By Amanda Sullivan
Public Affairs Office
Charged with preparing the next generation of warfighters, drill sergeants dedicate long days to training new recruits in the discipline and traditions of the U.S. Army.
There are currently about 3,400 noncommissioned officers performing this duty, and it’s an unspoken norm that most complete their 24 to 36 months in that role and never wear the drill-sergeant hat again.
But, there are sometimes exceptions to that rule.
Staff Sgt. Kent Taitague, a drill sergeant with the 43rd Adjutant General Battalion, is on his second tour at Fort Leonard Wood. He served his first with Company C, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, then returned to U.S. Army Forces Command to continue his infantryman duties at Fort Bliss, Texas.
However, after two years, Taitague made some phone calls and discovered former drill sergeants could volunteer for a second tour of duty. Having enjoyed his time shaping the next generation of Soldiers during his first tour, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I needed to go back and continue doing what I was doing,” he said. “Being in (Training and Doctrine Command) is having to instill discipline — train Soldiers — and make them become the greatest Soldiers they can be. It’s very demanding, but after every graduation you look back and give yourself a pat on the back, say, ‘job well done’ and send them off to FORSCOM to start their new careers as Soldiers.”
According to Michael Gaines, U.S. Army Human Resources Command Nominative Branch chief, the request is uncommon.
“The drill sergeant team does receive two to three requests per year,” he said.
Once his request was approved, Taitague completed the two-week Drill Sergeant Recertification Course at the Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The course is designed to serve as a refresher for the 10-week certification course Soldiers attend before their initial tour.
According to Capt. Matthew Williams, commander, Company A, 43rd Ag. Bn., Taitague’s previous experience has helped his company thrive and conduct training in the most efficient way possible while reducing the chance of critical mistakes being made.
“He is able to draw upon his immense experience to deal with situations that are new to others or that could otherwise overwhelm someone with less (experience),” Williams said. “Taitague already knows the ins and outs of handling the Army’s greatest asset, which allows the formation more maneuverability and the latitude to commit resources in other areas. The life of a drill sergeant is not easy, and I have immense respect for his dedication to the mission, constant professionalism and his willingness to work.”
Taitague uses his 16 years of experience as a Soldier and drill sergeant to advise trainees temporarily assigned to the 43rd Ag. Bn. on how to succeed once they arrive at their basic combat training unit.
Taitague and the other drill sergeants in his unit are some of the first faces Soldiers see upon arrival to Fort Leonard Wood. He hopes his example helps in preparing future Soldiers — many of whom become future leaders.
“It’s an honor to train these Soldiers,” he said. “They’re replacing us as time goes by. I want them to look back and reflect and say this is how my drill sergeant was.”
“The Army of tomorrow is shaped through drill sergeant Taitague’s work today,” Williams added. “His willingness to continue that mission says a lot about his character as an NCO and person.”
Taitague said he would encourage former drill sergeants who are interested in a second tour to go for it.
“Take the opportunity,” he said. “Go back in and continue training Soldiers, because after all, we need future Soldiers to lead the Army and continue on with fighting for our freedom.”
According to Gaines, former drill sergeants should contact their respective career branches at Human Resources Command to submit the request. He recommends Soldiers speak with their Career Branch Manager to determine if a second tour of duty as a drill sergeant is in their best interest.