FORT JACKSON, S.C. – Think your Monday was tough? Try being a competitor in the Drill Sergeant of the Year competition.
Six competitors started the day at 0330 by running a couple of miles. Next, they hammered out some combatives, conducted drill with a gaggle of new recruits, were thrown dozens of curve balls such as range malfunctions, rucked 60 pounds of gear across 10 miles of scorching hot pavement … and then broke for lunch.
“It took a lot of heart; a lot of mind over matter,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Facio, Fort Leonard Wood’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. “I’m feeling like I need what will be my ninth liter of water today, but I’m feeling good. My body is loose and my muscles are good. My feet are going to have aches and pains, but in a competition like this you have to just forget about it. It will be over in a couple of days.”
The afternoon had other fun surprises in store, to include being drilled by boards and ordered to write insightful essays. But topping the list was the challenge of coaching trainees frozen by fear atop a rappel tower – an event that took many by surprise.
“When I looked up and saw the tower, I thought we were going to be rappelling,” Facio said. “So when I got up there and saw the situation, I just had to shoot from experience.”
TRADOC then led the competitors to a FOB deep in the sweltering, mosquito infested woodlands. There, the competitors conducted drill and ceremony movements, open ranks inspections … and just to keep them on their toes, the drill sergeants had to hold combat and service uniform inspections in the field.
“It was an intense first day, I’ll tell you that,” said Staff Sgt. Felicia Frailey, Fort Sill’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. Despite more than 30 graded events over a 20-hour period, Frailey said she ended the day as confident as she was when it started.
“I know what I know, and all I can do is give it my best.”
The sentiment was echoed by Staff Sgt. John Heslin, Fort Benning’s Drill Sergeant of the Year.
“Not knowing what the next event is going to be is tough,” he said. “The best thing you can do is get rest and get ready.”
Just when the day seemed to be coming to a close, organizers had one more little treat: The competitors would not come back to the barracks, as expected, but would bunk in the field – with an intense thunderstorm headed their way.
No doubt they will sleep right through it … and no doubt reveille will sound at zero-dark-thirty Tuesday morning.