Fort Jackson, S.C. — Early in the morning on Sept. 9, a day which started cool and humid. A lone figure, dressed in his combat uniform, lugging a large rucksack and weapon climbed the short, steep hill in front of the Drill Sergeant Academy’s barracks. He proceeded to the running track that stands between the barracks and the academy.
Sprinting almost the entire lap, he crossed the finish line having completed the final event of the TRADOC drill sergeant/platoon sergeant of the year competition. Looking at his appearance, Sgt. Ryan Moldovan of Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 390th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 98th Training Division, 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) seemed capable of going further despite being drenched in sweat.
If one looked at him without knowing what he had just done, it would be difficult to believe he just crossed the finish line of a 12-mile road march which began well before the light of day; and ahead of his peers.
The competition is a grueling, four-day event to find out who will be the best active component and Army Reserve drill sergeants. Tested to his physical and mental limits on Soldier skills and knowledge, Moldovan prevailed over his competition becoming the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Moldovan’s path to receiving this prestigious honor began long before this event. He had to prove he was the best of the best by winning similar competitions at every level, from the battalion to brigade, division and finally at the command level before being nominated along with another division winner to move on the Army-wide contest.
Up close, the Canton, Ohio, resident is tall and lean. Coupled with his almost constant intense facial expression, he projects a strong and physically imposing presence. For him, the decision to pursue a military career was an easy one.
“I’ve always been a physical kind of guy,” said Moldovan. “I’ve always been into contact sports like martial arts so it made sense to do something that embodies the warrior spirit, as well as allowing me to do my part in defending our country.”
Sgt. Ryan Moldovan, an Army Reserve drill sergeant with the 98th Training Division, 108th Training Command (IET) crosses the finish line of the 12-mile road march Sep. The road march was the final event of the Army’s annual Drill Sergeant/Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition event held at Fort Jackson, S.C. from Sept. 6-9. The event tests the competitors in a variety of Soldier tasks and drills such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons knowledge, marksmanship as well as a timed 12-mile road march carrying a basic combat load and weapon. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Javier Amador
Moldovan initially joined the Ohio National Guard before graduating from Hoover High School in 2004, shipping off to Army Basic Combat Training immediately after.
There, he served as an artilleryman for a year. He was then re-classed to the Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) 31B, military policeman and was deployed twice. After his six year contract was up, he left the Guard.
A three and a half year break in service followed, during which Moldovan soon began missing the military lifestyle, so in 2007 he joined the Army Reserve, wanting to become a drill sergeant.
He re-classed again, this time to the MOS 12C, bridge builder crew member. He went on to attend and graduate from the United States Drill Sergeants Academy, accomplishing the first of many challenging goals he continues to set for himself.
Like many other Army Reserve Soldiers, Moldovan finds himself having to balance two very demanding lives. One, as a delivery driver for the United Parcel Service, which is one of the largest logistics companies in the world and the other, his military career.
While he admits the many hours of preparation he committed to the competition was hard to come by, he has found that both jobs demand similar qualities. Managing time precisely and the willingness to work until the job is done rather than stopping at quitting time.
Qualities that help him as a competitor and as a drill sergeant. He also possesses other qualities that he feels make him the highly competent drill sergeant he is; virtues his parents passed on to him.
“Everything I have, I got from my family. My values, my principles and my work ethic. We all have a sense of urgency. We value every second and that’s how I live my life,” said Moldovan.
Moldovan not only lives his family’s work ethic, he lives their values on a daily basis and makes every effort to pass them on to his recruits.
Sgt. Ryan Moldovan, an Army Reserve drill sergeant with the 98th Training Division, 108th Training Command (IET) completes the three mile run portion of an extended version of the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), where competitors completed as many push-ups, sit-ups as they could as well as a three mile run instead of the normal two mile run Sept. 8, during the Army’s annual Drill Sergeant/Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition event held at Fort Jackson, S.C. from Sept. 6-9. The event tests the competitors in a variety of Soldier tasks and drills such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons knowledge, marksmanship as well as a timed 12 mile road march carrying a basic combat load and weapon. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Javier Amador
“You can’t take a break, you have to keep moving, moving, moving, and that kind of fits in to the whole Army mentality, the drill sergeant mentality. Integrity, honesty and being professional. Leading by example,” said Moldovan.
As the competition went on, the look on the faces of the competitors as they ran, climbed, crawled, marched and shot their way through the events making up the competition was one of exhaustion. What they felt was clearly seen, but what was not seen throughout the events was what was on the inside.
The will to give nothing less than 100 percent of their effort. The will to go on, to push themselves beyond their limits, living up to two of the Warrior Ethos embodied in the Soldier’s Creed: I will never accept defeat and I will never quit.
While every Soldier is taught the Soldier’s Creed, the way they find their motivation to live up to the Warrior Ethos and resist the temptation to quit varies. It is usually very personal in nature.
For Moldovan, the motivation to go on, especially during the road march where he began to feel fatigue around the sixth mile. He found that motivation in those closest to him.
“Whenever it’s getting to the point that I can’t do it anymore, or I want to give up or slow down, I see my wife and my daughter cheering me on. Waiting for me and knowing that they love me, that’s what pushes me and keeps me going,” said Moldovan, “I picture them in my mind at the finish line.”
Earning the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year title means that he is this year’s best at demonstrating exceptional proficiency in the skills he teaches America’s sons and daughters.
To help them earn the title of Soldier, but the title has a deeper meaning to drill sergeants. It means that while they may push their Soldiers hard during their training to help them succeed, the Soldiers see that in their drill sergeants leaders that push themselves much harder.
Drill sergeants know that instilling their charges with the required physical and mental ability is not enough to make a complete Soldier. Drill sergeants charged with the responsibility of turning citizens into Soldiers call upon a formidable skill set. They must be coaches, chaplains and at times even parents. Above all they must instill in them the Soldier mindset.
It is a mindset which ensures that no matter what MOS they may have chosen or how much of their training they may have forgotten, there are principles they insist their Soldiers must never forget.
Moldovan went on to say, regardless of what your MOS may be, you’re a rifleman and warrior first.
You may come upon a situation where you may make a wrong turn into enemy territory or you may be attached to an infantry unit and you find yourselves in a bad spot.
You have to remember your basic rifleman skills, your fundamentals and make sure you’re physical fitness is top notch, because you never know when you will have to pull your battle buddy out a truck that’s been hit by an improvised explosive device.
You don’t want to find out then that you can’t do it, because you didn’t put in the time to train yourself.
Another principle to never forget is that while you may be fighting for your country while deployed, it’s the Soldiers there with you that you are fighting for first, that you look out for at all cost.