FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Sept. 21, 2015) — Whether the drill sergeant is a Reservist or active-duty Soldier makes no difference to a recruit going through basic combat training, or BCT, on Fort Jackson.
The barracks still will carry the scent of weapon-cleaning solution and pine oil cleaner, and the training will remain rigorous despite the status of the instructor.
“For the most part, I don’t think they know,” said Capt. Thomas Carter, one of more than a dozen Reservists training with his active-duty counterparts.
Basic training companies get “new commanders and drill sergeants throughout the cycle, so there’s no difference,” said Carter, commander of Golf Company, 1st Battalion, 323rd Infantry Regiment, based in Cary, North Carolina.
Carter’s reserve-component unit executed its two-week Echo mission – which ended Monday – by providing drill sergeants, a first sergeant, an executive officer and a commander for Echo Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, a BCT company on Fort Jackson. Echo missions also support the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, another 193rd Infantry Brigade unit.
E Company was in the white phase of basic training, during which Soldiers in training learn how to fire M-4 carbines accurately; toss hand grenades high, hard and overhand; confront their fears on the confidence course; and survive pummeling one another during Army combatives.
Active-duty and Reserve drill sergeants are virtually identical, said the unit’s senior enlisted leader.
“The only difference is we are Reserve, they are active,” Sgt. 1st Class Steven Wood said.
“All the schools are the same. All the qualifications are the same. Everyone goes through the same school [U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy] here on Fort Jackson,” he said.
“We work side by side,” said Wood, who has participated in numerous Echo missions.
“You could line up all the drill sergeants, and you wouldn’t be able to tell who was Reserve and who was active.”
Reservists augment active-duty drill sergeants “during the summer months because there is an influx of civilians coming in to become Soldiers,” Wood said. “We provide support to those battalions and companies to get as many [trainees] through as possible.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Edwin T. Brooks said that “the mission allows us to produce approximately 1,440 more Soldiers, given the additional two companies and manpower.
That’s “extremely valuable” to both the 3-60th and the 1-13th because it provides the units with additional drill sergeants, increasing cadre resiliency by allowing for more Family time.
The unit mixes active and Reserve drill sergeants to keep continuity when the cadre switch every three weeks. This also keeps reserve-component drill sergeants current on their training.
“I think we have the right combination with our reserve-component drill sergeants, and when called upon, they meet the challenge,” Brooks said. “Their transition in and out is obvious, yet transparent to the trainee because of the professionalism of the NCO [noncommissioned officer] corps.”
Lt. Col. Carol Hayman, commander of the 1st Battalion, 323rd Infantry Regiment, takes pride in the dedication and excitement her troops show.
“I’m excited about being here,” Carter said. “I love being a part” of a trainee’s progression from civilian to Soldier.
For company leaders, seeing civilians evolve from wet-behind-the-ears recruits into Soldiers is most gratifying.
“I like watching these kids go from having no self-esteem at all to be able to graduate and perform their duties as a Soldier,” said Reserve drill sergeant Staff Sgt. Angela Lee as she carefully watched her Soldiers going through the confidence course early in the cycle.
Lee, who started her Army career as a human resources specialist, has spent the past few years on the trail.
She observed as Staff Sgt. Kenneth Stone, a Reserve drill sergeant, monitored trainees carefully from his perch on the Skyscraper, a five-tiered open platform that Soldiers climb by shinnying up the obstacle’s four legs or being receiving boosts from teammates.
“This will show you how well you can do pull-ups,” he said, encouraging a four-Soldier team through the obstacle.
“Grab him by the belt,” Stone said as he instructed trainees on the proper way to pull one another up to the next level. “If you don’t grab the belt, you can’t pull him up.”
First Lt. Allison Hayes, the company’s executive officer, said her Soldiers’ “getting the mentorship” from their active-duty counterparts helped them get up to speed quickly, allowing them to continue training seamlessly.
The Echo mission is a great opportunity for the company’s new drill sergeants to have “excellent opportunities for mentorship outside of the drill weekend and in front of privates” from seasoned drill sergeants, she said.
Reserve-component drill sergeants bring a different mind-set to training, even though they have undergone the same training as their active-duty counterparts.
“We deal with civilians every day back home,” Hayes said. “We have military policemen. We have our infantrymen. We have every [military occupational specialty, or MOS] you can think of.
“It’s not like you have one particular personality for a drill sergeant,” she said.
Wood agreed with Hayes but added that the Reservists brought with them different ways of solving problems.
“Not only are you bringing in different MOSs, you are bringing in different skill sets,” he said. “As far as management and as far as technical skills from a civilian aspect, we have a lot that your active component doesn’t have.”
If you have “a civilian background, you can understand more of what the privates are thinking,” Carter said. “Some of the active-duty drill sergeants have been doing this so long that they get separated from the civilian side.”
In recent months numerous, national media – including USA Today and the Los Angeles Times – have reported on a supposed military-civilian gap, isolating those in service from those with no military experience personally or through Family ties.
The Reserve drill sergeants come from all MOSs and include Soldiers, who joined the Reserves after retiring from the regular Army.
“I know that the Soldiers in my unit, my drill sergeants, this is what they went to different schools to do,” said Hayes, a Citadel graduate and a contractor with the Army Medical Command on Fort Bragg. “I am happy to see them doing what they love to do, and what they put in their blood, sweat and tears to do.”