Drill sergeants are the gatekeepers into the military. For any aspiring soldier, Marine, sailor or airman, drill sergeants embody the transition from the slow-paced civilian life to the rigors and discipline of the military. Throughout their first months in the military, recruits are shepherded by the drill sergeants who have a great responsibility on their shoulders: to turn raw civilians into war-fighters. It’s essential, thus, that drill sergeants know their craft.

Recently, more than 100 drill sergeants and support personnel from the Army Reserves participated in a battalion-level exercise in an attempt to hone their war-fighting and teaching skills. More specifically, two units participated in the training event: the 2nd Battalion, 389th Regiment (Basic Combat training) and the 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training). The exercise took place at the New York State Preparedness training Center in Oriskany, New York.

Lt. Col. Nathaniel Stobert, the 2nd Battalion commander, said in an interview with DVIDS: “All the collective and individual tasks that they are being evaluated on are all things that every soldier needs to be able to do to survive when, and if, they deploy to a combat environment. So even though this doesn’t have to do with our drill sergeant mission per se, it has everything to do with being a soldier. And in addition, the most valuable part of this is that it gave our young leaders an opportunity to lead under stress and uncomfortable situations, in environments they were not used to, and work together with other young leaders in a way that they don’t normally get a chance to during battle assembly weekends.”

The better trained drill sergeants are, the better war-fighters they produce. So, although aspects of the training event didn’t have to do with everyday drill sergeant duties – there wasn’t any unnecessary screaming, for instance – they helped improve the combat skills of the participants, something that will translate into better trainers.

Realistic training is everything for it highlights the unpredictability of warfare and the need to constantly improvise and adapt according to the situation. And the training event showcased this aspect of warfare brilliantly. “We have the drawings and sand tables that we can make to give us an idea on how we want to perform a task,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Anthony Watson II, “but when we actually get to the location and fulfil the mission, so to speak, the sense of realism comes into play. Then we can play off of each other and coordinate, or improvise as necessary.”

In his civilian career, Colonel Stobert serves as New York State Special Operations Response Team member.