Drill Sergeant of the Year competitors press limits
"Grueling" was the word of the day Thursday for the six soldiers struggling to win the coveted title of Fort Sill Drill Sergeant of the Year.
As they entered day four, they fought through the pain, trudged on blistered feet carrying 70-pound rucksacks and prayed for their ordeal to end. Tonight their torment will be over.
Staff Sgt. Polly Schmidt is representing Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, in the contest.
"I talked to my first sergeant about it, and he said, 'Yeah, I think you should do it.' And he talked to the sergeant major about it, put my nomination in and the sergeant major approved," she said.
What made her want to give it a go?
She heaved a long sigh and said. "I don't know now," prompting a burst of laughter.
"At the time, it was like, 'I know it's challenging.' I was going to be in between cycles (of combat basic training) ... So I was like, 'Yeah, okay. I don't have any soldiers. I can do this.' I thought, 'It will be a challenge, to see how good I am. I guess I was trying to prove it to myself," said Schmidt, a veteran of 11 years in the Army.
As she stood looking out over the Combat Obstacle Course, trying to scope out the competitors ahead of her so she could learn from their mistakes, she confessed, "I'm the oldest one out here."
Not by much, she went on to say. One is about two years younger than she. She's originally from Oxford, Miss. She was the first in her family to join the military. She had spent her whole life in Mississippi "and there just wasn't a lot there, and I was looking for something different and something new."
She laid it on the level: This competition has been tough.
"It's definitely been tough and challenging. I think the parts that are task-oriented, where we test on as drill sergeants, those are easy. We do those every day. I got those. I studied for those. But physically, it is just "you know," she said. "I wake up sore every day now. Tomorrow's Friday. I'm ready."