FORT MOORE, Ga. (WRBL) — Most days, drill sergeants put the pressure on their soldiers; today, the pressure was on them. Nine of the top drill sergeants from Fort Moore’s Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) gathered on the 194th Armored Brigade Obstacle Course to compete for Drill Sergeant of the Year.

As the Army’s website explains, the competition is set apart from others due to its teaching component, on top of mental and physical challenges.

“What it means to be a drill sergeant for me is…training future soldiers to be a soldier and then an instrument, but it’s a little bit more than that,” said Staff Sgt. Randall Smith of the 197th Infantry Brigade, a Detroit native competing for the MCoE title.

He explained the role of a drill sergeant is complex and sometimes includes taking on the role of a father or big brother to guide soldiers through personal challenges. In his perspective, it takes a humble, open-minded person to do the job well.  

Staff Sgt. Eleanor Ray of the 194th Armored Brigade had a similar outlook for the competition.

“Just stay humble. An L is an L, just take it…and just keep your eyes open,” said Ray.

Ray was one of two women in the running for MCoE’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. According to her, competing against the top of the top is an entirely different beast than being the best in a unit, but it’s one she will keep fighting.

MCoE’s 2022 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Harris recalled the series of events can be especially grueling.

“The biggest challenge for me was to have that work-rest cycle throughout the competition, because its back-to-back-to-back events of testing different knowledge bases throughout the competition,” Harris said. He remembered strategically studying between events during last year’s event.  

Staff Sgt. Robert Farleigh of the 194th Armored Brigade, a 2023 competitor, could relate. On top of battling for Drill Sergeant of the Year, Farleigh is also an aviation student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Florida. Last week, when the sergeants vied for the position at a unit level, Farleigh had to balance midterms week with the competition.

Despite the obstacles they faced, the sergeants expressed desires to stay competitive with their peers.

Smith said, “I’ll continue to give 100%. The competition this year, these drills, the NCOs, are outstanding. So they’re definitely going to push me.”

MCoE’s Drill Sergeant of the Year for 2023 will be named in an award ceremony on Friday, June 2, then go on to compete at a national level.

This year’s MCoE competitors as also include Staff Sgt. Andrew Santiago and Staff Sgt. Corey Peters of the 197th Infantry Brigade; Staff Sgt. Maxim Perry, Staff Sgt. Sarah Escarcega and Staff Sgt. Tomas De Jesusperez and Sgt. 1st Class Adam Weaver of the 198th Infantry Brigade.