Saturday, September 30, 2006

rambling answer to a question...

Ok I have NO CLUE how to use this thing (myspace is about as close as I get to blogging, and I hardly blog on it!) so I hope you get this message...

I am an army wife to an E6 who is thinking about becoming a drill sergeant VERY SOON. I'm a little nervous, since we are based in Hawaii, and he's looking at heading toward South Carolina (which I noticed is where you were at one point).

He said that I have final say on whether or not he goes through with this, but I wanted to get as much info about the job, its duties, schedule, etc. as I could.

Think you can help me out with this? It'd really be appreciated. Or, if there's a blog you've previously posted, go ahead and direct me to it and I'll read it!
I think I did write something about this one time but I believe I emailed it instead of posting it.

Once when I was about 14-15 my Dad told me to go feed our dogs. They were bird dogs and we kept them up the hill a little bit in a “dog run” made of chain link fence. It was dark and I was probably watching TV or doing something or other that I wanted to get back to quickly, or maybe I just had one of those bursts of energy that are more common at 15 than 35. Anyway, as soon as I had finished, I started down the hill at a run. I came to a point on the hill where there was a hump and a sharp drop and thought it would be a good idea to put on a burst of speed and jump as far as I could off the natural ramp.

Not once did I think about the clothesline my Mom had back there until it caught me right across the mouth and flipped me ass over teakettle. Before I landed on my face with a thump, I remember a lot of confusion, a little fear, and a single moment of clarity when I realized what I had hit.

I wasn’t hurt badly. I was a little shook up and sore but, other than some bleeding gums where I caught the line, I was fine.

In a weird way, this kind of summarizes my Drill Sergeant experience. I jumped into it without knowing exactly how it would end up. I was sure I would never survive while I was in midair. When it was over, I was more or less fine, and actually had a pretty good story to tell 20 years later.

I’m glad I did it. I’m glad it’s over.
I am back in the Infantry where I belong now, but I trained a lot of good Soldiers and I tend to remember the good times more than the bad now that I’ve been out of it for a year. On the other hand, when I talk to my buddies who are still “on the trail” I can hear the despair and fatigue in their voices lol.

A lot depends on your chain of command and to what degree the pansy-ass, politically-correct, baby-the-soldier, don’t-hurt-their-feelings mentality has taken over. On the other hand, you don’t want to work somewhere where the Drill Sergeants have been pushed too far the other way either. Sometimes one leads to the other. As Drills get more and more frustrated, there’s a chance discipline will start to deteriorate in the very people who are supposed to be instilling it. A lot of people haven’t figured this out yet. I seem to remember studying the Army’s basic manual on leadership when I was a CPL and learning that oversupervision leads to resentment and frustration, but I guess Generals don’t have to study the same manuals that we do. (I’m pushing the bounds of propriety here, but as I type this, some of the old frustrations are recalling themselves lol)

My best cycles of Soldiers were always the ones where the Drills were pretty much given a training schedule and trusted to train the best Soldiers they could. My worst cycles were the ones (only a few thank goodness) where every drill walked around constantly fearing for his career. I had a First Sergeant once who would actively try to talk the Soldiers into giving up some dirt on the Drill Sergeants. The very nature of any good Basic training ensures that somewhere in a group of 240 Privates, someone has gotten their feelings hurt and can either reveal or create something to get SOMEBODY in trouble. Luckily I never had any problems, but I saw some Drills get railroaded for doing things that were pretty reasonable at the time, but could be made to sound a lot worse in the right setting. Invariably, these cycles produced Soldiers with very little discipline and usually inferior levels of training. Luckily, I was able to get myself transferred from that Company fairly quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, overall it was an exhausting, frustrating, but generally positive experience. It all comes back to the Soldier, who is the reason good Drill Sergeants exist. In my Company, I have a Soldier from my last cycle. He wasn’t in my platoon, but I know he was trained well because I know his Drills. In my Battalion, one of my very first recruits I ever trained is now a SGT. He was a good Private then, and he is obviously a good Sergeant now. It’s very satisfying to run into those guys down the road and see them doing well.

I’m digressing a little bit. From a wife’s point of view, it’s a hard couple of years. He will work long hours. He will come home frustrated. He will take very little time off work. Then again, he won’t deploy. He won’t get shot at. He will sleep at home every night unless it’s one of the three or four relatively short FTXs they do in BCT.

