Distinguished honor graduate drawn to Military at young age

06/07/2010  |  Sgt. 1st Class Marty A. Collins 108th Training Command (IET) Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Jason Sterling, Distinguished Honor Graduate, Class 003, US Army Reserve Drill Sergeant School at Ft. Knox, Ky. “I thought the course would be like going through basic training all over again but it wasn’t and I really appreciated.” Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marty A. Collins, 108th Training Command (IET) Public Affairs.

As a kid, Staff Sgt. Jason Sterling liked to ride his mountain bike around his tiny hometown of 583 people. He also watched in curiosity as his father put on his Battle Dress Uniform and headed out the door to “play Army.”  The Fordland, Mo., native said after graduating high school he made the decision to join the military and become a Soldier, just like his dad. Now, 24 years old, Sterling can annotate another distinction to his six-year military career, the designation as a United States Army Reserve Drill Sergeant.

Forty-three Soldiers graduated from Class 003, USAR Drill Sergeant School at Ft. Knox, Ky., on March 20 and Sterling was named Distinguished Honor Graduate.  He is currently assigned to 2nd Battalion, 334th Regiment, 95th Training Division (IET) based in Granite City, Ill., just east of St. Louis, Mo. 

“A leader is the hammer that drives the nail accurately and confi dently, with enough force to complete the task. Without destroying the surface which it was applied of the nail itself. With complete disregard for the hammer!” — Staff Sgt. Jason Sterling

In 2004, he joined the regular Army and chose to be an Infantryman. His GT score was 127 and his recruiter said he was an idiot for choosing to be a ‘leg’ but that’s what Sterling said he wanted to do.  He completed Basic Training at Ft. Benning, Ga., and was stationed at Ft. Campbell, Ky., with the 101st Airborne Division. Within months of arriving at Ft. Campbell he was deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq, with the ‘Screaming Eagles’ from Sept. 2005 through Sept. 2006. After returning from Iraq he attended the Air Assault course at Ft. Campbell and was awarded the Air Assault badge. In Sept. 2007, he was deployed once again, this time to Tikrit, Iraq, for 15 months. He left active duty service in June 2009, joined the Army Reserve and moved to Rogersville, Mo., outside of Springfield turning his attention to becoming a Drill Sergeant.

“When I came into the military I wanted to lead troops,” said Sterling. “Being a leader is something I always loved during active duty and I have a lot of pride in that role. Being a Drill Sergeant gives me that opportunity.”

Sterling said the Drill Sergeant School was both tough and challenging. “If I had been prepared, if I knew what to expect with the modules and the PT, I think I would have been fine. Coming out of the Infantry things are very informal there, as far as formations, marching and that sort of stuff. It was difficult for me to adjust to a more garrison type of environment.”

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marty A. Collins, 108th Training Command (IET) Public Affairs.

Staff Sgt. Romontavious Slater, Honor Graduate, Class 003, US Army Reserve Drill Sergeant School along with other graduates recites the Drill Sergeant Creed at Ft. Knox, Ky.

Sterling added that the modules the Drill Sergeant Candidates must learn was the most challenging part of the course and learning them cost him a lot of sleep.  A module is a formal instruction on a certain movement or position and is generally one-to-two pages long and the candidates have to perform them precisely.


“The first phase of it you have to recite it verbatim and it’s usually not that long. The second and third phases are the actual steps and you have to hit all the key points. There are 18 or 19 modules that you have to learn and you get a specific module the day before around 1600, and you have to pitch it the following morning. If you fail the module, you have to pitch that one again along with the additional module that was assigned that night, as well,” said Sterling.

He added that by becoming a Drill Sergeant it has broadened his horizons and he learned a great deal from his peers because many of them are subject matter experts in their respective career fields. “I was really impressed, in the Infantry you develop certain stereotypes about other MOS’s and it develops from individuals you work with, around your Infantry battalion and support elements, so I had that impression about non-combatants.  But, these guys were very professional.” 

Sterling says his favorite part of the course was the embedment with actual Soldiers attending Basic Combat Training at Ft. Knox.  “It was very beneficial to work with Drill Sergeants who are actually on the trail right now; to see how they do things and how it differs from what the book says to how they actually deal with their Soldiers. I appreciated that the most at the Drill Sergeant School.”

Sterling does have some advice to those who think they may want to become a Drill Sergeant. “Get with someone who has been, try and get all the training support modules beforehand. I’d stress the modules and PT and the NCO leadership skills you have to have like marching, drill and ceremony and those types of things that you do not practice all the time in the Army Reserve.”

In the future Sterling would eventually like to go to college and earn a degree. “By completing this course it made me realize how much I do have to study to complete courses and it will help me when I do go back to school.  By becoming a Drill Sergeant it definitely opens the door for a lot of instructor positions. I’ve already had a couple of job offers overseas as a civilian contractor.”

Sterling did give recognition to the leadership at the USAR Drill Sergeant School. “The leaders and the mentors are committed to the students and the school here, I saw the leaders and mentors coming in on their free time and taking that extra effort to explain stuff to Soldiers and treating them as professionals in more than any other school I’ve ever been to and I was really amazed.”

After being away from home for a little over two months Sterling will return to Rogersville to spend some time with family and friends. He does plan to return to the Drill Sergeant School at Ft. Knox, Ky., and become a Drill Sergeant Leader so he can share his knowledge with those who will follow in his footsteps.  

Long retired is his mountain bike as he has moved onto another town and machines with speed and horsepower.  “My passion is definitely all things automotive: motorcycles, cars, trucks.  I want to build custom vehicles. Eventually, I hope to get to that direction in my civilian life.” Sterling does have his Army Reserve commitment to fulfill and when he puts on his Army Combat Uniform and heads out the door his two-year old son will be watching as dad goes off to “play Army.”

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