JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.- (Mar. 12, 2023) Perseverance, determination, and hard work lends itself to Soldiers with a vision. Positive mentorship builds each generation of Soldiers to make an impact to everyone around them. Part two of drill sergeants sharing their personal story in the spirit of Women’s History Month touches on the importance of goal setting and being resilient.
Drill Sergeant (Sgt. 1st Class) Rochelle Ralph, assigned to the 198th Infantry Brigade, Fort Benning, Ga., shares her personal story. Her story begins as a single mother without a plan to leading Soldiers and being a beacon of inspiration for others to follow.
Ralph’s mother is a retired military officer, former Public Health Nurse and her father, a retired Master Sgt. and former Combat Medic. It was natural for Ralph to enter the medical field. Collectively her parents have 44 years of combined military service. They were supportive of her decision for enlisting in the Army and lend guidance throughout her career.
October 2010, Ralph enlisted as a Health Care Specialist, by 2013 she reclassified to be a Practical Nursing Specialist. Ralph says that she enlisted to provide more for her daughter. She didn’t have a solid plan; she knew the Army was the best option to build a life.
Drill Sergeant (Sgt. 1st Class) Ralph says her role as a drill sergeant is the most challenging and fulfilling. Ralph admits that she was terrified upon her selection to be a drill sergeant.
“I was a drill sergeant at Fort Benning, Georgia at an Infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT) for a gender-integrated company, this assignment took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to grow,” Ralph said. “My background is medical, and I never worked with the infantry or combat arms, this forced me to become a subject matter expert on infantry tactics, and the entire 22-week program of instruction.”
Ralph overcame her learning curve like her male counterparts who had not worked alongside female service members. Above all else, overcoming these challenges took a lot of communicating, patience, and accomplishing the mission to lead and mold Initial Entry Training (IET) Soldiers.
Ralph says mentorship is the key for achieving and maximizing goals. Master Sgt. (retired) Ariana Pickens-Thomas changed Ralph’s outlook on being a noncommissioned officer and service altogether. She modeled the art and science for leading Soldiers.
“She was a natural leader that people gravitated towards and respected to the utmost with an impeccable work ethic,” Ralph said. “When she retired, I asked if I could use her mentorship programs that she implemented during her tenure. She responded, “Of course, I’m giving you the torch now, and I expect you to go very far with it.””
By 2021, Ralph became a social media influencer. Her objective was to simply share military-related content with humor. The humorous day-to-day life as a drill sergeant ranging from yelling at birds, marching trainees and calling cadences to weapons training and qualifications. Once Ralph’s following increased, she decided to create substantive content: the importance of higher education, utilization of available resources like Military One Source, challenges faced through adversity and inspirational messages.
“I am extremely passionate about inspiring Soldiers to be the best version of themselves, and social media has allowed me to extend my influence from the footprint (here) at Fort Benning to installations Army-wide,” Ralph said.
Speaking on challenges, Ralph says her biggest has been handling rejection. “I’ve been walking in the path of rejection since 2017,” she says. In 2017 and 2018 Ralph was a non-select for the Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program (AECP) and 2019 a non-select for the Inter-service Physician Assistant Program (IPAP).
“Each year that I was a “non-select” for the programs I applied for was a painful hit to the gut that left me questioning my worth as a Soldier for months on end,” Ralph said. “I would ask myself, “why am I not good enough, why aren’t these programs choosing me?””
One evening after a long training day and physically drained, she needed to hear a reassuring voice. Ralph called her mom and dad for guidance. As she cried on the phone for not being accepted, her dad said, “Rochelle, it’s just not your time yet. When it comes, you’ll be selected, work on the things you can change.”
Ralph looked at how to improve her chances for selection. She told herself, “Okay I guess it is time for me to go a little bit harder.” And that’s just what she did. Ralph went harder in achieving her goals. In her words, “I was relentless,” Ralph attained her associates, bachelors, and master’s degrees without taking a break. Additionally, gained membership into the prestigious Sgt. Audie Murphy Club. She sought to make herself better and overcame rejection by being resilient, focused, and driven. In 2022, Ralph was notified of her selection to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS).
Ralph’s second, if not her ultimate challenge is being a single mother. All sacrifices made have been for a better way of life for her daughter. Her daughter, Oviana, now 14 years old attended countless schools due to being a military child. The family support system in place Ralph is fully capable of accomplishing her everyday mission, training, and deployment.
Ralph adds advice to her younger self, “You are worthy of good things both personally and professionally…your time will come, until then, have faith, and be quick to listen and slow to speak.”
To women currently serving, everything serve’s a higher beings plan, don’t wait for a later date to work on yourself, advocate for yourself in every situation and don’t miss out on your destiny by not working towards it.
Women looking to join the Army, “The opportunities the Army provides are endless, so make sure you take advantage of all of them,” Ralph said. “Nothing comes easy, but it will feel that much better when you accomplish it, have tough skin and an even tougher mindset, and find a good mentor and latch onto them early.”
Ralph is not complete on accomplishing her goals. Goals give purpose in life. In the not-too-distant future, she plans to become a commanding officer, above all Ralph says, “my goal is to combine influence and inspiration with standards and discipline as we pave the way forward for the world’s greatest Army.”
In her personal life Ralph plans to continue self-development through higher learning and completing the highest level of civilian education. “By remaining consistent and focused, I will one day refer to myself as “Doctor Rochelle Ralph,”” Ralph adds.
How to be a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant check out https://www.hrc.army.mil/content/Drill%20Sergeant%20Frequently%20Asked%20Questions