The Army Is Selling National Guardsmen Hard on Drill Sergeant Duty

A U.S. Army drill sergeant corrects a recruit during her first day of training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Army photo/Stephen Standifird)
A U.S. Army drill sergeant corrects a recruit during her first day of training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Army photo/Stephen Standifird)

As the Army works to add tens of thousands of soldiers to the ranks in coming years, it's in need of drill sergeants who can train new recruits -- and leaders say National Guard noncommissioned officers have a lot to gain by considering the three-year assignment.

About 2,700 of the Army's drill sergeants come from the Reserve's 108th Training Command. Now, the Reserve component is reaching out to Guard NCOs to help them carry out their mission.

"If you loan them to us ... for three years, we'll put them through school, put them on the trail a couple of years and, when we send them back, they will be better noncommissioned officers," Brig. Gen. Andrew Bassford, head of 108th Training Command, told Military.com on Monday at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington. "That seems like a win for both sides."

Drill sergeants are in high demand, not only as the Army grows, but also as it extends some entry-level training programs and adds more women to combat units, Bassford said. That puts a stress on the active-duty force that the Reserve components help fill.

Bassford and his team have been working with National Guard leaders for about a year to encourage more NCOs to move to the Reserve component for drill sergeant duty. Staff Sgt. Sterling Johnson, a drill sergeant and mortuary affairs specialist by trade, now encourages some of those NCOs to consider making the switch.

It can be tough to develop leadership skills drilling just one weekend a month, he said. Drill sergeants get a unique chance to transform dozens of untrained recruits into disciplined soldiers.

"As a squad leader, you might have five or 10 people you're responsible for, but as a drill sergeant, it's not uncommon to have 50 or 60 trainees you're responsible for," he said. "... You bring that leadership experience back to your unit."

National Guard leaders might be reluctant to let some of their strongest NCOs switch components to take on this duty. But it helps them in the long run, too, Johnson said. That drill sergeant could go on to become one of their unit's top leaders down the line.

"Here's somebody you let us borrow for a few years, but you get them back polished, and it's good for their careers," he said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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