And it is very good for his career. Being a successful Drill Sergeant carries a LOT of weight when being looked at for SFC. Recruiter and Ranger also carry significant weight, but I still think DS carries more a lot of the time. And (in my opinion) being a Recruiter would SUCK. They work the same hours, have about the same frustration level, but don’t actually get to lead and train troops, which is what any good NCO should want to do. Also, if you don’t volunteer, the Army is probably going to pick you to do one or the other eventually.

Some other notes…

South Carolina is a pretty decent place to be stationed. Columbia is a fair sized city, with enough entertainment, restaurants, activities, outdoors, etc to keep a family interested.

Fort Jackson itself I didn’t like as much, but that’s probably because it’s the only non-Infantry post I’ve ever been to. It’s really not that bad I guess.

The chain of command is no better or worse than at any of the other BCT posts. Even Ft Benning is suffering from PC-itis nowadays, and the quality of training will probably depend more on the Battalion than on the Post. (This is based on talking to a LOT of Drills and former Drills. If I had to choose one to go to purely for the training environment it might be Leonard Wood, but it would be a gamble. Things change all the time, and there’s really not that much difference.)

Then again, the new CSM at Jackson was my 1SG a long time ago in Hawaii, and I would follow that guy into combat armed with a rusty spoon, so maybe things will get even better there, who knows…

If you like BBQ, go to Jackson… and then go to Little Pig’s BBQ… and then waddle home and fall asleep.

If you hunt, and you like LOTS of deer and a long season, go to Jackson. If you like BIG deer, go somewhere else.

There were actually a lot of things I liked about that place, not that I would EVER leave Colorado to go back, but it was pretty nice.

This turned into a big long ramble, probably because I haven’t written anything in a while, but hopefully it answered some of your questions. If it didn’t, leave another comment or email me and I’ll be glad to help.


Blogger pegtrac said...

Good website and very informative most people dont understand what it is like to be a wife of a soldier so i completely understand and i wish you the best of luck and i hope you have reached you destiny this is our website

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, I've read your post from front to back since I discovered it a few months ago. Judging by your "stellar" opinion of your first company, I'd guess you were originally in 2-39 (AAA-0). I, too, jumped from one brigade to the other at Jax. Night and day. My first company had god-awful leadership, also. Anyway, I'm replying to your reply to the wife of a soldier who is considering DSS. My response right now is "NO!" I came off the trail in 2003, but I've stayed in the loop (long story), and still talk to old battles consistently. I've even visited FLW a few times and gone over to BCT and talked to some drills. Man, they are MISERABLE! I still work side-by-side with a DS who came off the trail at FLW in '99, and he has visited Jax BCT and FLW BCT with me (job requirement) a few times. Every time we leave a BCT company, we look at each other and say, "We'd be privates TOMORROW if we had to go back on the trail." I agree that, after 9 wks of groundhog day, mommy & daddy shaking your hand on grad day is fairly rewarding, but my biggest reward was in the personal knowledge that I had instilled my own values and drive into every soldier in my platoon, be it through sweat, mentoring, leading by example, whatever. Nowadays, everything I've seen and been told by battles still on the trail informs me that the privates run the show now. The best way I have had it described to me is that BCT drills now have little more authority/power/control than did reception drills back when I was on trail. I don't know, bro. DS duty is a subject that's near and dear to my heart, but I can't, in good conscience, recommend to this young lady that she give her husband her blessing. It took quite a while for my marriage to catch back up after I came off the trail, and I pretty much missed two years of my only daughter's life.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to what ELITE means,in 1962 the man at Ft.Benning pinned on my wings and whispered"this doesn`t make you better than everyone else.It just makes you better than everyone that don`t wear them".THANKS FOR WHAT YOU'RE DOING!People don`t realize that the military don`t make policy....

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just have to give my props to Ft. Jackson! I hate South Carolina--as a military brat I've been all over and SC was and still is probably my least favorite training base--but Ft. Jackson was great for my dad's career! For the person who asked the question: Drill life can be extremely hard on a family but overall is a great platform for better things! Like Rob said...those first few years are tough but it is those years in your husbands career that will challenge you as a family but bring you closer in the end. I have never resented my father for all the time he took for his military career and I felt comfort in knowing while he was going through drill school that he couldn't be deployed (AGAIN might I add) to some far off location! (Granted once he was out they shipped him off faster than I could blink--but I guess that's the way of things.) Take care and keep you head up! :) ~~Hooah~~

1:16 PM  

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