Women sweep Drill Sergeant competition
By Patrick Buffett
FORT MONROE, Va. (Army News Service, 2003) - Two female drill sergeants for the first time captured the titles of Drill Sergeants of the Year for both the active-duty and reserve components.
Sgt. 1st Class Billie Jo Miranda, E Company, 1/61st Infantry Regiment, Fort Jackson, S.C., was the active-duty Drill Sergeant of the Year. Sgt. 1st Class Corenna L. Rouse, 100th Division (Institutional Training), U.S. Army Reserve, Louisville, Ky., claimed the top drill-sergeant honors for the reserve component.
Miranda competed against 14 active-duty drill sergeants, and Rouse seven reserve drill sergeants representing installations and training divisions across the country.
"In my heart, I didn't think I had a chance of winning," Rouse said, describing the moments leading up to the announcement at a ceremony attended by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack L. Tilley and former SMA Robert E. Hall, among other distinguished guests.
"In the formation I was fine ... I was like 'do-de-do, let's go see who's going to win.' So when they called my name it was a complete shock. I didn't really have time to let it sink in. I guess if I really thought I had a chance I would have been a lot more nervous," Rouse said.
Miranda said she had "sort of talked herself" into believing the winner would be somebody else as well. "It was all pretty amazing when they called my name. I was just overwhelmed."
To win the DSOY title, competitors must successfully negotiate four major challenges - a physical fitness test; a "surprise topic" essay; an appearance before a board comprised of five sergeants major; and a teaching demonstration of soldier common tasks like setting up a claymore mine and drill and ceremony. The events occur over three days.
"I think the hardest part by far is the PT test because it's right there, the first thing you do," said Rouse, a native of Hagerstown, Md., and now a resident of Louisville, Ky. "And I was told, 'if you don't score 300 (a perfect score), at least have a nice vacation because you're probably not going to win. There was a lot of pressure."
Describing her week, Miranda, a native of Flagstaff, Ariz., first joked, "What day is it?" She then described her PT run as the "worst she's ever done," even though she too achieved a max score on the overall test, and, like Rouse, said the rest of the week was actually easier in comparison. "Either you knew it or you didn't, it was as simple as that a lot of the time."
In recognition of their win, Miranda and Rouse received a slew of awards, ranging from a Meritorious Service Medal each to trophies, savings bonds and gold watches. The two drill sergeants will also be honored guests at the Association of the U.S. Army national meeting in October. There, they will receive the Stephen Ailes and Richard E. Haines Jr. awards from the secretary of the Army.
Winning the DSOY title also earns the active-duty recipient a change in duty station. Later this summer, Miranda will be relocated to Fort Monroe where she will serve as an advisor to Training and Doctrine Command on initial-entry training and drill-sergeant-related issues. Rouse will also serve in that capacity as her reserve training cycle permits.
One of the most important goals Miranda and Rouse said they have set for themselves in the coming year is to increase interest among lower enlisted soldiers who show strong potential as drill sergeant candidates. It's a decision, they said, most never regret.
"You realize the reward when you see the reaction on a soldier's face everyday you teach them something new," Miranda said. Add to that the phone message she said she received from one of her former recruits taking part in Iraqi Freedom: "The part I remember is, 'drill sergeant thanks for what you taught me, I know I'm going to be okay and come home alive."
Miranda also described her job as "humbling" much of the time:
"There is nothing better than working with recruits and just watching it click in their heads. It has nothing to do with yelling at them. It has nothing to do with the position of power that you're in. In fact it's the opposite, it's a very humbling experience to be around these kids coming in the Army today who are not stupid - they're much smarter and in a lot of ways they're more wise about what they want out of the Army."
"I equate it to what teachers do every day," Rouse said. "It's kind of a way to give something back. I was trained well, so let's pass it along. And I think it's at graduation when the soldiers come up to you and there, like, 'drill sergeant, you know I've lost 45 pounds during basic training,' and their parents are emotional and saying I can't believe this is my son - that's when you realize what impact you made."
On an even grander scale, drill sergeants contribute directly to the sense of pride American's feel for it's oldest service, noted Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, TRADOC's commanding general, who delivered remarks at the DSOY ceremony.
"We're the most respected institution in this nation because of the soldiers who wear our uniform," Byrnes said. "And the reason they wear their uniform so well, and they serve this nation so well, is because of their drill sergeants. (It's) because of where they come from - basic training, AIT, the schoolhouse where tomorrow's victories begin today. You make it all happen for us.
"You know, the feedback we've received from leaders and soldiers in both Afghanistan and Iraq is that drill sergeants have gotten it right," Byrnes also said. "Our training and leader development programs have been validated by our soldiers and leaders in those two great operations. You continue to produce the quality soldier that this great Army expects and the soldiers in the field validate that process.
"We see a lot of talk in the news about precision weapons. I think it's more about the caliber of the soldier than the caliber of the weapon. And when we're talking special caliber of people, drill sergeants come to mind - noncommissioned officers dedicated to the future of the Army; dedicated to the future of this nation by providing trained and ready soldiers.
"Yours is the tough job - not everyone can do it; not everyone wants to do it," Byrnes concluded. "But we recognize the value of the drill sergeant to the Army because you deliver every day without fail."
(Note: Patrick Buffett is a member of the Fort Monroe Casemate newspaper staff.)
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