The drill sergeant hat is an icon in the Army that
creates vivid images. When people see a Soldier wearing it,
they immediately feel respect because they know it is a job
that is earned, not given.
The hat that comes to mind
for most, is the male drill sergeant hat, the brown round.
However, the female drill sergeant hat holds just as much
responsibility. It just hasn’t been around as long, or as
much, but it certainly has history.
In February 1972,
six Women's Army Corps noncommissioned officers from Fort
McClellan, Ala., enrolled in the Drill Sergeant Program at
Fort Jackson, S.C. Upon graduation, they were authorized to
wear the newly designed female drill sergeant hat that was
designed by Brig. Gen. Mildred C. Bailey.
In February 1972, six Woman Army Corps noncommissioned officers
from Fort McClellan, Ala., enrolled in the Drill Sergeant Program at
Fort Jackson, S.C. Upon graduation, they were authorized to wear the
newly designed female drill sergeant hat that was designed by Brig.
Gen. Mildred C. Bailey. The design was taken from the Australian
Bush Hat and was originally beige. The color changed to green in
1983 and remains in effect today. (U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Maj.
Michelle Lunato - March 8, 2017)
women and that hat transformed the entire Army…and my life,”
said Command Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Jennifer Dehorty, cemetery
director intern, National Cemetery Administration, Veterans
Dehorty’s statement is not exaggeration. It’s
merely a fact of her own experiences as a trainee at Fort
McClellan in 1981.
“All the cadre we had there were
former WAC drill sergeants,” said Dehorty. “The
esprit-de-corps that we learned from them was different. It
was stronger….We even carried ourselves different than the
trainees from other posts.”
Dehorty was so inspired
by her drill sergeants, that she became one herself in 1984.
But like a true Soldier trained by some of the Army’s first
female drill sergeants, Dehorty pushed hard to do her best.
And in doing so, she earned The Distinguished Honor Graduate
title over her peers.
Looking back, Dehorty said she
wasn’t trying to exceed the standards. She just wanted to
“In the day, those women not only set the
standard, they WERE the standard. And I couldn’t think of
being anything better.”
A little over 45 years have
passed and those first female drill sergeants are still
remembered for their bravery, said Staff Sgt. Briana Popp,
an Army Reservist with 3-518th, 2nd Brigade, 98th Training
Division (Initial Entry Training), who just graduated as The
Distinguished Honor Graduate and Iron Female from The Drill
Sergeant Academy March 8, 2017.
“They stared in the
face of adversity and never backed down,” said Popp. The
personal courage those first six drill sergeants put forth,
paved the way for not only female drill sergeants, but just
female Soldiers in general, said Popp.
March 8, 2017 - Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Briana Popp takes her
drill sergeant hat from senior drill sergeant leader Sgt. 1st Class
Tanya Polk, during a graduation ceremony at Fort Jackson, S.C Popp
earned the titles of Iron Female and Distinguished Honor Graduate
and will be a drill sergeant with the 98th Training Division
(Initial Entry Training). Popp, who is a Columbus, Ga. resident, was
the first female Distinguished Honor Graduate in the past six cycles
and happened to graduate in March, which is Women's History Month.
Coincidentally, Popp's graduation day was International Women's Day
as well. (U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato)
gone by since the Army’s first female drill sergeants, and
progress is still being made. In 2009, Command Sgt. Maj.
Teresa L. King became the first female commandant of The
Drill Sergeant Academy. In 2015, Capt. Kristen Griest, 1st
Lt. Shaye Haver and Maj. Lisa Jaster all became the first
female Army Rangers. In 2017, Pvt. Jennifer Sandoval became
one the first two females to earn the combat engineer
military occupational specialty.
With more and more
women paving the way and others joining the Army, female
drill sergeants will play a vital role in tomorrow’s Army.
“Being a drill sergeant is the most important job in
the Army, hands down,” said Staff Sgt. Briana Kozain, drill
sergeant leader at The Drill Sergeant Academy. “From the
moment that civilian enters my world, I have the ability to
plant a seed to change their entire life.”
Dehorty and Popp, Sgt. Earlandrius C. Parker, a Canton, Ohio
resident and a drill sergeant with the 108th Training
Command (IET), became a drill sergeant as a result of her
experience with her drill sergeant.
“She inspired me
and had such an impact on me that it was my mission, once I
became a noncommissioned officer, to do all the things I
needed to do to get to where I am today and become a drill
sergeant,” said Parker who graduated with Popp from The
Drill Sergeant Academy March 8, 2017.
becoming a drill sergeant is not an easy task. It just takes
hard work, dedication and training. But it’s not impossible,
“It is obtainable. You can do it,” said
Parker who invited the drill sergeant who changed her life
to her graduation.
Many female Soldiers have the
ability to become a drill sergeant, they just need to
believe they can, said Staff Sgt. Crystal L. Doherty, a
combat medic who earned her drill sergeant title along with
Popp and Parker and will be going on the trail at Fort
“Never let anyone tell you that you are
not good enough. Always strive to be stronger than the next
person. And, just keep pushing forward. There are no
With each new trail blazer, the Army gets
better and more diverse. Many female drill sergeants said it
is not about being female. It is about being their best and
serving the uniform with pride. However, the best
explanation about being a female drill sergeant came from
the highest ranking female drill sergeant there is to date
during a 2009 interview the New York Times.
look in the mirror, I don’t see a female,” said King. “I see
By U.S. Army Maj. Michelle Lunato
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