Sgt. Ryan C. Moldovan, 1st Bn., 390th Inf. Reg., 98th Training Div., (IET) returns from a 12-mile ruck march during the 2016 Drill Sgt. of the Year competition at Fort Jackson, S.C., March 22. Moldovan completed ahead of the other competitors by nearly 30 minutes. He went on to finish the contest as the winner for the 98th Training Division (IET) and will move on to compete in the TRADOC Drill Sgt. of the Year competition at Fort Jackson this September. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Rizzo/released
FORT JACKSON, S.C. — If you were a contestant or coach during the Drill Sergeant of the Year and Best Warrior competitions at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, this year, you would have heard of Sgt. Ryan C. Moldovan by day two of the backbreaking, five-day event. That’s because he captured everyone’s attention by finishing a grueling 12-mile ruck march, in full combat load, nearly 30 minutes before the second-place finisher.
That’s truly saying something, considering that Moldovan, Co. E, 1st Bn., 390th Inf. Reg., 98th Training Division (IET) is one of 35 competitors who are considered the cream of the crop when it comes to Army Reserve Drill Sergeants and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) from the various battalions within the 108th Training Division (IET)
“I like to challenge myself as a drill sergeant, as a leader, and as an NCO,” said Moldovan. “Here, I’m surrounded by some of the best NCOs we have in the whole entire Army. They’re the ones that keep me sharp because I know that I have to maintain their level of standard as well as my own.”
It’s safe to say he exceeded that standard. In an event where most competitors cross the finish line grimacing, drenched in sweat, limping, and even bleeding, Moldovan came cruising in, leaning forward and jogging at a steady pace, with little more expression of discomfort than his scantily labored breathing.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams
Moldovan normally rests his head in Canton, Ohio; though he rarely actually rests.
In fact, he attributes much of his success during the physically demanding portions of the competition to working long hours in his civilian occupation as a UPS delivery driver.
“Long-distance is kind of my forte,” said Moldovan. “It’s my job to do that all day, fifty to fifty-five hours a week, running around carrying stuff.”
After seeing his lanky, athletic, 6’4” frame barreling down the road with rifle in hand, donning body armor and a large field pack, it’s fairly easy to imagine him being effective at anything from running around delivering parcels to killing bad guys.
However, it’s not just his physical performance in the competition that makes him stand out. Just speaking with him, it’s easy to see why he was chosen to represent his battalion. He is quick on the draw, and he needs not pause to give a precise answer for anything.
“When I asked the companies whom to select, his name was the first one they mentioned,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John DeMarco, Command Sergeant Major, 1st Bn., 390th Inf. Reg., 98th Training Division (IET) “The guy’s a stud. He’s ahead of everybody else in his company and the battalion, so obviously it was the natural choice for us to send him.”
Although soft-spoken, Moldovan’s words are clear, and one can detect both confidence and sincerity in his voice. Below his combat uniform cap visor, his brown eyes are set deep beneath his brow, and they appear to lock laser-like on a target when he is directing his attention to someone or something.
“He seems like he’s always thinking,” said his coach and 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year for the 98th Training Division, Staff Sgt. Russell T. Vidler, 2d Bn., 389th Inf. Reg. “And he’s a Family man, that’s always good to see.”
They say behind every good man is a good woman, and Moldovan said his wife, Abbie, is no exception.
“She’s been my best friend and number one fan since high school. She’s as proud as I am that I’m here, competing with the best of the best. I want to win just as much for her and my daughter, if not more than for myself,” he said.
Moldovan and his wife have a two-year old daughter, Mary Jane.
“You can tell just by talking to him that he’s got heart,” said Vidler. “He cares about everything that he does, whether it’s this competition, being a dad or husband, or being a Soldier in general – he cares and he’s proud. And he doesn’t make excuses.”
Perhaps it was that heart and pride that compelled him to the join the Army in March 2004, while our country was at war. Being sent overseas to fight was more of a probability than a possibility.
“I have many memorable Army experiences. Probably my most memorable experience is deploying to Iraq in 2009,” said Moldovan. “I deployed as an MP in a combat support role. That was the real reason why I joined the Army. If the country needs us to go over there and sort something out, that’s what we’re going to do. I felt good about doing that, leading my team.”
“That’s really what makes a Soldier. It’s that experience,” he said. “Leading men and women in combat, that experience kind of speaks for itself. You can’t get that anywhere else. You can’t get that in a civilian job; you can’t get that in a day-to-day nine to five job.”
While Moldovan hopes that experience, combined with preparation, will help lead him to victory this week at the Drill Sergeant of the Year competition, his mentor, Vidler is confident it will.
“Put your money on Moldovan,” he said.