FORT CARSON, Colo. –
From films like "Full Metal Jacket" to "Major Payne" or even "Jarhead," Drill Sergeants carry a presence that evoke excitement all over the world. Quite honestly, they are widely considered the backbone of the entire U.S. Army.
But before we get to see these mighty individuals in action, it’s Soldiers like Sgt. 1st Class Craig Pienkoski, a reserve component career counselor, assigned to 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, who helped build their foundations from the ground up.
Pienkoski, a Pittsburgh native, enlisted in 2,000 and has served in all three components of the Army, active duty, Army National Guard and currently the Army Reserve.
Pienkoski is being recognized with a Meritorious Service Medal for his outstanding service to the Army by transitioning the largest number of Soldiers from the active duty component into the Reserve Component Drill Sergeant Program by any individual in the entire Army worldwide, truly redefining the Army’s “Be All You Can Be” mantra.
“What’s the greatest feeling for me is when I see a Soldier sitting in front of me and I tell them that they have the opportunity to become a Drill Sergeant and their eyes light up and the first thing I can think of is be all you can be,” exclaimed Pienkoski.
Devotion to this mission runs through Pienkoski’s internal dedication. He completed the training for his current position in 2014 and started actively working with the program here at Fort Carson in 2021.
“Because this program is the National Guard’s, we actually don’t have too many Reserve career counselors that get the opportunity,” explained Pienkoski, “so it gets a bit competitive trying to earn a seat on our side.”
“It’s an honor to be in this position for us because it allows us to be face to face with Soldiers and actually get to help them with their career progression,” said Pienkoski. “It’s a prestigious position to have in my field and I’m proud to serve in it.”
As mentioned before, Drill Sergeants are the backbone of the Army and the importance of this program is something that Pienkoski takes very seriously.
“This program is important because it’s the heartbeat of the Army,” Pienkoski stated.
“Drill Sergeants train our Soldiers to be battle ready and without them we wouldn’t have the biggest and baddest military in the world, right?,” said Pienkoski excitedly.
“A lot of militaries are striving to be what we are and what do we tell these other countries, it’s hey, it starts with the Drill Sergeants, not the recruiters or myself but with the Drill Sergeants. I honestly think it’s the best program Uncle Sam offers,” he said.
In the year 2023 alone, Pienkoski has managed to transition 21 Soldiers into the program, and 17 of those Soldiers completed Drill Sergeant School and have actively served time on the trail.
A four year voluntary commitment to the program is accompanied with an outright $12,000 bonus, certainly a great perk for active duty Soldiers considering to take on duties in the Reserve component.
Maj. Gen. William B. Dyer III, commanding general of the 108th Training Command Initial Entry Training, presented the Meritorious Service Medal to Pienkoski on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, for his outstanding above and beyond display of service in his duties.
“You gave your life to the Army and you’re giving life to the Army because of what you do,” said Dyer as he presented Pienkoski with the Meritorious Service Medal.
“You are part of a small group of people who share a disproportionate burden in us developing and maintaining the manpower that we need to be able to do what we do, not just to fight and win wars, but to deter aggression around the world because we know that a strong army that is capable is an army that deters far more aggression than it gets involved in,” Dyer stated.
There are so many ways to be all you can be. What will yours be?