Army drill sergeants prepare for annual competition

By Jonathan DahmsSeptember 6, 2023

Military man navigation obstacle course
Staff Sgt. Jake Mrzena works his way through the Confidence obstacle Course as part of the Fort Jackson-level Drill Sergeant of the Year competition in 2022. Fit to Win is one of the many physical obstacles drills sergeants must overcome in the competition. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Nathan Clinebelle) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — Drill sergeants from across the U.S. Army will gather at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, from Sept. 11-15 to compete for the coveted title of Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Since 1969 the Army has recognized its top drill sergeants after a grueling week-long competition that challenges its competitors both mentally and physically, testing not just tactical and technical skills, but also their ability to coach, teach and mentor.

“Soldiers never forget their drill sergeants. I remember mine from Fort Sill in 1996 like it was yesterday — I always wanted to one day be just like Drill Sergeant Tyrone Hughes,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael McMurdy, the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training senior enlisted leader. “Drill sergeants are changing lives daily, helping to transform citizens into highly trained, physically fit and holistically healthy Soldiers. It’s important that we recognize the best-of-the-best here during this competition; the select few that stand out from their peers and serve for others to emulate.”

The competition will crown both an active duty and Reserve component Drill Sergeant of the Year, or DSOY.

Three military personnel with center one holding wooden plaque resembling the American flag.
Drill Sergeant Krista Osborne, 2-10th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Chemical Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and received the coveted Drill Sergeant Belt for selection as the 2022 Active Duty Drill Sergeant of the Year at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, Fort Jackson, SC on September 15, 2022. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Gary Loten-Beckford) VIEW ORIGINAL

Staff Sgt. Krista Osborne, last year’s active component DSOY, said the competitors used the physically and mentally challenging events as an opportunity to bond.

“My most memorable moment from last year’s competition was during the ruck marches when despite it being a competition, every competitor was cheering one another on,” said Osborne. “We all pushed each other during every physical event. The bond we created as a team of DSOY’s throughout the competition was an experience none of us will forget.”

Staff Sgt. Juan Parada Jr., the 2021 Reserve component DSOY, highlighted the importance of Reserve component participation in the competition.

“Being able to compete with and alongside my active-duty counterparts was the most rewarding and exciting part of the competition,” said Parada. “The ability to represent the Reserve component and display our capabilities to others for the betterment of the drill sergeant population is an opportunity most reservists do not get to do.”

DSOY Competition 2023 Logo
Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition 2023 Logo (Photo Credit: U.S. Army graphic) VIEW ORIGINAL

The winners of the DSOY competition can continue to advocate for drill sergeants by being assigned to the Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, the following year.

For Osborne, working at CIMT gave her the opportunity to impact drill sergeants throughout the Army.

“The impact I’ve been able to have on other drill sergeants and the impact I’ve been able to have on the entire Drill Sergeant Program has been the most rewarding part of my time here,” said Osborne. “Based on input from the field, I was able to support those ‘on the trail’ by addressing key issues with our leadership and suggesting program improvements.”

As the DSOY, Osborne also had several opportunities to interact with high schools and potential future recruits to give them an idea of what they would experience at basic training.

“Allowing high school students and future Soldiers to see and meet a drill sergeant and be able to ask questions about the Army was extremely rewarding,” said Osborne. “It was a great opportunity for me to showcase the Army and the life it can provide to them.”

Osborne reflected on the upcoming passage of the title of DSOY from herself to 2023's winner.

“It is a bittersweet moment,” Osborne said. “It has truly been an honor this year to serve as the Drill Sergeant of the Year. I have learned so much and met some amazing people.”

What advice would Osborne have for the DSOY winners for 2023?

“My advice to the next DSOY is to understand and listen,” Osborne said. “Understand the power within their position and the influence they are going to have on Army senior leaders when it comes to all drill sergeant related matters. So, with that, listen to the feedback and concerns of Drill sergeants across the enterprise. You are their voice and their advocate so take what they say seriously and provide them with guidance and motivation and be their advocate.”