JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas --The top drill sergeant in the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, or HRCoE, competes with 11 other Drill Sergeants to earn the title of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year. In the competition hosted at his home base, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas, from August 18-22, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Lullen will represent the HRCoE.

The Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army. It is an annual event hosted at a different installation each year by the Center of Initial Military Training, or CIMT, a division of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC.

TRADOC oversees 32 Army schools organized under ten Centers of Excellence that train over 500,000 soldiers and service members each year.

The competition, which began in 1969 is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier can face in a U.S. Army competition. This year's event marks the 50th Anniversary of recognizing drill sergeant excellence in this manner. If he takes home the top prize, Lullen will be the first Fort Sam Houston soldier to receive the honor.

Lullen, who is a 68D Surgical Technician assigned to 264th Medical Battalion ,32nd Medical Brigade, said his competitive spirit is what drives him to push himself. He earned the division level title of HRCoE Drill Sergeant of the Year during a grueling four day competition conducted at JBSA in May.

He said, "I like to train, and I like being knowledgeable; I find myself looking things up a lot just so that I am the one with the answer. I guess I am competitive." Lullen believes that most soldiers in Army medicine don't get many chances to demonstrate their competence beyond medicine because they often have jobs in a hospital rather than a field environment.

"Even if we maintain ourselves in top physical condition and strive to be technically and tactically proficient, there are few opportunities like this [Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition] to get out there and perform and show that you hold up," continued Lullen.

Lullen joined the Army in 2005 after graduating high school with the goal of paying for college. 15 years and one college degree later, he has had many successful assignments, including a deployment to Iraq. As a surgical technician he has assisted in countless surgeries to include general, orthopedics, gynecological, vascular, and neurological surgeries to name a few. He has been a drill sergeant for one year of the two-year assignment training Advanced Individual Training, or AIT soldiers, at Fort Sam Houston and he says he enjoys imparting his knowledge on new recruits.

"You give them [recruits] all of this knowledge and then you see them putting what you taught them to good use. I like when I see the light come on; when you see them developing soldier skills, knowing that I helped that recruit become successful."

Lullen is one of a dozen of the most dedicated and qualified drill sergeants in the Army whose skills, knowledge and endurance will be pushed to the limits during the week. They will be tested through marksmanship, ruck marches, warrior tasks, battle drills, modern Army combatives, a written exam, oral boards, the new Army Combat Fitness Test, and many other physical and mental challenges for the honor of being named the best of the best.

Lullen, who earned honor graduate at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School in April 2018 ahead of soldiers in other, more traditionally tactical branches, says he is not concerned about the other soldiers vying for the title. "Drill Sergeant of the Year is more of an opportunity to compete against high standards rather than against any particular person. I know I can do it. I know I have the ability and I just have to apply my skills," concluded Lullen.

The competition begins August 18 and culminates after a rigorous four days of field events at Camp Bullis. The 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year will be announced in a recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston on August 22.