How to Become an Army Drill Sergeant

Becoming a Drill Sergeant is one of the highest honors obtainable as an NCO.  After all, only the most qualified NCOs are chosen to attend Drill Sergeant School, where they are trained to fulfill a role of utmost importance…turning civilians from all walks of life into Soldiers.

However, earning that infamous hat is not easy…at all.  Their training is some of the most strenuous and demanding the Army has to offer…essentially it is Basic Training all over again…on steroids.  Think about it…these NCOs are expected to do everything perfect as they are the ones expected to train the Army’s recruits.  They are the best because new recruits deserve to and need to learn from the very best the Army has to offer.  Here is a brief overview of How to Become an Army Drill Sergeant.

Most Drill Sergeants are selected, but you can also volunteer for a vacant Drill Sergeant slot within a Training Command element.  Entry into the Drill Sergeant Program is obviously the first step.  To be considered, you must be an NCO (E-5 through E-7) and meet the requirements outlined in AR 614-200, Chapter 8.

The next step is completing DA Form 7424 (Sensitive Duty Assignment Eligibility Questionnaire) and completing the initial orientation/inprocessing paperwork required by the schoolhouse program.  Each state and Training Command has their own process for applying and obtaining a DSS slot, but AR 614-200 and TRADOC REG 250-16 provides the best information with regards to those qualification requirements.

Drill Sergeant School begins at Fort Jackson, SC with inprocessing.  Prior to, you will hand in your packet which includes such items as EMILPO Inprocessing Sheet, Weapons Handling Form, Mental Eval/DA 3822, POW Registration and the DA 7424.  Also, prior to arriving, it’s a good idea to review FM 7-22 (Physical Training), TRADOC REG 350-16 (Enlisted Initial Training Policies and Admin), TRADOC REG 350-16 (Drill Sergeant Program) and TC 3-21.5 (D&C) as these will be the primary areas of focus for the course.

Without ever attending Drill Sergeant school myself, I am unfamiliar with the POI taught there, but I am aware that every topic is specifically targeted to the Basic Training environment. Their training is strenuous. The School’s curriculum mimics Basic Combat Training, week for week, because Candidates must be experts in all facets of BCT to begin training recruits.

Candidates receive top notch training from their Drill Sergeant instructors.  Classes consist of BRM, D&C, unarmed combat training and a variety of other basic military skills training. The school’s overall goal is to train each candidate to become the trainer, to be able to clearly and concisely relay what he’s learned to Soldiers. Drill sergeant candidates also receive stress-management and personal relationship classes to help them in their future roles as mentors.

If you have what it takes and graduate the Army DSS you are then awarded the SQIs “X” and “8” and assigned to the Training Command element.  After earning that “brown round” Drill Sergeants are evaluated annually on all warrior tasks and battle drills.  Drill Sergeants are also re-evaluated each time that the BCT/OSUT POI is changed or altered.

For many NCOs becoming a Drill Sergeant is a “military dream.” Not every NCO has what it takes to be a Drill Sergeant.  Taking on the challenge means they have proven themselves again and again-so much so that they’re entrusted with training new Soldiers. They know that when they receive their DS campaign hat, they’ll have the ultimate job…being a role model and trainer of the Soldiers that make up the ranks of the greatest Army.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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10 thoughts on “How to Become an Army Drill Sergeant”

  1. I can’t imagine the stress and responsibility that drill sergeants face everyday as they go into work and literally train the men and women that keep our nation safe. My best friend’s dad was a drill sergeant as we were growing up and I remember him telling stories of boys in boot camp on their first day. He would tell stories of how scared they were or how they didn’t know how to do so many things. But he was always so excited for their journey because he loved watching the transformation. He emphasized the importance of a drill sergeant being optimistic about the soldier’s transformation because the “mentoring” aspect of the job is possibly the most important aspect.

    1. Yes, drill sergeants have a very important job. It would be a very demanding job, but it’s got to be worthwhile. Seeing young men and women transform into brave soldiers would be pretty awesome.

  2. The thing I really like about the video, Rare Look at a Drill Sergeant, is Walker’s attitude. He is proud of training good soldiers and he specifically mentions “mentoring.” He’s not just there to browbeat the newbies; instead, he is teaching them and helping them move forward in their goals. He’s not just looking at his job as a job, but rather as a calling. I suspect this is what all good Drill Sergeants have in common.

  3. I will totally agree with Chuck on the fact that this is one of the most important jobs in the Army, if not the most important.

    Thank God not just anyone can become a drill sergeant. We are speaking about the training of men and women that may be in the position to save any one of our lives at any moment. When a soldier fails, in some cases, we could take a direct look back at their drill sergeant.

    This was a great post. If you are considering becoming a drill sergeant, please think it through carefully, soldiers lives are in your hands.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      I believe that being a DS should be reserved for the very best. It is a grueling job, but an honorable one. It is a huge undertaking to train new Soldiers, and I admire those who can handle it and do a good job.

  4. This is a great article Justin.

    I always thought being a Drill Sergeant would be a tough, but very rewarding job.

    Every DS I’ve ever met was very professional and very competent.

    This is quite perhaps the most important job in the Army (right up there with grunts and the infantry).

    Thanks for teaching us the process of becoming a Drill Sergeant.


    1. I apologize Justin about my first comment; I posted that Chuck had authored this post, and it was yours.

      I want to reinforce the fact about this job needs to be taken only by those who really are competent. The reason I am so strong about this is my remembrance of one cloudy and rainy day at Ft Benning quite a few years ago. I was in basic training and keeping up with everything. There was a certain drill instructor that seemed to have something against me. I knew that I just had to put up with his screaming and yelling, but he was throwing the give me 100 maggot so many times and another Drill Sgt noticed my humbleness and doing what I was ordered. He pulled me to the side and told me the next time that fat(@$$) tells you to do 100 pushups, just ask him if he will do them with you. I had that new soldier look of fear on my face, and that Sgt Maldonado told me, “don’t worry, I’ll be there.” I did it. Sgt Maldonado looked at the fat one and told him, ” he asked; lets see you do 100.” As I pushed out mine, the fat one only got to 30 and fell out. We never saw his face there again and I passed on through Basic intact and I owe it to a very great man…Sgt Maldonado.

      By the way, I would never recommend doing what I was told to do, unless you are also backed by a man such as him.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        What a great story! I did so many pushups in BCT on top of regular smoke sessions because of all the mail my grandma sent me. She meant well, but man, that was hard. I guess it just made me better!

        1. Since when is getting letters a crime in the Army? This is where I have some issues with some drill instructor’s intentions. I would think that receiving mail from loved ones would be recognized as family support and would be welcome. I also wonder how many others were treated the same. This is where there becomes some issues in BCT. There is favortism by some Sergeants, and they do need to be confronted for it.

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