The Army's Top Drill Sergeants

By Kim, Carroll | Soldiers Magazine, September 2009 | Go to article overview
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The Army's Top Drill Sergeants


Kim, Carroll, Soldiers Magazine


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STAFF Sgt. Michael Johnston, an active-duty drill sergeant from Fort Benning, Ga., and Staff Sgt. Joshua Marshall, a Reserve drill sergeant from the 95th Division, are the Army's 2009 Drill Sergeants of the Year.

"This award spawned from my experience as a private in basic training to going to drill sergeant school," said Johnston. "All the privates, all the officers and all of the peers I've worked with and trained are all encompassed into the Drill Sergeant of the Year award."

"You study all of the major Army regulations, all of the FMs (field manuals), everything. The total-Soldier concept led to (winning) the Drill Sergeant of the Year competition," said Marshall.

The 2009 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition was held June 21 to June 26 at Forts Monroe and Eustis, Va. The competition tested the Army's best drill sergeants on warrior tasks, battle drills and their ability to instruct young Soldiers.

Drill sergeants selected for the competition hail from the five basic combat training centers and two reserve training divisions. The seven drill sergeants have worked their way up from battalion and brigade competitions to earn the title of drill sergeant of the year from their respective locations.

The 2008 Drill Sergeants of the Year, Sgt. I st Class Herbert Thompson IV and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Noland represented Fort Jackson, S.C. and the 95th Reserve Division, respectively. Winners of the annual competition spend a year serving as liaisons between drill sergeants and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, which oversees all Army training. The 2008 winners also planned and executed this year's competition.

"The whole week was mind games," said Thompson. "We didn't want them to think, we wanted them to adapt."

Although the Soldiers were weighed and briefed June 21, competition began with the Army physical fitness test at Continental Park June 22. Other events that day also included combatives and firing range activities such as a stress shoot and reflexive fire. Throughout the competition, the drill sergeants travelled mainly on foot for up to four miles at a time.

"I wasn't expecting to do any kind of road marching. Right there, that was a big shock to me," said Johnston. "Eighty percent of it has been physical, also that mental anxiety because you never know how far you're going to go on that road march or what's next; it just keeps building and building and building.

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