U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training
By Hunter Rhoades
Drill Sergeants from across the U.S. Army competed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina from Sept. 11-15 for a chance to earn the title of Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Dating back to 1969, the Army has recognized the top drill sergeant after a grueling week-long competition that stresses competitors mentally and physically while testing not just their tactical and technical skills, but also their ability to coach, teach, and mentor.
“Drill sergeants are changing lives daily. I still remember my drill sergeants from when I went through basic training at Fort Benning 34 years ago,” said Maj. Gen. John Kline, the Center for Initial Military Training Commanding General. “Drill sergeants are transforming civilians into highly trained, physically fit and disciplined Soldiers, and it is important we recognize those select few that stand out from their peers and serve for others to emulate.”
The competition crowned both an Active Duty and a Reserve Component Drill Sergeant of the Year, both of whom will work for the Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Va. the following year. For Sgt. 1st Class Travis Burkhalter, the 2021 Drill Sergeant of the Year title gave him the opportunity to impact drill sergeants throughout the Army.
“After my year of training and teaching the next generation of drill sergeants, I decided to compete for the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year competition,” said Burkhalter. “Once the competition was over and I was awarded the winner, I was ready and excited to get to work and continue to change lives.”
Sgt. Maj. Melissa Solomon, the Deputy Commandant for the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy and the 2010 Reserve Component Drill Sergeant of the Year, highlighted the impact the Reserve Component drill sergeants have on the Army.
“The consolidation of the Active and Reserve Component Drill Sergeant courses to one academy in 2011 created standardization for the Drill Sergeant Program,” said Solomon. “The 108th Training Command fills critical shortages with Reserve Component drill sergeants across the Initial Entry Training enterprise to produce Soldiers that are committed to serving our Nation.”
For Burkhalter, passing the title to the next Drill Sergeant of the Year was bittersweet.
“Drill sergeants affect hundreds, if not thousands, of lives during their time on the trail,” said Burkhalter. “I am thankful for my time on the trail and the many memorable trainees that have impacted me. They say you always remember your drill sergeant, but seeing the growth in your trainees always sticks with you.”