JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.- (Mar. 20, 2023) Part three of U.S. Army Drill Sergeants sharing their personal story leads to the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Serving in today’s all-volunteer military comes with a variety of reasons. Soldiers choose military service to be a part of something larger than themselves while fulfilling their patriotic duty and a way of life for their families.
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Moranda DeSpain, native of High Point, North Carolina, upon graduation from college with a degree in Elementary Education, answered her calling. Her “calling” as she puts it was to be an educator. DeSpain wanted nothing more than to teach, guide, and develop young minds. In doing so she taught fourth and second grade students. After seven-plus years of teaching DeSpain had another calling. She answered her call to service and volunteered to serve in the Army as a Unit Supply Specialist. DeSpain chose to leave the classroom setting while the nation was engaged in combat overseas.
“I joined the military to take care of my family. I was a teacher in North Carolina struggling to make ends meet with two children,” DeSpain said. “I needed to make a change and I needed to find a job that would help me explore the world and take care of my family while doing it.”
For the past eight years, DeSpain has been stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and her follow-on assignment to the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. DeSpain stated that her current assignment has been the most challenging as a drill sergeant.
“I enjoy training and teaching individuals, while being a drill sergeant I realize how critical the mission at the Initial Entry Training (IET) level is,” DeSpain said. “This made me want to be a part of helping develop noncommissioned officers to drill sergeants. I knew the only way to do this was take my chance to become a Drill Sergeant Leader at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy.”
The past 21 months as a drill sergeant came with many challenges, some of which can’t be trained for. Accepting the role as a primary trainer, transforming civilians to Soldiers, requires undivided attention/focus and sacrifice away from family. DeSpain expressed time away from her children was her biggest challenge.
“As much as I love being a drill sergeant, I did not love the time I’ve had to sacrifice being away from my children. I have had to rely on other people to care for them, take them to sporting events, and even make sure their homework was complete,” DeSpain said.
Despite the long duty hours DeSpain sought ways to professionally develop herself. In addition to being a mom and senior drill sergeant, she prepared, competed, and gained membership into the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Since her membership, she’s contributed countless volunteer hours, mentorship to peers and subordinate, DeSpain was recently elected as president of the Red Leg Chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.
Much of DeSpain’s success is attributed to mentorship, individuals who encouraged her to be a better professional Soldier. A mentor, by definition, is an experienced and trusted adviser. Mentors provide guidance, advice, feedback, and support to the mentee. DeSpain sought out such professionals for guidance and advice throughout her military career.
“I have quit a few people who I would consider mentors, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dotson, Capt. Sexton, and Command Sgt. Major (Retired) Hauke,” DeSpain said. “These individuals pushed me to be the best Soldier I can be, from Spc. DeSpain all the way to Drill Sergeant Leader DeSpain, they supported me throughout my career and in my personal life. They’ve seen things in me that I didn’t and encouraged me to complete things I would not have done myself.”
Speaking to her younger self DeSpain says, “Moranda, just believe in yourself like everyone else does.”
DeSpain adds that women who want to join the Army can be anything and do anything if they put their minds to it. The Army provides endless opportunities to be successful, pay to further education and allow for travel over the world, DeSpain says.
“For the women serving I would tell them to help take care of other women of all ranks, women in the Army are powerful, and we matter,” DeSpain said. “We have so many wonderful female leaders moving up in ranks and helping make change. It’s exciting to see so many powerful women so make sure you support them because your time will come, and you will want that support back.”
How to be a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant check out https://www.hrc.army.mil/content/Drill%20Sergeant%20Frequently%20Asked%20Questions