Story By Gary Loten-Beckford
Women’s History Month is a time when Americans honor women who have helped shape our country over the years through their remarkable achievements, as well as acknowledge those currently making modern-day history. These stories are interwoven into the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, which began in 1972 when six noncommissioned officers (NCOs) from the Women’s Army Corps were enrolled and graduated from the drill sergeant program at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Women who serve as drill sergeants share the same experiences as their male counterparts. From the long demanding hours, sweltering hot summers on marksmanship and training area ranges, bone-chilling and freezing cold-weather winter temperatures at field training exercises, to the administrative collateral duties for maintaining company operations and intermittent family time. These are all shared experiences for the exceptionally tough and rewarding special duty.
Drill Sergeants are NCOs who excel in the top 10% of all Army NCOs. Drill sergeant leaders (DSL), however, represent the top 1% of the drill sergeant population. DSLs are responsible for molding NCOs into drill sergeants before they are assigned to transform civilians into soldiers in Basic Combat Training.
Drill Sergeant Leaders Staff Sgt. Kenya Beasley, Staff Sgt. Candice Jones and Staff Sgt. Darleneanne Roque have served as drill sergeants at various Centers of Excellence, ten centers that are each focused on a separate area of expertise within the Army and train more than 750,000 service members each year. Now these women are responsible for molding and transforming NCOs into highly effective drill sergeants.
Their inherent mission is to train, educate, certify and validate NCOs’ abilities to execute and teach the core tenants of Enhanced Basic Combat Training Program of Instruction, which include physical readiness training, drill and ceremonies, basic rifle marksmanship and Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills.
DSL Staff Sgt. Kenya Beasley of Lithonia, Georgia, has been in the Army for 10 years. Kenya enlisted as a medical logistician and later volunteered to be a drill sergeant based on the positive influence her drill sergeant embodied.
“My drill sergeant saw potential in me and that changed my life,” Kenya said. “I wanted to have that impact on new incoming soldiers. I wanted to get them to believe in themselves to reach their full potential.”
Kenya is a leader, soldier, coach and mentor, but above all, she attributes being a mom as the ultimate title.
For young women hoping to join the military and those already serving, Kenya shared some advice:
“For young women hoping to join the military, stay true to who you are. Go for every opportunity, rise to the opportunities presented to you, be fearless, be confident, advocate for yourself and always challenge yourself,” Kenya said.
“For women already serving, continue to be pioneers for the women under you, be kind to yourself, remember to focus on progress, remain motivated, stay consistent.”
Kenya is also a member of the prestigious Sgt. Audie Murphy Club. Members of the club are those who exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development and welfare of soldiers and concern for families of soldiers. Soldiers are nominated by company leadership to compete, followed by boards, essays and written exams testing Army regulations and leadership decisions.
DSL Candice Jones did not join the Army immediately after high school. In fact, Candice was recruited out of high school under a basketball scholarship and served as an assistant coach at Olney Central College in eastern Illinois. After 18 months of feeling stagnant and too comfortable, she realized that she needed a challenge. And there was no bigger challenge than joining the Army.
Candice enlisted in the Army in 2012 as a horizontal construction engineer and climbed the ranks, where she sought mentors along the way, who were pivotal to many of her career decisions.
“I’ve had mostly engineer mentors and they were prior drill sergeants and drill sergeant leaders,” Candice said. “They gave me hard love and easy love and taught me many things. It’s gotten me to this point in my career and they’ve taught me to be a better person.”
On what Candice would say to her younger self: “pay attention and concentrate.” There is so much to learn by simply paying attention, she explained. It’s imperative to focus on the details, as she began to care about herself and future better than ever, Candice says she’s been able to accomplish more.
“Advice I have for younger women looking to join the Army: always shoot for your dreams and never change who you are, just change the situation you’re in to make it better and always do the right thing even when no one is watching,” Candice said.
“Women currently serving – if you’re finding it more challenging because you’re a woman, know that it must be challenging, or everyone would do it, be that woman that young soldiers look up to and inspired by.”
DSL Darleneanne Roque, a native of San Jose, California, joined the Army to be a part of something bigger than herself.
“I joined the Army where my impact can be measured but not limited,” Darleneanne said. She enlisted as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and has eight years of service. Though Darleneanne was selected by the Army for drill sergeant duty, her initial plan was to volunteer later in her career.
After 18 months of drill sergeant duty at Fort Lee, Virginia, Darleneanne competed for the coveted role as a drill sergeant leader at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy in Columbia, South Carolina.
“I volunteered to be a drill sergeant leader because I realized the type of influence this position holds,” Darleneanne said. “I wanted to apply myself within the organization to affect the future of the Army on a much larger scale.”
Darleneanne credits her time as a drill sergeant for boosting her confidence and increasing her knowledge of Army programs and regulations. She became the expert in her field by digging into the regulations, putting in countless hours of studying and role modeling the training manuals.
“My experiences and interactions with my leaders, peers and soldiers helped shape the decisions I’ve made throughout my military career,” Darleneanne said. “I take the good out of certain situations and make sure to never repeat the bad.”
In speaking to her younger self and other women thinking about joining the Army, Darleneanne says that you must stay true to what you believe in. There will be many variables that will try and sway you, but if you continue to do the right thing, you’ll never regret your next position in life.
This story was originally published on DVIDShub.net. It has been edited for USO.org
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