52-Year-Old Drill Sergeant Inspires Millennials “@” TF Wolf


DS Eldridge giving counseling to two Basic Camp Cadets. Photo by Renee Rhodes, Fort Knox Visual Information

Fort Knox, Ky. — “YES DRILL SERGEANT, MOVING DRILL SERGEANT,” echoed throughout the Cadet Summer Training Basic Course Obstacle Course as the first 104th Division Drill Sergeants motivated and pushed Cadets on 13 July 2017 as part of Task Force Wolf.

This was not just any obstacle course. This is the same course where the iconic movie “Stripes” starring Bill Murray was filmed in 1981 about a bunch of misfit recruits in the Army that found a way to shine at the last minute in Basic Training in an unconventional way. Never seen it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3iKjxv89cM will allow you to enjoy the brief video of how NOT to run an obstacle course!

There was something else special about this lane and this unit of Drill Sergeants: Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jerry Eldridge. Eldridge, 2nd Battalion, 317th Regiment, Salem, Va., is a 52-year-old DS with four years active duty experience, six Army Reserve years, three military occupational specialties (11B, 19D, 37F), two Afghanistan deployments, the Combat Action Badge, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart awarded for wounds sustained in an enemy grenade attack in Afghanistan.

Eldridge spent six months of physical rehabilitation and transitioned to the Individual Ready Reserve for four years, living comfortably in his civilian job as a Train Engineer for Norfolk Southern Railroad working out of Roanoke, Va.

Until one day…

Eldridge’s son (an Army Reserve Soldier) approached him and asked him to reactivate his career in the Army Reserve as a Drill Sergeant. Eldridge attended drill sergeant school in 2008 where, despite multiple surgeries from his injuries in Afghanistan, he successfully graduated as the oldest Drill Sergeant in his class. Eldridge was 43 years old.

DS Eldridge ensuring the monkey bars remain safe and challenging.

Photo by Renee Rhodes, Fort Knox Visual Information

“Despite his age, he motivates me with his values and knowledge,” said Cadet Holani, a Basic Camp Cadet assigned to DS Eldridge’s platoon. A pre-med student at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, Holani was was covered in sweat and dirt from having been a part of the winning platoon in the Obstacle Course competition of the day. “If a 52 year old Drill Sergeant can do this, that motivates me to complete basic camp and thrive in the Army as an Army physician!” she enthused.

Cadet Rice of Virginia Military Institute is majoring in history and plans on being active duty Infantry. “It is essential for Drill Sergeants to gain respect,” Rice explained.

“I admire the tough and strict instruction of Drill Sergeants in Basic Camp. I rate the toughness of this camp as a five out of 10 however and wish the drill Sergeants would push us even harder than they are!” he said.

DS Eldridge giving instruction to Cadets at the famous “Stripes” obstacle.

Photo by Renee Rhodes, Fort Knox Visual Information

Cadet Holani disagreed with Rice and rated Basic Camp a nine out of 10 as a challenging camp. Cadet Holani explained that the personal wartime experiences of Drill Sergeants like Eldridge make her realize that the Army is “serious business” and makes her and other Cadets “pay attention to details they may never have considered before.”

“Maj. Gen. Hughes, the Cadet Command Commander, motivates the Drills out here to perform because he values us,” said Eldridge. “He trusts our judgement when handling Cadets and I have noticed we have been given much more leeway this year when performing our duties. Hughes recognizes we bring structure and challenge to Cadet Basic Camp.”

Training Cadets in a basic camp program is different than training privates for initial entry training but it’s a challenge Eldridge embraces.

“Cadets learn faster than Privates’” he explained. “They have to. We teach Cadets in four weeks what Privates are expected to learn in 10 weeks of Basic Training. Half of our Cadets here have had no experience with a weapon. Some of them are scared to hold it, but we get them through BRM and they learn fast!”

“We will always remember our Cadets at this Basic Camp and they for sure will remember us,” a motivated Eldridge explained. “I hope more Army Reserve Soldiers will choose to become Drill Sergeants. It will lighten our burden of 36 day rotations and will enhance their careers,” DS Eldridge explained as he formed the Cadets up to meet their next challenge.


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