FORT JACKSON, S.C. –
“The goal for me during my tenure here is simple: when you line my Reserve component drill sergeants up next to their active component counterparts you won’t notice a difference,” said Lt. Col. Shawn Cochran, commander of 3rd Battalion, 518 Infantry Regiment, 98th Training Division (IET).
Cochran’s unit just picked up their first Echo mission of the year supporting E company, 3-60th Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Each year, units from the Army Reserve’s 108th Training Command (IET), based in Charlotte, North Carolina, take on the task of supporting each of the Army’s four basic combat training posts through echo missions.
Through these echo missions, a team of command personnel, drill sergeants, and support Soldiers take over a basic combat training company to provide new soldiers quality training and mentorship during their first experience in the Army.
“It needs to be seamless and I think it is. Our mission is to train the Soldiers who are going to either win or lose our next war. This is where our Reserve Soldiers are going to have the greatest influence on what the future force is going to look like and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Cochran said.
This year Cochran’s units have taken on the task of instructing an entire phase during each cycle as opposed to the two-week training mission of years past. While the mission poses certain challenges for these Reserve Soldiers, Cochran feels they are up to the task.
“This is a great assignment, but it’s not without it’s challenges. I have a lot of law enforcement officers and such that have certain obligations they can’t walk away from. They get calls to appear for court and things that we try to make accommodations for. I myself have been doing disaster response in support of FEMA for 20 years now. I get calls day and night that I can’t walk away from. It’s a balancing act but our guys do a great job staying focused on the mission at hand.”
Cochran isn’t the only one excited about the opportunity to serve in these echo missions. Army drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. William Clifton, E Company, 3-60th Infantry, a drill sergeant for 32 months, now on his third cycle in these echo missions points out the extra enthusiasm that Reserve drill sergeants bring to the mission.
“I love it! They add a different enthusiasm to the table. They’re energized. They bring an extra energy to the active duty drill sergeants and we need it. Not only do they want to be here, they want to train and it enlightens us,” Clifton said.
“It also gives us an extra mission. With so many Reserve drill sergeants coming out of the academy now a days, we’re not only training new recruits but we’re also training new drill sergeants and we need that mission as well.”
But Cochran, now in his third cycle with the echo mission says the role has been reversed this year.
“One thing that’s interesting this cycle is that I’ve been told there are 14 drill sergeants on the active duty side that this is their first cycle as a drill sergeant. That puts my Soldiers as the more experienced. In most cases my Soldiers are more senior to the active duty drills. They are now the mentors and that’s new,” Cochran said.
Cochran isn’t the only one who says the roles have been reversed this time, Army Reserve drill sgt., Staff Sergeant Kurt Schoeller, 3rd Battalion, 518th Infantry Regiment, 98th Training Division (IET), now in his second cycle as a drill sergeant for the echo missions, says this time around, his goal is to become more of a mentor.
“Obviously my active duty counterparts have a stronger skill set than I do as a Reserve drill sergeant because they do this every day, 365 days a year. But I think as a Reserve Soldier, I can relate better to what these new Soldiers are going through because like them, I just came from the civilian sector. I think I understand better what it’s like for them and I think in that way, I can truly be a better mentor for them,” Schoeller said.
When it comes to training America’s future force, the goal of a mirror image has never been clearer. Regardless of your component, a drill sergeant is a drill sergeant. And for the Soldiers of the 98th Training Division, the mission is simple; do what you love and do it well. Cochran wouldn’t have it any other way.