By KRIS GONZALEZ, Fort Jackson LeaderApril 29, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- After five days of grueling physical and mental tasks, Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Hernandez was named the 2010 Fort Jackson Drill Sergeant of the Year Saturday.
Also recognized was Sgt. 1st Class George Simmons, who was named runner up.
Hernandez and Simmons, who are both with the Drill Sergeant School, competed against Fort Jackson's most skilled and tenacious drill sergeants to earn the coveted titles.
Fort Jackson's 2009 DSoY, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cavezza, Company A, 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, said he spent four months designing this year's competition, recreating events similar to those he said he experienced at the TRA-DOC competition last year.
The week's events started with a PT test and ended with a formal board. Cavezza said he added surprise challenges and miles of road marching between each main event, which took place at different locations spread out like a jigsaw puzzle across Fort Jackson. He never allowed the competitors to know which task would be required of them at each station.
He also never let them know if they were being graded on the task at hand, or something random, like whether or not they were wearing the correct uniform.
"It would be a lot easier (for the competitors) to sit down and think about what they're actually doing and rehearse," Cavezza said during the competition. "But not knowing what's coming up, the miles they're about to walk, and just to execute, that proves the drill sergeant with the most base knowledge and instinct will win."
Before the competition began, 26 drill sergeants were slated to compete. By the first day, only 20 had donned the more than 60 pounds of gear to brave the first 10-mile road march.
"They are pushing themselves to the limit, there's no doubt," Cavezza said. "It's about who really wants it, who has the heart and the passion to win this competition."
By the fourth day, only 16 drill sergeants made it to compete in the most challenging event, the "Fit-to-win" endurance course, full of obstacles Hernandez was eager to conquer.
"When it comes to physical activities, I'm ready," he said. "Even if my body was hurting, with blisters and everything, I was looking forward to (Fit-to-Win) and proving to myself that I'm a winner."
It's a winning mentality Hernandez said he acquired growing up in his native country, El Salvador, where he and his family endured the strife of the Salvadoran Civil War. He had already been living in the United States 10 years by the time he joined the U.S. Army in 2000 at the age of 23, but he was always determined to be the best Soldier he could be.
Being named the best of the best, by winning the DSoY title, could have been a tall order for a man standing only 5 feet 3 inches, but his speed and tenacity went unmatched.
"He's a beast," said Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King, commandant of the Drill Sgt. School. "He's 10 feet tall and bulletproof inside."
"He's simply incredible," said post Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Stall. "From start to finish, he never looked back. He let everyone know 'I'm the obstacle in your way; good luck trying to avoid or reduce me.'"
Hernandez said he's proud of his accomplishment and is honored to assume his new role as DSoY.
"It's a big responsibility because you set the example for (all drill sergeants on) post," he said. "It means I'm the subject matter expert in this field. I'm going to try to do my best to stay updated with the regulations and make sure I set the example for everybody else."
He joked that he's going to take "a day off" before starting his training all over again - going back to the books, working on his warrior skills, going to the gym, road-marching, running, and taking PT tests - so that he can put up his best fight to win the TRADOC DSoY title at Fort Monroe, Va. in June.
"If God helps me out and my battle buddies help me out, I'm going to win TRADOC," he said.
"He's going to hurt some feelings at Fort Monroe in June," Stall said. "It will shock me if he does not win the TRADOC competition."
"His work ethic and his motivation and his drive to win is what's going to make him successful at the next level," Cavezza said. "Drill Sergeant Hernandez will be a force to reckon with."
Should Hernandez win the title, he will relocate to Fort Monroe with his wife and two children, and Simmons will assume duties as Fort Jackson's DSoY.