulling through the challenges helped him make it to the end.
"You get worn down, because it's a grueling competition," said Staff Sgt. Abigail Ponce, a Galex, Virginia native and 2018 Drill Sergeant of the Year. "It is adrenaline … your head is in a swivel."
Ponce said that when she tried out last year, the events taught her how much strain she could cope with. She soon learned that the challenges don't end with the awards ceremony for the winner.
The DSOY becomes the unofficial executive assistant to Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah Gan and helps plan the next year's DSOY competition at Fort Jackson, while still uphold drilling duties.
"At first it was very overwhelming … the tempo up here is quick," Ponce said, "but you get used to it."
Begaye said he's looking forward to gaining a new perspective of the Army with the assignment, having only worked on the company level up to this point.
Being rewarded for winning by being tasked with additional responsibilities was fine by Ponce, too.
"I don't really do anything for myself," Ponce said. "I did it honestly for (my trainees)."
The thought of "their little faces and how upset they would be if their drill sergeant showed up a loser" kept her going throughout the competition, she said.
The DSOY position "opens up your spectrum of leadership," and gets the drill sergeant "comfortable with being uncomfortable," Ponce added.
She said she's excited to "pass the torch on," planning to return to her MOS, 91B -- Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic, at Fort Campbell this fall, preventing her from competing in the TRADOC competition; Begaye will take her place.
Drill sergeants with at least six months on the trail who are open to the idea of a third year on drill sergeant duty are eligible to try out, Ponce said.
Begaye recommended that all eligible drill sergeants put themselves to the test. During training, "run a lot. Run and run," he advised.
"Show up and show out," Ponce added. "If you want to get promoted, you're going to have to shine."