Drill Sergeant of the Year
About the CompetitionThe Center for Initial Military Training annually hosts the Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) competition at different TRADOC Installations. The event is conducted over a four-day period and consists of the same tasks being taught at Basic Training. Subject areas include rifle marksmanship, physical readiness training, first aid, hand grenade training, land navigation, and confidence course. Competitors are required to show proficiency at performing selected Soldier skills as well as teaching those tasks to trainees in a simulated environment. Although COVID-19 continued to exist, twelve centers of excellence sent their best drill sergeants to Fort Jackson, S.C. for four days of rigourous physical and mental tasks, Sergeant First Class Travis K. Burkhalter earned the title of 2021 Drill Sergeant of the Year. In other Army competitions, individuals or buddy teams must overcome physical and mental stress to win. What makes this competition different from all others is the teaching component. Drill Sergeants are the first line educators for the Army and therefore, must be highly skilled at getting through to all the people they must train. The added dimension of the competitors maintaining their poise and ability to focus emotionally to teach basic combat skills to Soldiers, who at times do not cooperate, after enduring physical and mental challenges, highlights why the Army puts so much faith and trust in their abilities as professionals. The first DSOY competition was held in 1969 for the active component. In 1972, the competition included the reserve component. The Advanced Individual Training (AIT) Platoon Sergeant Program came into existence in 2007 to replace Drill Sergeants at AIT, with the first PSOY competition held in 2009 and the last competition held in 2017. Local DSOY competitions are held at the four Army Training Centers (ATC) for the active component Drill Sergeants. The Reserve component holds separate competitions for the 95th Training Division at Fort Sill and for the 98th Training Division at Fort Benning. Winners from the active and reserve components go on to represent their post/component at the Army-level event.
The EventsThe DSOY competition is best-of-the-best contest and therefore is a physically demanding and mentally tough challenge for the Army’s best trainers. Each competitor must battle fatigue, the weather, and conquer surprise events over the four-day event. To earn the title of DSOY, the competitors must perform and master all associated tasks and drills from Basic Combat Training. These include but not limited to:
- First Aid
- IET Handbook Knowledge Tests
- Physical Readiness Training
- Unknown Distance Run(s)
- Unknown Distance Foot March(s)
- U.S. Weapons
- General Military Knowledge Test
- Uniform inspections
- Methods of Instruction (MOIs)
- Drill and Ceremony
- Completion of multiple physical assessments, road marches, and obstacle courses with little to no rest in between events.
- Demonstrate the ability to teach/coach/mentor Soldiers on various Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills or other Soldier skills.
- Complete a formal selection board of senior noncommissioned officers.
Drill SergeantsDrill Sergeants are the premier teachers, coaches, and mentors to new recruits that go through initial military training. Each year, approximately 150,000 civilian volunteers are transformed into new Soldiers at four ATCs located at Forts Benning, Jackson, Leonard Wood, and Sill. Drill Sergeants teach Soldier-related skills at the 10-week Basic Combat Training or at One Station Unit Training which ranges from 13 to 20 weeks, depending on Military Occupational Specialty. Drill Sergeants represent every career field in the Army and the program is open to both male and female Soldiers. There are more than 2100 active duty and 1900 reserve component Drill Sergeants conducting training or with duty at the Drill Sergeant School, the breakdown of which is approximately 3380 male and 635 female. Three of the ATCs currently offer integrated training of male and female Soldiers. Fort Jackson has the largest concentration of Drill Sergeants and trains more than half of the Soldiers entering the Army. The Drill Sergeant School trains more than 800 new Drill Sergeants and 400 new Platoon Sergeants annually. Drill Sergeants also train Soldiers going through Military Occupational Specialty courses at 21 locations across the country.