A sponsor introduces his 2022 Fort Jackson Drill Sergeant and Noncomissioned Officer of the Year Competition candidate before a formal board Feb. 8, 2022. The formal board is the second event of the first day of competition. The following week will be filled with tasks and events that will test the knowledge and expertise of the candidates. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Shea)

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

Fort Jackson is on the hunt to name the 2022 Drill Sergeant, Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year. Eleven Soldiers have stepped up to compete for the top title and move on to the Training and Doctrine Command-level competition later this year.

“It’s not easy, it’s not designed to be” said Master Sgt. Donald Baker, noncommissioned officer in charge of the competition. “It is designed to push them mentally and physically. They will be pretty wiped out by tomorrow night.”

The week-long competition began Monday afternoon with a packing list layout followed by the Army Combat Fitness Test and formal board presided by a board of command sergeants major. Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier presided over the board.

Hunt is on to name Fort Jackson’s best

“Are we ready?” Tavernier asked as a sponsor was invited into the conference room to introduce his candidate.

One by one, the candidates were grilled with questions, creeds and their uniforms closely scrutinized.

Once complete, there was no time to waste as the candidates changed out of their dress uniforms and donned their combat uniforms and field kits. Busses gathered the candidates and delivered them to Mekong Delta, the day and night land navigation course.

“This is my first time competing,” said Staff Sgt. Levi Miller, a drill sergeant assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment. “I’ll be doing lots of stuff but we have land navigation tonight. I think I’ll be strongest at land navigation.”

Hunt is on to name Fort Jackson’s best
Hunt is on to name Fort Jackson’s best
Hunt is on to name Fort Jackson’s best
Hunt is on to name Fort Jackson’s best

Once at the site, Army Apache and Blackhawk helicopters buzzed the site as they conducted nap-of-the-earth exercises, occasionally hoovering for a moment to check out the action as the candidates checked their compasses, plotted their points and confirmed their pace counts before heading out.

Each candidate had three hours to find a total of five points. The more points found within the given amount of time resulted in higher points achieved.

“I just finished land navigation,” Staff Sgt. Jeff Tupuola, a drill sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. “I’m confidant whoever wins this will go home bloody because that’s what I’m here for. If I’m here away from my Family, I’m gonna make it count.”

Tupuola explained that even if the competitors were friendly to one another, once the competitive events began, the competition became fierce. Tupuola had the third fastest land navigation time finding all five points.

As the last of the competitors returned, they settles around the cement pad at the entrance to the navigation course. The spot would be their home for the night.

After waking beds of frost in the morning, the competitors had an hour to conduct personal hygiene, change clothing and pack before bussing to the ranges.

For the rest of the week, each competitor will complete the M4 rifle and grenade range, confidence course, individual Soldier tasks, buddy movement tasks and the final 12-mile foot march event.

“Confidence is the key to winning this,” Staff Sgt. Scott Smith, a drill sergeant assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. “I’m 100% confidant I’m going to win this.”