By STEVE REEVES, Fort Jackson LeaderNovember 19, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- At the end of a six-mile ruck march with a fully loaded 35-pound pack, Staff Sgt. Johnny Jno-Pierre smiled and made an obvious understatement.
"It was a little challenging," he said as rain lightly fell on a recent windy and chilly day at Fort Jackson.
The ruck march was even more challenging since it came at the end of a very long day packed with events designed to test and push a group of drill sergeants from 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment to their limits.
Called the Best Drill Sergeant Competition, last week's event was modeled after the Best Ranger Competition, a grueling test of combat skills and fitness.
"It's a gut check," said Lt. Col. Bryan Hernandez, commander of the 3-34th. "We're finding out who the best of the best is."
Eight drill sergeants took part in the first competition, which was held Nov. 10. There were four two-Soldier teams and each team comprised a man and woman.
Intended to reflect the skills drill sergeants are expected to teach new Soldiers, the events included a PT test, a written Combat Lifesaver exam, obstacle course and advanced rifle marksmanship.
"It's reinforcing the skills they're responsible for teaching BCT Soldiers," Hernandez said, referring to the Basic Combat Training Soldiers the drill sergeants are tasked to train. "I want mentally and physically fit drill sergeants out there."
Hernandez said the competitive nature of the event will bring out the best in his drill sergeants and help them form a bond with one another.
"It builds camaraderie and teamwork," he said.
Capt. Brett Lea, battalion operations officer for the 3-34th, said drill sergeants have to have a deep and complete understanding of Basic Combat Training skills, which is what the Best Drill Sergeant Competition is all about.
"It really hits on all the key points of basic training," Lea said. "We expect drill sergeants to be much more proficient than their Soldiers are so they can be outstanding trainers."
Staff Sgt. David Schomaker, Company E, 3-34, said taking part in the competition allows drill sergeants an opportunity to view BCT tasks from the perspective of a new Soldier.
"It really gets us in touch with what we're putting the Soldiers through," he said. "That will allow us to teach them better."
The 3-34th plans to hold competitions every six months.