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A Legendary Symbol Of Pride
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton - December 30, 2014

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December 4, 2014 - Drill sergeant candidates at the United States Army Drill Sergeant School are fitted and issued their hats just days before graduating from the prestigious course. The olive drab headgear worn by male drill sergeants today has a flat brim, Montana Peak and bears a gold disc of the Great Seal of the United States on its front. Infantry Soldiers wear an infantry blue disc under the seal. Drill sergeants first wore this hat in 1964 as a way of distinguishing themselves from those whom they were charged with transforming into Soldiers. It has been their proud symbol ever since. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)
December 4, 2014 - Drill sergeant candidates at the United States Army Drill Sergeant School are fitted and issued their hats just days before graduating from the prestigious course. The olive drab headgear worn by male drill sergeants today has a flat brim, Montana Peak and bears a gold disc of the Great Seal of the United States on its front. Infantry Soldiers wear an infantry blue disc under the seal. Drill sergeants first wore this hat in 1964 as a way of distinguishing themselves from those whom they were charged with transforming into Soldiers. It has been their proud symbol ever since. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

FORT JACKSON, S.C. - For citizens making the leap from civilian life into military service by way of the Army, one symbol of excellence stands above all and exemplifies all of the qualities those future Soldiers desire to acquire- the drill sergeant.

For aspiring drill sergeant candidates at the United States Army Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, that symbol is the drill sergeant hat.

“It's amazing! It's pretty surreal. This is the first thing that civilians see when they step off that bus. In psychological terms it symbolizes discipline. It almost has a legend to it,” said Army Reserve Sgt. Enrique Hernandez, 98th Training Division (IET).

Hernandez, was one of 97 noncommissioned officers who were fitted with the coveted headgear just one week before graduation at the Drill Sergeant School. Together they make up less than 18 percent of the total Army force that is even qualified to be a drill sergeant.

“I was honored to be selected for this position. It shouldn't change you. I'm not going to let it change me. I still have to perform my primary mission, and that is to take care of Soldiers. But the hat is a symbol and I proud to have it,” Hernandez said.

The olive drab headgear worn by male drill sergeants today has a flat brim, Montana Peak and bears a gold disc of the Great Seal of the United States on its front. Infantry Soldiers wear an infantry blue disc under the seal. Drill sergeants first wore this hat in 1964 as a way of distinguishing themselves from those whom they were charged with transforming into Soldiers. It has been their proud symbol ever since.

The female version of the drill sergeant hat came into existence in 1972 as a beige version of the Australian bush hat, when six noncommissioned officers from the Fort McClellan, Alabama, became the first females to successfully complete the Drill Sergeant Course. It was later changed to a green color in 1983 but retained its general design. The difference in the male and female drill sergeant hat versions has become a topic for contentious debate in recent years.

“The time has come to provide the initial entry Soldier with the immediate facial recognition and perspective of what and who a drill sergeant is, not a female or male drill sergeant, but a drill sergeant. A drill sergeant who happens to be male, or female. One standard issue drill sergeant hat for all drill sergeants will aid in this continuous, inclusive transition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian, Commandant at the United States Army Drill Sergeant School.

“The Army female drill sergeant hat came about during a period of historical social changes needed to highlight the presence of women in the Army. Women have served proudly as noncommissioned officers and drill sergeants for more than 40 years. As we move forward we will ensure females continue to be respected equally with their male counterparts as premier teachers, coaches and mentors in the Army,” Christian added.

The drill sergeant course consists of nine weeks of intensive training with long days, longer nights and ridiculous amount of stress. Noncommissioned officers at the course are trained to master every skill that a new Soldier coming into the Army is expected to perform.

For those that complete the training, the day they receive the hat symbolizes that they have finally achieved that standard of excellence they have desired to emulate for so long.

Sgt. 1st Class Jordany Urbano, a mobilized Army Reserve drill sergeant leader at the United States Army Drill Sergeant School said, “This hat means that you are the best at what you do. You are a leader, a mentor and the epitome of a professional Soldier. You can't take away the excitement of graduation because that means you've finally finished everything you have to do, but for a lot of the candidates here this lets them know they've made it. I think for most of them this day is just as good if not better than graduation. It certainly was for me.”

The campaign hat is a universal, iconic symbol of authority. Of all the organizations that don this particular piece of headgear - from law enforcement, to corrections officers, to park rangers - none wear it with greater distinction than the U.S. Army drill sergeant.

“Once again, historical social changes are being made as we move toward removal of gender specific titles, labels and restrictions in our Army. As a military, we have worked very hard to achieve an inclusive shift in uniform nomenclature, occupational specialties and now small unit infantry courses,” Christian said.

No matter what your view of these two versions of the legendary headgear, be it the Montana Peak campaign hat or the Australian bush hat, they both have two traits in common - they both command discipline and demand excellence.

As a side note, the United States Army Center for Initial Military Training, or USACIMT, has initiated a Drill Sergeant Hat survey that will be available in the near future.

For more information about becoming a drill sergeant with the United States Army or Army Reserve please go to http://www.army.mil/drillsergeant/.

More photos available below

By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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