FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — They proved they are superior among the rest — at Friday’s award ceremony, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence leaders named Sgt. 1st Class John Marquis as the 2023 Drill Sergeant of the Year and the Best Squad title went to the 1st Engineer Brigade’s squad.
The competitions were held concurrently from June 5 to 8 across Fort Leonard Wood, with several of the events overlapping.
“I have witnessed greatness this week. I have witnessed physical toughness and mental resiliency,” said U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Quitugua Jr.
The MSCoE Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition is designed to find Fort Leonard Wood’s most disciplined, fit and effective instructor.
Staff Sgt. Chase Stevens, the 2022 MSCoE DSOY, helped plan this year’s DSOY competition.
“We asked the brigades to send us their best and they delivered,” Stevens said. “Those six drill sergeants … are truly the epitome of what a drill sergeant should be.”
The four-day competition consisted of many of the same tasks taught in basic combat training. Some of the skills the six competitors were tested on included: marksmanship, physical readiness training, first aid, day infiltration course, land navigation, methods of instruction and a formal selection board.
“The day infiltration course was phenomenal to watch. They had to carry their weapon and a five-gallon water can. They executed a water resupply to an ambulance exchange point. The personal grit displayed was motivating,” Stevens said. “They pushed themselves. They had to problem solve. It was not an easy task to do while low crawling.”
Competitors were required to show proficiency at performing selected Soldier skills while teaching those tasks to trainees in a simulated environment.
Stevens said he was impressed by the motivation the DSOY competitors displayed throughout the competition. Not only did they stay motivated, but they were consistently motivating the Best Squad competitors they were competing alongside of.
“The motivation level on the first day of the competition was not any different than their motivation level on the final day of the competition.” Stevens said. “The drill sergeants were helping the Best Squad competitors by making sure they got their gear off between events, helped them submerge (in ice water to cool off), then got them motivated for their next event.”
He said the drill sergeants were doing what drill sergeants do best, “giving Soldiers a little bit of direction and a lot of motivation.”
Stevens has known Marquis for a while and said he has always been impressed with this year’s DSOY.
“When I was on the trail, we worked across the street from each other. Day-in and day-out, he is the textbook drill sergeant,” Stevens said. “He got the highest Army Combat Fitness Test score; he also got additional points for finishing first on the physical endurance course and the confidence obstacle course.”
Marquis, a native of Klamath Falls, Oregon, is a drill sergeant with Company A, 795th Military Police Battalion, 14th Military Police Brigade.
Marquis said drill sergeants are important to the Army because they lay the foundation of each Soldier.
“Drill sergeants are the epitome of the noncommissioned officer corps. We are the standard bearers and looked upon as what to emulate even by our peers,” Marquis said. “Having the example of what right is as the first instructor trainees encounter is paramount.”
U.S. Army drill sergeants teach Soldier-related skills at the 10-week basic combat training and at one station unit training, which ranges from 13 to 20 weeks, depending on the military occupational specialty.
Marquis said getting to watch his trainees transform from volunteers to Soldiers during BCT is one of the most gratifying things about being a drill sergeant.
“It’s rewarding to see the change from when they arrive to when they graduate and leave. I love being a drill sergeant,” Marquis said. “Yes, the hours are long but having the opportunity to train Soldiers makes it all worth it.”
Marquis will next go on to compete for the title of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Drill Sergeant of the Year, scheduled to be held in September at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
“I’m going to continue to study every day and conduct two workouts daily until the TRADOC board. I Just plan to do everything I can to be ready physically and mentally,” Marquis said.
Last year’s TRADOC winner was from Fort Leonard Wood — Staff Sgt. Krista Osborne, a drill sergeant from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Chemical Brigade.
Marquis said winning at the TRADOC level is a lot of pressure, but not because he is having to follow in Osborne’s successful footsteps.
“The real pressure comes from my company drill sergeants and living up to their expectations,” Marquis said.
While the DSOY Competition focuses on finding the sole best leader, the Best Squad Competition looks for cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined, fit and demonstrate commitment to the Army Values and Warrior Ethos.
This year’s winning squad from the 1st Engineer Brigade was made up of Sgt. 1st Class Oscar Olivo, Sgt. Matthew Detmer, Spc. Zion Beaver, Spc. Collin Stageman and Spc. Sean Brown. Olivo was also awarded the title of Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and Brown earned the title of Soldier of the Year.
Five teams of five competed in the four-day competition that included events such as a swim test, written exams, rifle stress shoot, expert Soldier skills lanes, first aid, ruck march, land navigation and a board — where they had to answer questions from brigade command sergeants major.
“They compete as a squad because that is how they will fight in combat,” Quitugua said. “When the burden is distributed equally, the impossible merely becomes hard.”
On the final day, the competitors were tested physically then mentally on minimal sleep. They had a 12-mile foot march while they each carried 60-pound rucksacks. The squads also had to carry a litter with a 200-pound sand-filled rescue mannequin on it.
“These competitors went through day land navigation, into night land navigation, then continued on a 12-mile foot march that culminated with a board,” Quitugua said. “We challenged their minds, their bodies and mostly their hearts.”
This is the second year the Army has held the Best Squad Competition. Fort Leonard Wood’s team will now go on to compete in the U.S. Army TRADOC Best Squad Competition scheduled for August at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
More photos from both competitions are available to view and download on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.