The Fort Leonard Wood community will begin seeing more campaign hats in the near future due to the Army-wide transition of platoon sergeants to drill sergeants in the Advanced Individual Training setting. This change will affect the installation’s 1st Engineer, 3rd Chemical and 14th Military Police brigades.
In January 2008, the Army began the process of removing drill sergeants from Advanced Individual Training and replacing them with platoon sergeants. One decade later, the reverse transition has begun with the first wave of noncommissioned officers graduating March 8 from a 10-day conversion course qualifying them to wear the drill sergeant identification badge.
In the past, noncommissioned officers who trained to be AIT platoon sergeants attended the first six weeks of the nine-week long drill sergeant school before splitting off to learn other things, such as attending the master resilience course.
According to officials, although AIT platoon sergeants proved effective and provided “ready Soldiers for the nation,” the return of drill sergeants is expected to “improve the standards and discipline” of new Soldiers.
Making the transition is mandatory for those who have graduated from the AIT platoon sergeant course on or after Jan. 21, 2017. Platoon sergeants who have between 13 to 18 months of time can volunteer to extend for an additional year to become eligible.
Master Sgt. Christopher Foley, 1st Engineer Brigade operations sergeant major, said the brigade has 27 platoon sergeants at installations across the country, 15 of which are here at Fort Leonard Wood.
“(As a whole,) 15 must attend training; six are in the option window, and six do not have enough time remaining,” Foley said. “Two within that option window have already volunteered and will incur a third year of duty.”
Foley added that the brigade has already had three of their Fort Leonard Wood platoon sergeants attend the course, making the transition to drill sergeant. The brigade plans to have all eligible platoon sergeants converted by July.
Staff Sgt. Ericka Kong-Martinez with Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion, is one of those recent graduates. She has spent one year as a platoon sergeant and, after volunteering to extend for a year, will spend the next two as a drill sergeant.
“It’s a good opportunity to see the difference between both roles,” Kong-Martinez said. “Now I see the difference in trainees’ reactions from a platoon sergeant to an actual drill sergeant. They react a lot faster when a drill sergeant addresses them.”
She added, “the discipline level is higher. It shouldn’t be, but it is.”
Here, the 3rd Chemical and 14th Military Police brigades, together, have approximately 38 platoon sergeants that will also transition or be replaced.
In the end, approximately 600 current platoon sergeants across the Army will make the conversion to drill sergeant. All are expected to be in place by the end of the fiscal year.