A prominent engraving in the National Infantry Museum at Ft Benning, Georgia reminds visitors that in battle “the last 100 yards belongs to the Infantryman.” I believe that the first 100 yards of any Soldier’s journey belongs to Drill Sergeants. There are few greater honors than shaping the warrior spirit and the character of our Army.
Division leaders constantly push to achieve readiness metrics, ensuring that Soldiers remain “combat ready” to assume missions on short notice. Focus is laser sharp on medical readiness, physical fitness and keeping weight in check. Time is dedicated on the training schedule for qualification ranges and mandatory training.
I believe that the first 100 yards of any Soldier’s journey belongs to Drill Sergeants. There are few greater honors than shaping the warrior spirit and the character of our Army.
Maintaining these standards is essential for the Division to achieve its Initial Entry Training mission. We devote much less time to metrics that contribute to character, the baseline of success for the first 100 yards of battle. How can we develop character in new Soldiers if we don’t consciously focus on character in ourselves and our Soldiers?
It is important to talk to our formations about character, leader behaviors, and Army Values. These conversations must be integrated into all that we do. A primary metric that can chart progress in character development is buried within one of the weakest metrics in a hard charging Drill Sergeant unit: on-time performance evaluations. The high late-rate for performance evaluations across the Division indicates that we don’t view evaluation reports as a readiness metric.
Routine counseling in an evaluation context provide a framework for conversations about Army Values and leader performance. On-time evaluations are not a distracting annual administrative requirement but rather an essential readiness metric signaling confidence that leaders are engaged in character development. Are late evaluation metrics high in your unit? If yes, you might not be adequately preparing Drill Sergeants and support staff to achieve success in the first 100 yards of our nation’s battles.