FORT MOORE, Ga. (WRBL) — After days of competition, one Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) drill sergeant came out a champion. Staff Sgt. Sarah Escarcega of the 198th Infantry Brigade won out against eight other competitors to become MCoE’s Drill Sergeant of the Year. Staff Sgt. Randall Smith of the 197th Infantry Brigade was runner-up.

The win came as a surprise, as it announced at the ceremony. Ahead of revealing the Staff Sergeant of the Year, Command Sgt. Maj. Rickey G. Jackson addressed the servicemen in attendance.

“A drill sergeant is a symbol of excellence,” he said. Jackson added drill sergeants “exude the warrior ethos” and exemplify the Army profession.

He noted the competition this year was stacked. Jackson told the audience there were no losers this week, only winners: drill sergeants who had gone above and beyond the standard.

Escarcega revealed she struggled to have confidence she could win against the skill of her peers, at times. She was proud of her accomplishment after three days of competition, including an obstacle course, M320 grenade launcher maintenance, orienteering, knowledge and implementation of biological and chemical operations and more.

“I was very surprised at myself that I was able to get here, honestly,” said Escarcega. She credited her success to skillfulness in a variety of tasks in a multi-faceted competition.

Going forward, the winner expressed enthusiasm to be a spokesperson for the drill sergeants at Fort Moore. She also talked about how her two-year-old son keeps her motivated.   

“Just thinking about him and how I need to be his provider and somebody that he’s able to like look up to when he grows up,” said Escarcega.

According to Smith, Escarcega is one of the best non-commissioned officers he has ever encountered at Fort Moore. He described his fellow drill sergeant as “driven.”

Smith said, “Me coming in second place to the winner is no issue. I respect it and she deserves it.”

The runner-up drill sergeant guaranteed he will keep pushing himself and said, “The new goal? I’m gonna continue to work. I’ll go right back to the trail and I’m gonna continue to train my trainees to be soldiers.”

Escarcega looked toward the national competition, admitting she is a little nervous but ready to take on the challenge. She will represent MCoE at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Drill Sergeant of the Year competition which will take place this September.

“Never stop learning, so always make it a point to learn more,” said Escarcega, “Figure out the answer and never accept ‘no.’”