Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Army Drill Sergeant.
Drill Sgt. Danielle Brooks watches patiently as a squad of recruits at Fort Jackson tries haplessly to get a bloodied mannequin, representing a wounded soldier, across an imaginary creek. They are allowed to use only a zip line, stretcher, two carabiner clips and some nylon rope.
They fumble. They fuss. They fail.
“Time’s up,” Brooks barks. “You just killed your battle buddy. How’s it feel?”
In the old Army, this probably would be accompanied by a torrent of curses and oaths. Butts would be kicked. But this is the new Army and Brooks just shakes her head, sternly calls the group together and starts instructing the recruits on the right way to do the exercise.
“I don’t like to yell and scream a lot,” said Brooks, who has trained recruits for nine 10-week cycles over the past three years. “If you’re yelling and screaming all the time, when are you going to teach them? Patience is a virtue when you are trying to instill discipline.”
Brooks recently left her post training recruits to become the newest teacher of drill sergeants in the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, which will celebrate 50 years of the drill sergeant program on Friday. It is the only place in the nation where the Army trains drill sergeants. Brooks was chosen just two weeks ago by the academy’s commanders — all drill sergeants themselves — to wear the distinctive belt, brass buckle and badge that proclaims “This We’ll Defend,” the drill sergeant motto.
Brooks doesn’t fit the image Hollywood usually assigns to Army drill sergeants or Marine drill instructors. They most often are portrayed as hulking, red-faced, profanity-spewing brutes, a terror to any recruit unfortunate enough to enter their universe.
Take Hollywood’s most most famous: R. Lee Ermey’s Sgt. Hartwell in the movie “Full Metal Jacket.” He’s a full throttle Marine drill instructor who calls his recruits “maggots,” punches one in the gut for an infraction and forces another to choke himself “with MY hand.”
Conversely, Brooks is 5-foot-41/2-inches tall, and proud of the half inch. She lives in Northeast Richland with her wife, Shakerian. And she spent five years as a vocalist with the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus.[…]
Brooks said she wanted to become a drill sergeant leader in part to instill a high level of discipline in the Army. “Drill sergeants have the most impact on the Army,” she said.
She will be patient with a private who is trying. But she will light up a private who is “jacked up,” meaning intentionally sloppy in dress or execution.
“We’ve been so busy getting soldiers ready for war that disciplinary standards have dropped,” she said. “We have to get out of that in-theater mind set. I feel like I can motivate NCOs to care (more about discipline). If they care, then everything else is easy.”