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Three Meter Zone | JD's Bunker | Poetry | Chapel | American Journal

C'mere Hollywood

J. D. Pendry

"C'mere Hollywood. Lemme see that hat. At's got to be about the cleanest damn hat I ever seen Hollywood. Real Drill Sergeant's hats got big ole sweat stains in'em. And they stank a little."

That's how the Senior Drill Sergeant greeted me the first time I came styling into the mess hall my first morning out of Drill Sergeant school. Moments later he was eating grits out of my hat. He was considerate enough, however, to clean it for me by taking it back in the kitchen and running it through the dishwasher. He messed around with trying to straighten it out for a couple of minutes then handed it back to me saying, "She's got a little character on'er now Hollywood. Go move the compnee to trainin."

Real Drill Sergeants are the hardest working, most dedicated and professional soldiers in the Army, bar none. Those who actually do the job anyway. These men and women work more hours in a 2 or 3 year tour of duty than most noncommissioned officers work in ten years. They rarely have a chance to trot off to the PX during the day. They also miss a lot of school plays, ballgames, anniversaries, birthdays... And if they have children they know them as lumps in a bed.

For what someone obviously thought was a good reason we allowed the Army's Drill Sergeant Program to get out of control - not Drill Sergeants, but the program. We created too many Hollywood Drill Sergeants and put them doing things Drill Sergeants weren't meant to do or are not needed to do. Not too many years ago, a Drill Sergeant's Identification Badge on a noncommissioned officer's right breast pocket was relatively rare - and it meant something. Now they're thickern' flies on a cow pie. The problem is that too many of these cherished badges adorn the pockets of the Hollywood variety of Drill Sergeant.

It's another discussion for another day, but it's like what we did to the Command Sergeant Major program. One day someone decided that all centrally selected commanders or agency heads needed a CSM so we gave them one. Then, when we looked up, we discovered we had too many CSMs with no troop responsibility - their basic reason for existence. So we tried to fix it, and we're still working on it.

We committed the same crime against the Drill Sergeant program. By trying to place Drill Sergeants wherever there was some form of initial entry training or reception, we lost sight of their basic reason for existence. Which is to teach and instill responsibility, values and discipline and most of all to teach basic soldier and basic combat skills.

Now, everywhere you look there's a Hollywood Drill Sergeant who hasn't taught the first basic skill to a soldier since the day he or she graduated school and put on that cool hat. They're in reception stations and combat support/service support Advanced Individual Training (AIT) units. In reception stations they perform duties that could and should be performed by Corporals. In the AIT units they're little more than high speed baby sitters. Both fail to perform the basic function of Drill Sergeants - teaching basic soldier and basic combat skills. These Hollywood Drill Sergeants have no focus so they give us products like Aberdeen. The saddest thing is they share the glory of being called Drill Sergeant while real Drill Sergeants get to share with them the shame of a Delmar Simpson.

To fix the problem we need to send the Hollywood Drill Sergeants back to the Basic Combat Training and One Station Unit Training (OSUT) units that are historically under strength and overworked. We don't need Drill Sergeants with combat support and service support trainees who spend most of their time in classrooms and we certainly don't need them styling around the reception station. We keep insisting soldiers are much smarter today than they ever were before. Don't you think they can find their own way to class and don't you think a good Corporal could lead them to the clothing issue point? Soldiers may be getting smarter, but sometimes I worry about us.

There are simply too many Hollywood Drill Sergeants who are not doing Drill Sergeant business. Unfortunately, when it comes to promotion competition, their shiny badge carries as much weight as the Drill Sergeant who spent all of his or her time in the mud training soldiers. Put Hollywood back in the mud with Basic Combat Training and OSUT units or give those positions back to the war fighting Army. We don't need Hollywood Drill Sergeants.

"C'mere Hollywood. Lemme see that hat."

Copyright© 1998, J.D. Pendry, All Rights Reserved