Meaningful training enhances readiness at Fort Jackson


Soldiers from B. Co., 1-321st Infantry Regiment, celebrate victory in the competition to win the Commander’s Cup at Fort Jackson. B. Co., a Drill Sgt. candidate company based out of Cary, N.C. trains Soldiers to prepare them for the Drill Sergeant Academy. Upon graduation, the newly-minted Drill Sergeants return to the companies that recruited them. Photo by Capt. Michael Mascari, F. Co., 1-321st INF REGT.

Despite the hot, humid temperatures, Soldiers covered in sand dust made last one charge to complete their latest intense mission. Working in teams and representing their individual companies, the Soldiers had one last push to attempt to reach their objective.

At stake: The coveted Commander’s Cup. But beyond the temporary glory and bragging rights, the ramifications are much greater. These Soldiers are responsible for training future force of the US Army, the US Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 321st Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Colonel Lisa C. Hendrick, participated in the annual Field Training Exercise (FTX) to hone their skill sets, to build comradery and to prepare them for their primary mission: leading recruits through Initial Entry Training.

The Battalion’s secondary mission is to recruit, create, and maintain Drill Sergeants for these summer missions at Fort Jackson. The battalions six companies, located in North Carolina, come together twice per year to participate in the annual battalion field training exercise (FTX).

Drill Sergeant (Sgt.)Jessica Pate, and Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Crystal Gary evaluate a “casualty,” Drill Sergeant (Sgt.) Merlina Smith, during the STX lanes portion of the Battalion’s Commander’s Cup competition. The competition was part of an event designed to help Drill Sergeants maintain and hone the skills they teach during Basic Combat Training to Initial Entry Training Soldiers during summer missions at Fort Jackson.

Photo by Capt. Michael Mascari, F. Co., 1-321st INF REGT.

Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Powell, a Drill Sgt. with F. Co., 1-321st INF REGT, makes sight adjustments on an M-4 during a weapons qualification event, part of the Battalion’s Field Exercise Training competition.

Photo by Staff Sgt. (Drill Sgt.) Crystal Gary, F. Co., 1-321st INF REGT

Drill Sergeant (Sgt.) Matthew Koppi, E. Co., 1-321st INF REGT, provides some pointers to Lt. Col. Lisa Hendrick, Battalion Commander, prior to her qualification round. E. Co. ran the weapons qualification range, an event in the Battalion’s Field Exercise Training competition.

Photo by Capt. Andy Gorrospe, E. Co., 1-321st INF REGT

Drill Sergeant (Sgt) David Miller, E. Co, provides Brig. Gen. Miles Davis, 98th Training Division Commanding General, some M-9 coaching prior to firing during the weapons qualification portion of the 1st Battalion, 321st Infantry Regiment Field Training Exercise (FTX) on Fort Jackson. The FTX provided not only a platform for competition between companies, but a valuable opportunity for junior Drill Sergeants to gain training experience to prepare them for the trail.

Photo by Capt. Andy Gorrospe, E. Co., 1-321st INF REGT.

This year’s FTX consisted of three graded events; Individual Weapons Qualification, Situational Training Exercise, and the Fit to Win Obstacle course. The battalion staff  grades all of the events, and the company with the best overall score takes home the coveted Commander’s Cup.

“The training we did this weekend is great, because it’s out of the norm for what (Soldiers) normally get to do for training,” said Drill Sergeant Candidate Sgt. Nathan Harris, B. Co. “These are great events to compete in because this is what we are going to teach incoming Soldiers. It’s great to get the practice in when we can, and it’s fun, too.”

98th Training Division Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Miles Davis, and outgoing 2nd Brigade Commander, Col. (P) Steve Iacovelli, visited the battalion during the qualification range to observe. For many, the range was part of the competition, but for new Drill Sergeants, the opportunity to run a range was also a great opportunity to lead.

The competition makes everyone better according to battalion executive officer Maj. Anthony Von Plinsky. He said having relevant training appeals to Soldiers because they don’t join the Army Reserve to sit around.

“We have this training not only to refine our skills, but to entice quality Soldiers to join our units,” said Von Plinsky. “One of the reasons Soldiers join the Army Reserve is that they like to challenge themselves outside of their civilian jobs. By doing complex training events, qualifying and competing against others, it allows them a vehicle to push themselves.”

The weekend served as a culminating event for the year prior and enhanced companies gearing up for their individual extended combat training events for the summer.  It was also bittersweet for battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Whitworth as he made his final appearance with Lt. Colonel Lisa C. Hendrick, Battalion Commander, to assist in presenting the Commander’s Cup.

The Soldiers emerged from the wood-line as acting Command Sergeant Major, Master Sgt. Tony Ragmon, yelled “formation.” Soldiers formed up eager to hear the results of their hard work throughout the weekend.  This year’s champion was Bravo Company, the Drill Sgt. Candidate Program, Cary, N.C., commanded by Capt Adam Price.

For Sgt. Harris, one of four candidates who will join Foxtrot. Co., Lumberton, N.C. upon completion of the Drill Sergeant Academy, the victory was a thrill.

“It was awesome! We are a company made up of mostly candidates, and we were able to beat out experienced Drill Sergeants. The comradery, the teamwork, the attitude we put forth is something we will take forward.”

Capt. Jennifer Hernandez, Commander of Alpha. Co., Cary, N.C., was pleased with her company’s effort, despite her team falling short.

“The weekend was long but productive and served as a great opportunity to develop Soldier’s skills all while displaying Esprit de Corps,” Hernandez said.


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