FORT BENNING, Ga. (June 18, 2018) – The transition from civilian to Soldier can be life-changing for those who choose to take that step. Another life-changing transition is the transition to drill sergeant, which one Soldier discovered can affect the Soldier’s entire Family.
Sgt. 1st Class Cory Jackson has served as a drill sergeant in Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, at Fort Benning, Georgia, for the past two years and said this assignment has taught him about himself and the importance of a resilient, supportive Family.
“I became much more organized because you don’t have the time to not be,” said Cory, who has been in the Army for 15 years. “Being a drill sergeant makes you a much better, responsible noncommissioned officer and effective leader. I would highly recommend it to anyone.”
Cory admitted he was apprehensive at first when he found out in 2015 he was selected for drill sergeant duty.
“My wife was pregnant with Olivia, so I was hoping I didn’t miss the birth,” said Cory. “That was my initial thought because I had missed Evan’s because of Afghanistan.”
Cory and his wife, Jennifer Jackson, have been married for eight years and have three children: Evan, Olivia and Avery, ages 4, 2 and 2 months.
Nonetheless Cory’s best friend, a former drill sergeant, convinced Cory that it would be a rewarding assignment.
“So I started reading up on it, more about what it could do for your career and how you could actually help shape the Army, and I got more excited about it as the days went by,” he said.
The Jackson Family arrived to Fort Benning in 2016. According to Cory, his instructors at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, relayed to their class just how strenuous the assignment would be.
“They told us, ‘If you want to be a good drill sergeant, you are going to have to spend the time with your Soldiers. You’re going to come in when the sun’s down, and you’re going to leave when the sun’s down,'” Cory said.
That became apparent to Cory right away. In his previous assignments, he got to spend time with his children as the workday would typically end around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.
“Here, I’d leave when they were sleeping, and I would come home when they were sleeping,” he said.
Cory jokingly said this helped him to become more independent as he would often have to “fend for himself” for dinner, as both his children and wife were asleep.
For Jennifer, the transition proved to be just as challenging as she was trying to juggle two young children seemingly by herself while her husband was getting settled into his first cycle.
“It was rough because I had both of them at home,” said Jennifer referring to Evan and Olivia. “Olivia was only a month old, so it was like having a newborn pretty much by myself. I knew that in red phase they had long hours, but I expected him to be home earlier. So it was rough getting used to.”
Red phase is the first of three phases in Basic Training. Since it is the beginning phase, it is often the toughest as recruits are subject to “Total Control,” meaning their every action is monitored and constantly corrected by drill sergeants.
During his first cycle, Cory said this phase proved to be mentally draining as he was learning from his fellow drill sergeants while also trying to train new Soldiers.
“My mind was going all day, every day, so I was just exhausted,” Cory said.
He added that after dealing with trainees all day, it was sometimes difficult to come home to screaming children if they were awake, and he admitted that his attitude could sometimes be less than desirable.
Cory said he was amazed by his wife’s strength and resilience.
“She’s always been the rock, but she grew even larger when we got here,” Cory said. “She stepped up. It’s hard to even describe. We had back to back cycles. She was unbelievable. She made it so I didn’t have to worry about things. It’s your Family who is going to be doing the work at home because you are always going to be working. ”
Jennifer also served as the Bravo Company, 1-46 Family Readiness Group, a group that is paramount in support of the drill sergeants.
“They are great,” Cory said. “They would provide meals during long training events and the first 72 hours when we have new trainees and have to stay with them. They helped organize things off post. It’s a great support structure.”
Lt. Col. Sheldon Morris, the battalion commander of 1-46, agreed that the FRG and support of Soldiers’ Family members is crucial, especially for drill sergeants.
“The strength of our nation is our Army, but our greatest asset is our Soldiers and their Families,” Morris said. “To transform civilian volunteers into Soldiers requires a continuous investment of time and in people. No one knows this more than our Families and all-volunteer FRG members.
“Team Jackson is an excellent example of a strong Army Family on the trail, committed to the mission,” continued Morris. “His unwavering character, coupled with his ability to inspire peers and subordinates alike, solidifies his legacy in the battalion and generations to come.”