FORT JACKSON, S.C. — There is an age-old phrase coined by drill sergeants; on the trail. Referring to the time a drill sergeant serves pushing troops, its origins spur from the frontier days of the Old West when cowboys journeyed from California to Colorado driving cattle.
For a drill sergeant in one of the Army’s four basic combat training centers, the process of transforming civilians into Soldiers is a journey in itself. That journey begins at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy.
On Dec. 7, 92 noncommissioned officers from the Army and Army Reserve marched down the aisle proudly donning the most well-known symbol of a drill sergeant; the coveted Drill Sergeant hat.
“Soldiers in basic combat training don’t know the standard until the drill sergeant tells them that standard. Stick with the fundamentals, train your Soldiers to be adaptive, train them to be disciplined.”— Command Sgt. Maj. Robert T. Priest, 98th Training Division (IET)
Of those 92 non-commissioned officers, 19 made the Commandants list. Only the top 20 percent of the class is selected for this great achievement.
This is not something that comes easy but is instead something earned.
To be selected for this distinct honor, a Soldier has to live, breathe, and be the Army standard. After all, only 10 percent of the noncommissioned officers in the Army even qualify to be a drill sergeant.
Army Reserve Drill Sergeant, Sgt. Raul M. Morales, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), 108th Training Command (IET), stands with his fellow drill sergeants after receiving his hat at Fort Jackson, S.C., Dec. 7. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Stephanie Hargett/ released
One Soldier from the Army Reserve, Sgt. Raul M. Morales, 98th Training Command (IET), earned this distinct honor.
“It was a challenge for me,” said Morales. “Ever since I joined the Army I always wanted to be a drill sergeant. It was a personal goal for me and apparently I made the commandants list. It was a big surprise, it’s not easy to make.”
Morales said the hardest part was the Method of Instruction section and that there were a lot of long nights that kept him awake.
Even though it was a trying time, he said walking across that stage made it all worth it.
“It was an exciting and tough experience, I loved it.”
Morales also had some wise words to pass along to any Soldiers thinking about becoming a drill sergeant.
“Be the most prepared that you can be. Be motivated. Have a goal, drive and never give up!”
Guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert T. Priest, Command Sergeant Major of the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) and the 1999 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year, also gave some great advice during the graduation.
“It really comes down to the standard,” said Priest.
“Soldiers in basic combat training don’t know the standard until the drill sergeant tells them that standard. Stick with the fundamentals, train your Soldiers to be adaptive, train them to be disciplined,” he said.
“Soldiers want hard training, they want to be challenged and they want to be motivated. Trust me, if you do the right things and set the right example they are going to follow you.”
Brig. Gen. Darrell Guthrie, 104th Training Division (Leader Training) commanding general, attending his first USADSA graduation since gaining drill sergeant positions in his formations due to Reformation.
Command Sgt. Maj. Robert T. Priest, Command Sergeant Major of the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), 108th Training Command (IET), congratulates Army Reserve Drill Sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Liem T. Tran, 95th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), for his graduation from the United States Army Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson, S.C., Dec. 7. U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Stephanie Hargett/ released
He says his unit, which primarily focuses on training tomorrows leaders through its work with the ROTC program and at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, just needs to work on the fundamentals.
“What I have been trying to convey to my drill sergeants since Reformation, is that going to train future officers at Fort Knox, Kentucky is no different than if you were coming to train future Soldiers in basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.”
“This is the same skill set you are training. This is basically the same age of Soldiers that you’re training. You are trying to ground them both on the fundamentals. In essence there is no change in the mission. The reality is we are now going to train everyone the same way because we want everyone rather officer or enlisted to have those same basic Soldier skills,” Guthrie said.
At the end of the ceremony, Priest had one message to all those getting ready to hit the trail: there is but one mission in being a drill sergeant, and that is to train Soldiers.
“The job of being a drill sergeant was one of the most rewarding experiences I had in my entire career,” said Priest. “If I could do it again, I would do it again. It’s that kind of job that you only have one shot at it and to do it right. So give it everything you’ve got.”