Drill sergeants. They’re portrayed in movies as the ultimate tough guys, screaming, swearing and pounding out soldiers and Marines in films such as “Full Metal Jacket.”
They’re often cast as barrel-chested brutes who use fists and foul language to make or break a recruit – all for the good of the service, of course.
But at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, which on Friday celebrates 50 years of the modern drill sergeant program, the reality is quite different.
Drill sergeants are more mentors than terrors. Physical violence is forbidden. Foul language is discouraged.
But they are still the most feared person on Earth to a scared recruit who is about to embark on the most difficult journey of his life.
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Frank Sutton is screw-up Marine Gomer Pyle’s short-fused drill instructor.
Clint Eastwood plays a Marine drill instructor at battle with his recruits, his superiors and his ex-wife.
Full Metal Jacket
R. Lee Ermey (once a real-life Marine drill instructor), as foul-mouthed, ham-fisted Hartman has become the pinnacle of movie drill instructors.
Officer and a Gentleman
Louis Gosset Jr., in what many people consider to be his best role, is a ruthless, tough-acting Marine drill instructor hiding a heart of gold.
Drill sergeant speak
On the trail: The time a solder spends as a drill sergeant
Private: A new recruit, the lowest rank of soldier
Squared away: Describes a soldier who is physically fit with a uniform that is sharp and neat
Jacked up: Describes a soldier who is a mess, either in appearance, conduct or in performing a task; the opposite of squared away
On point: When a soldier maintains complete control of himself or herself and the situation around them
Hop’n & pop’n: When a soldier is moving quickly and with purpose
Marching surface: The ground, as in “hit the marching surface and give me 20”
Roger that: I understand
Copy that: I hear you
Are you tracking me? Do you understand what I’m saying?
Too easy: Reply when given a task that can be quickly accomplished
Big Army: The Pentagon or Department of the Army, where the rules and orders are issued
Command hand: The distinctive karate chop-like hand gesture used when forcefully instructing or disciplining a private
PT: Physical training, primarily calisthenics
Smoke out: Forcing a private to PT until he or she collapses from exhaustion; a form of punishment no longer allowed
Heading down range: Being deployed to a war zone
What right looks like: The ideal soldier
SOURCE: Drill sergeants
What is a drill sergeant?
Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian answers that question
Drill sergeants in action at Fort Jackson
Basic combat training
The 10-week course for recruits is divided into three phases: Red, White and Blue. Drill sergeant candidates have to go through this course again, with added training.
The first phase of basic training – and the most difficult for most privates. This is when drill sergeants act most like those in the movies. The phase is intended to break down a recruit through intimidation and hard physical training, motivating them to drop bad habits and attitudes and become more disciplined and physically fit.
On the first day, recruits are herded off a bus loudly, given buzz haircuts, issued uniforms and immediately head to Victory Tower, where they, even though exhausted and frightened, have to climb ropes and netting and rappel from a 40-foot tower. All recruits must complete this task.
Early in this phase, recruits also are taught how to properly wear a gas mask, which means learning to enter a gas chamber and remove their gas masks. Recruits also learn about Army heritage and the seven Army core values.
By the end of the two- or three-week period, they have to pass a physical fitness test including a four-mile run and four-kilometer march to proceed.
In the second phase of training, the new privates go through more intense physical training to instill them with more confidence. That includes an eight-kilometer foot march, regular runs, obstacle courses and field training exercises.
The phase also includes marksmanship training on various automatic weapons and hand grenades. The privates have to pass a marksmanship test to proceed.
Drill sergeants in this phase are more teachers than task masters.
Recruits put their training to the test as they learn basic combat tactics: How to patrol a village and how to clear a room. Physical training continues to be intense.
In this phase, drill sergeants often step back and let privates who have emerged as leaders handle some of the training and duties. They become more like non-commissioned officers in the field.
After passing all their tests and challenges, privates, some by now who have been promoted to privates first class move on to graduation.
SOURCE: U.S. Army