Back to Basics:

Drill Sergeant Insight

06/08/2010  |  Cpt. Jennifer K. Cotton 95th Training Division (IET)
Public Affairs Officer
The Griffon

I had the opportunity to visit with drill sergeants from 3-378th at Fort Sill, Okla. and through my conversations I gleaned what I think is advice and recommendations important to share with other units mobilizing to various basic training locations. The key elements to a successful mission include:

Being fit mentally means being prepared, knowledgeable, flexible, and communicative. Being fit physically means having the stamina to go the distance. The two are inseparable.
  • Continuity
  • Knowledge
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Fitness

None of these elements are independent nor is one more important than the other. They are equal and overlap. Each helps improve the other and all are necessary.

Continuity is a key ingredient to a successful mission. If possible, drill sergeants and other cadre who are able should stay through more than one mobilization to offer knowledge and insight to follow-on units. Units should consider creating a policies and procedures manual (a road map to success) with each follow-on unit revising as necessary. It should include every detail of running a Basic Combat Training (BCT) cycle. No detail is too small whether it is a contact person or information that a company has to bring its own flags to the range, it should be a part of the manual. Drill Sgt. Sharity Czolgos said, “Continuity was a plus. A unit that doesn’t have continuity will have challenges.”

It is said that knowledge is power. In the business of training Soldiers, it is vital. Drill sergeants must know what it is they are to teach. Drill Sgt. Tawnia Freeman said, “Drill sergeants coming on a mobilization mission need to have open minds, they need to prepare and seek knowledge.” There are many ways to educate oneself prior to arrival for duty. Contact with those you are replacing and reading Army regulations to name a few. With a basic training cycle, the schedules are always full and hectic. It’s imperative that drill sergeants arrive already knowing the skills they will be teaching to trainees. Rigorous training schedules and ancillary duties do not allow drill sergeants ample time to get familiar with warrior tasks and battle drills at the last minute. Drill sergeants should arrive with this knowledge. That “power” is what will impact the success of the mission to develop well-trained soldiers.

Having the knowledge is certainly a good foundation, but knowledge must overlap with flexibility. TRADOC always works to improve BCT curriculum and changes are pushed out to the field. Drill sergeants should prepare in advance and make sure they have the latest knowledge, but be flexible if it changes during mobilization. One particular instance for 3-378 was that Fort Sill began implementing a new Army PT regimen in March which is designed to focus on strengthening body core. Drill sergeants had to educate themselves on the changes to the PT program and begin training Soldiers differently in the last few months of mobilization. Drill Sgt. Adam Jiskra said, “Drill sergeants need to be on board with the new PT program so Soldiers get the most out of it.” Being flexible and building on the basic knowledge of Army PT allowed 3-378 to succeed in this transition and, said Drill Sgt. Czolgos, “it was a whole lot better PT program for the Soldiers.” 

Communication is not a new concept, but still one that is always a challenge. Drill sergeants should always work on honing their communication skills, not only with trainees, staff and cadre, but with civilians who work the various agencies on installations responsible for training soldiers. An organization is never successful without communication and will always fail without it. Communication requires sharing knowledge which reinforces the connection of the elements above.

Drill Sgt. Barry Burlingame said, “Drill sergeants need to be in shape.” Fitness is an important factor-fitness of the mind and body. A fit drill sergeant is important because of the stressors placed on them in such a demanding environment. Being fit mentally means being prepared, knowledgeable, flexible, and communicative. Being fit physically means having the stamina to go the distance. The two are inseparable. 

The Army’s future depends on well-trained soldiers. Drill sergeants who focus on these elements will be successful in delivering what Drill Sgt.Czolgos said was, “The end product: new Soldiers.” She said developing and watching them grow is the best part of being a drill sergeant.

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