FORT SILL, Okla. (Feb. 1, 2018) — One staff sergeant on post, with just nine years in the Army, recently earned a position at a “train the trainer” drill sergeant leadership course at Fort Jackson, S.C. She leaves in late February. Her wife, a sergeant with five years in the Army, will visit the same post as a drill sergeant candidate around the same time.
Staff Sgt. Jade Hill works as a drill sergeant with C Battery, 1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery, which falls under the 434th Field Artillery Brigade.
The organization overall provides command and control for Army basic trainees. Drill sergeant qualifies as a special skill identifier. Jade has been a drill sergeant for roughly 10 months. Her primary military occupational specialty (MOS) is 68W, combat medic specialist. Additionally, she holds an additional skill identifier of master fitness trainer.
Sgt. Ericka Hill, Headquarters and Headquarters Support, 434th FAB, works as an instructor for the drill sergeant certification team. She holds the military occupational specialty of 74D, chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear specialist.
Both Soldiers have “fast tracked” for the short time they’ve been in the Army. They’re also combative instructors at the highest Army level, according to Jade.
Ericka does social media on her own for the 1/31st FA and is a fitness entrepreneur, Jade also said she knew she wanted to become a drill sergeant since basic combat training.
“I didn’t have a lot of options unlike most individuals (who) join the Army” she said. “I wanted to do better, be better and not be in the same black hole that everyone else was falling into. After I joined, a little bit over nine years ago, I wanted to be a medic, specifically, I wanted to help people, and I figured that was the best way to really do it was to become a medic. I knew I wanted to be a drill sergeant right when I was in basic (combat) training (BCT). It was the same thing for my wife.
“I had three drill sergeants (in BCT). My senior DS was a 42 Alpha, which is human resources,” Jade said. “Another drill sergeant was a 12 Bravo, which is your combat engineer, and then the other was an 11 Bravo good old infantry grunt. Our senior DS wasn’t around too much. He was doing senior things, platoon sergeant things, you don’t really see him in the picture too much, but the other two DSs were very influential insofar as are you going to put up or shut up, go out there and do what you need to get done — emotions on the sidelines, keep them with the family, be a Soldier; it was literally the Army, ‘Be all you can be.’ That was a good ‘ole motto. Being female in the Army, I think, is the biggest kicker of being in the military as far as wanting to prove yourself.”
Jade and Ericka met later and married. They’re both in their 20s. One of their officers in charge, Maj. DaMond Davis, 1-31st FA executive officer, stated that it’s unusual for a medic to be chosen for the Drill Sergeant Leadership Course. He spoke highly of both Soldiers.
Ericka shared her Army story.
“I decided to join the military kind of young. I didn’t really actually put my foot into it until I actually told my parents, and once they were completely supportive of it, I thought this might be a very good position for me and having other family members in the service, as well, they persuaded me to go into the military,” she said. “I was doing college at the time, but I felt I wanted to do more for myself, so I decided to join.”
Jade and Ericka agreed that a big challenge of being a drill sergeant is not showing flaws or emotions.
“In the trainees’ eyes or for the civilians when they first come here — you have to be perfect, robotic, never wrong. Less everything than what the trainees have. Less sleep, less eat, less water, less family,” Jade said. That’s really the biggest thing, to have so little but do so much in their lives, being so effective in that sense.”
Another struggle for many is standing in front of an audience, which is a big part of being a drill sergeant. Jade said that doesn’t bother her.
“I am a public speaker since the day I was born. I’ve never had an issue in front of people don’t have an issue embarrassing myself in front of people. If I do something that might be considered to be embarrassing to most, then I try and humanize it as much as possible and turn it into a learning lesson,” she said.
Ericka, the quieter of the two, said she does struggle in front of people. Of other drill sergeant struggles, Jade went into detail.
“At first it gets frustrating because you’ll have individuals that you try to train or discipline one way, but then you start to realize that not everybody absorbs information the same way, she said.
“You could scream and yell at one person and they’ll get everything right. They’ll do everything, first time go. But then you do that to another person and it doesn’t affect them whatsoever. Until you can understand that concept, you’re going to have a hard time as a drill sergeant, which was my first two cycles I was having issues with that.
“Learning how to speak to certain individuals a certain way, kind of knowing the Soldiers a little bit more, which is difficult here,” Jade said. “We have 62 trainees in one platoon right here now. Where you have those issues to where no matter what you do, no matter how you approach them, no matter how you talk to them and you’ve tried every single angle, some people are just not going to do it, and that’s the simple plain fact.
“Not everybody can be in the Army. That’s why we have such a small percentage of civilians in the world that join the Army. Not everyone can do it. It’s not for everybody. As a leader, as a drill sergeant, whoever you are, you have to come to terms with that because you’re going to stress yourself out, you’re going to blame yourself. It’s difficult.”
The population of basic combat trainees has grown since Jade became a drill sergeant. She said her first cycle had 119 trainees, and now they’ve consistently had 250 trainees each cycle. Adapting to change is necessary.
“There’s so many things we’ve done in history. The biggest example I have is combatives,” Jade said. ” Back in the day we had bayonets, but then we went to trench warfare. How are we supposed to use a bayonet in a trench? So they went onto using shovels, E-tools, so on and so forth, grenades. If we didn’t make that change we would’ve lost the war. It’s the same thing with the individuals coming into the Army now.”
Jade explained how she was selected to attend the leadership school at Fort Jackson.
Each quarter some staff from the Drill Sergeant Academy visit Fort Sill for a screening process, which consists of interviews, a packet detailing one’s military career, an official photo, a biography and a fitness test, among other things. The screeners choose the strongest candidates to attend the academy to learn to train other drill sergeants.
Both Soldiers leave for Fort Jackson in late February.
Upon Jade’s graduation from the academy, she said she will either remain a drill sergeant or instruct other Soldiers to become drill sergeants. Neither is sure where they’ll be stationed.