By Staff Sgt. Andy Poquette
Wisconsin Army National Guard
The "Smokey the Bear" brown campaign hat. The cold stare that freezes blood in the veins. The loud, piercing voice barking commands. Anyone who has spent any time in an Army boot camp can recognize these trademark signs of a drill sergeant - the tough-as-nails noncommissioned officer charged with turning civilians into Soldiers in roughly two months.
Until recently, drill sergeants primarily resided in the active Army and in Army Reserve training regiments. Now, however, drill sergeants are showing up in the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion, preparing young recruits for basic training. The newest drill sergeant - a member of Detachment 1, Company B who graduated drill sergeant school June 2 - is the first traditional Wisconsin Army National Guard member to fill that role.
"It's a very challenging program, but also very rewarding," said Sgt. Leslie "LJ" Maple of Mosinee, who drills on a monthly basis just like his recruits. "I'm able to give our new recruits the tools they will need to succeed and become honor graduates at the schools they attend."
Maple - whose wife, Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Maple was recently selected as the national level Airman of the Year - joins Staff Sgt. William Shafer, who works full-time with the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion, as one of the few National Guard Soldiers to graduate from the course.
"I've always wanted to do this and help new Soldiers, and this program was a great way to bring back the latest and greatest teachings to our Soldiers here," Maple said. "The Wisconsin National Guard having a drill sergeant means we can bring back the best techniques for training our Soldiers and set them up for success."
The benefit of having drill sergeants training National Guard recruits include similarity of instruction from the recruit sustainment companies to basic training, and less culture shock from one training environment to the next.
The Recruiting and Retention Battalion has 12 drill sergeant positions for six companies. 1st Sgt. Joshua Reed, a recruiting and retention noncommissioned officer in charge stationed in Green Bay, said that some Army Reserve drill sergeants have transferred into the Wisconsin Army National Guard's recruit sustainment companies, and that two other part-time National Guard Soldiers attended drill sergeant school but did not transfer to the battalion.
"Maple is our first home-grown drill sergeant on the traditional side of the house," he said.
The U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School, established in 1967, is now the Army's only drill sergeant school after the schools at Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., closed in 2007 and 2008, respectively.