FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The drill sergeants barked orders. They called cadences and ran drills. But they were not molding civilians into Soldiers or introducing new recruits to their career fields. Instead, they were competing against each other.
A round-robin test was the first event in the annual Drill Sergeant of the Year competition running Sept. 12-15 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Sixteen of the Army’s best drill sergeants and Advanced Individual Training platoon sergeants gathered Tuesday morning to test their fitness and ability to lead Soldiers.
Hosted by the Army Training and Doctrine command, the competition will test drill sergeants on every facet of basic military training from weapons proficiency and tactical skills to leadership.
The contest will also measure stamina and endurance in a 12-mile ruck march and various physical fitness tests. The Soldiers will be graded from a range of activities from uniform inspections to history exams and group cadence instructions. Graders and evaluators will be stationed at each event.
Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Laspe, last year’s Platoon Sergeant of the Year and Staff Sgt. Ryan Moldovan, the 2016 Drill Sergeant winner from the Army Reserve, organized this year’s contest, which features competitors who boast a mix of athletic ability and tactical intelligence.
“These competitors you see today are the best of the best,” Laspe said. “They have already proven themselves time and time again.”
Among the competitors is Staff Sgt. Bryan Ivery, a South Carolina native who as an AIT platoon sergeant developed a battalion movement screening that decreased injuries by 90 percent in two months. Staff Sgt. Sean Jolin, of Fort Benning, Georgia, is a master fitness trainer and is a graduate of the Army’s Ranger school and sniper school.
“We have people who are in extremely good physical condition,” Moldovan said. “We have people who are very good at rucking. People who are intelligent. It’s going to be a tough competition.”
This year’s competition marked a change in that there will no longer be separate categories for active-duty Drill Sergeant of the Year and best reservist drill sergeant. Instead those categories have been combined into one, while the AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year remains as the other category.
The contestants also will participate in a mystery event that Moldovan said will pose a unique challenge for the contestants.
“The No.1 thing is to let them be the best drill sergeants from across the Army, active/reserve and the best platoon sergeant across the Army,” Moldovan said. “And that person that is selected is going to embody the total Soldier complex.”
The competition will conclude with an awards ceremony Friday morning.