FORT JACKSON, S.C. — The Drill Sergeant of the Year competition is so tight that all six competitors were within about five points of each other as they entered this final day, officials said.
This final day of competition started with a running of the forthcoming Army Physical Readiness Test, and the results were rather remarkable as the competitors scored well above the averages that have emerged as the Army collects its initial data. And the drill sergeants did this despite a draining tempo that included more than 40 miles of rucking in the previous three days, and only a few hours of sleep each night.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Palmer wins my hard core award for the day. He looked like he was walking atop hot coals after his first standing long jump, as blisters on his left foot had absorbed the full brunt of his landing. After a couple of deep breaths the reservist made his second jump — a whopping 89 and 3/4 inches (just under 7′ 6″). It was better than his first effort, and every other jump of the day.
“We all have put on a bunch of miles, and we all have some hot spots and blisters, but you have to push through,” said Palmer, who described himself as “exhausted, but proud.”
Palmer and his fellow competitors, all hurting in some form or fashion, encouraged each other through each event. Staff Sgt. John Heslin, Fort Benning’s Drill Sergeant of the Year, was the first to complete the 1.5-mile run at 10:28. Instead of taking the time to recover, he went back and cheered the others through the finish, even running alongside the final competitor for the last 300 yards.
The competitors then moved to the forthcoming combat readiness test. If the APRT measured fitness, the ACRT measured heart as the drill sergeants conducted casualty drags, ammo can shuffles and the like.
One observer with a careful eye on each competitor was Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, who heads up Initial Military Training. The next DSOY will come to work for him at TRADOC.
“I’m really impressed with all six of these drill sergeants,” said Longo, who shouted encouragement as each event unfolded. “When you think of what they’ve been through in the past three days, and still they come out here do better than the average soldier, it’s pretty impressive. It’s a demonstration of heart. When I think of a drill sergeant, I absolutely think of competence. But I also think of this passion and heart that makes them the very best sergeants we have in our Army.”
Indeed, back-to-back fitness tests challenged their fortitude, but the day wasn’t done. The final event was a command sergeants major board in service uniform — and that can be as grueling as any fitness test.
The day will end with a much-deserved barbeque in about an hour and a half. The winner will be announced at a o900 ceremony … stay tuned and we’ll post the results as soon as they are announced.