By Jim Caldwell
FORT MONROE, Va. (TRADOC News Service, June 22, 2001) -- For the fourth consecutive year a noncommissioned officer from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., won the Army Drill Sergeant of the Year award.
After three days of competition among 21 active and reserve component drill sergeants, Sgt. First Class Debra Thorn was presented the 2001 title today during a ceremony at Fort Monroe's Continental Park. Thorn is the first woman to represent Leonard Wood, and the fourth female to become the Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Sgt. First Class Wayne McPhillips, 84th Division (Training), headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., took the reserve component 2001 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
During a morning that saw alternating clouds and sun, Lt. Gen. John Van Alstyne, Training and Doctrine Command Deputy Commanding General for Initial Entry Training, spoke to the 21 drill sergeants and an audience of about 200 people,
Van Alstyne said in the 19 months he's held his position that he's visited every initial entry training installation several times.
"I have seen hundreds of drill sergeants, and in every case I have come away impressed with their motivation and their dedication and their competence that they display every day, day in, day out," he said.
He said that when he commanded the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Jackson, S.C., before coming to TRADOC, the one thing that concerned him there, and still does, is if drill sergeants know how important their jobs are.
"I'm never quite sure that our drill sergeants realize the great contribution they're making to our nation, to our Army and to the individual soldiers that they train," Van Alstyne said. "I think sometimes the problems get so much in your face that you can't see the bigger picture.
"You are in the business of transforming young Americans."
He cited an old adage that soldiering is an affair of the heart.
"Drill sergeants are in the business of bringing heart and spirit to young Americans," he said.
Also attending the ceremony were current Sgt. Major of the Army Jack Tilley, and two of his predecessors, Sergeants Major Robert Hall and Richard Kidd.
Tilley said he was a drill sergeant at Fort Polk, La., and Fort Benning, Ga.
"The quality of the noncommissioned officers in this ceremony today was really very touching," he said. "It really touched home that this is the quality of noncommissioned officers we have."
In honor of her achievement, Thorn will serve a year at Training and Doctrine Command headquarters as advisor to the commander on drill sergeant and basic training matters. The reserve Army Drill Sergeant of the Year will serve in a similar fashion in his training division.
Other 2001 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year competition participants were:
SSG Barbara M. Brown, Fort Sill, Okla.
SFC Carey E. Christian, 80th Division (Training), Richmond, Va.
SSG Kristopher L.M. Cook, Fort Bliss, Texas
SFC Bruce T. Diamond, 98th Division (Training), Rochester, N.Y.
SSG Luke S. Lambert, 108th Division (Training),Charlotte, N.C.
SFC John R. Maines, 100th Division (Training), Louisville, Ky.
SSG Matthew J. McReady, Fort Benning, Ga.
SFC Larry A. Parks, Fort Jackson, S.C.
SSG Paul E. Rhodes, Fort Knox. Ky.
SSG Madeline Santiago, Fort Lee, Va.
SFC David D. Snyder, Fort Eustis, Va.
SFC Danny D. Swearingen, 104th Division (Training), Vancouver, Wash.
SSG Shawton C. Thomas, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
SFC Kenneth S. Thompson, 95th Division (Training), Oklahoma City, Okla.
SFC William M. Tilley, Fort Bragg, N.C.
SSG Shandella N. Vaughan, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
SSG Gregory M. West, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
SSG Vintinia Williams, Fort Gordon, Ga. (Return to this site Monday, 25 June, for a feature story and more photos focusing on the two winning drill sergeants.)