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U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy: "This We'll Defend"
by U.S. Army Satomi Mack-Martin - December 2, 2015

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"Mere Chance" by David G. Bancroft

FORT JACKSON, S.C. – “Drill Sergeants are master trainers, master time managers, and master personnel managers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian, commandant of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy. “They become an asset to every command when they return to their organizations, and that's a part of the drill sergeant charter.”

The change in title from Drill Sergeant School to Drill Sergeant Academy centers on teaching drill sergeant candidates “how to think” versus “what to think,” as explained by Christian. The title change is also due to the fact that there are four schools taught within the institution: the Drill Sergeant Academy, Drill Sergeant Recertification Course, Advanced Individual Training (A.I.T.) Platoon Sergeant Course, and the A.I.T. Platoon Sergeant Recertification Course.

The morning sun peaks over the rooftop of the Drill Sergeant Academy hitting the black letters from across the way, “This We’ll Defend”. The drill sergeant statue overlooks the physical fitness field at Fort Jackson, Aug. 12, 2015. The statue is dedicated to the founding of the Army’s first Drill Sergeant School and the first class of Army Drill Sergeants. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photos by Satomi Mack-Martin)
The morning sun peaks over the rooftop of the Drill Sergeant Academy hitting the black letters from across the way, “This We'll Defend”. The drill sergeant statue overlooks the physical fitness field at Fort Jackson, Aug. 12, 2015. The statue is dedicated to the founding of the Army's first Drill Sergeant School and the first class of Army Drill Sergeants. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photos by Satomi Mack-Martin)

“Over the last year, there has been an adaptation of the Army learning model, and we've transitioned from a method of training where we focused on the delivery of information, whether written or orally,” says Christian. “But now as we've made this paradigm shift, we focus on the performance measure which has actually made the course harder for the individual because they have to demonstrate their understanding of how to teach the subject.”

The commandant said that for over 50 years, drill sergeant candidates ran through the course as if they were a private going through basic training for a second time. The focus was on the candidate performing the task. With the new process, the responsibility and accountability for training, coordination and execution of the training is placed on the student.

“Within 72 hours, drill sergeant candidates are placed in a controlled environment where they are actually in charge,” said Christian. “For example, with the Victory Confidence Tower, we instruct them on how to negotiate the tower and obstacles themselves and at a certain point, we rotate the students to where they assume the safety position with placing the harnesses on and helping their peers negotiate the obstacle.”

The commandant went on to say that this approach in training allows the candidate to demonstrate and replicate the duties of a drill sergeant. The point is, “How do you overcome your fear and how do you help a civilian overcome theirs?” says Christian.

The overall model to the Drill Sergeant Academy is to plan, coordinate, and execute the training, which is done through repetition. After candidates have had an opportunity to observe what “right looks like,” as explained by the commandant, they then begin planning the training themselves, coordinating it, and executing the training.

“Preparation breeds success,” said Sgt. Maj. Edward Roderiques, the academy's deputy commandant. “Candidates that have gone through some sort of Drill Sergeant Preparation Program (DSPP) have a better chance at succeeding.”

Many drill sergeant Army Reserve units have a DSPP geared towards mentoring and preparing candidates prior to attending the academy with tasks such as memorizing the drill sergeant creed and training modules, and perfecting drill and ceremony procedures.

Sgt. Maj. Roderiques suggests that unit leaders can better prepare their candidates by concentrating on areas that give them the most difficulty opposed to areas that do not. He also highlights encouraging candidates to practice being an assistant instructor during physical readiness training.

Roderiques said, “Assistant PRT instructors are the ones walking around the formation making on-spot corrections and ensuring that the proper form and technique is being conducted on each exercise. They must master all aspects of PRT.”

The Soldier Support Institute and the drill sergeant component are currently developing an interactive software program that units and soldiers can use in preparation for the course, says Roderiques.

The best way to get drill sergeant candidates prepared for the course, as stated by both Command Sgt. Maj. Christian and Sgt. Maj. Roderiques, is to use a recent Drill Sergeant Academy graduate as a mentor or guide for the candidates within a unit's DSPP.

“Drill Sergeant duty is a gratifying opportunity for any leader who inspires to stay in the military and excel as a leader,” says Christian. “Once you're off the trail, you're still not really off the trail. You take the knowledge, skill, and the attributes with you from learning to be a drill sergeant.

“I would say, just Google images of command sergeant majors,” says Christian. “Count 10 photos. With every 10 photos, you are likely to see a former drill sergeant,” he said. “Everyone benefits from a former drill sergeant. Patience, understanding complex ways, and finding a solution is what drill sergeants and former ones bring to an organization.”

By U.S. Army Satomi Mack-Martin
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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