News: CMC selects DI of the Year
Story by Sgt. Whitney N. Frasier
SAN DIEGO - Identifying the most qualified Marines in the Corps does not have to be difficult. Most of them can be found right at the recruit depots, a place where drill instructors might as well call home. But when it comes to choosing the best of the best, things become competitive really fast.
The winner for the Commandant of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor of the Year 2011 is Gunnery Sgt. Jimmy Richard, drill master, 2nd Bn.
Accepting the title for Richard was the easy part, but getting selected took some work.
“Every year, each depot recognizes their top drill instructor,” said Sgt. Maj. Peter Siaw, sergeant major, 2nd Battalion. “That in itself is a huge achievement for whoever wins because someone is saying a single person is the best of all the drill instructors on that particular depot.”
To be elected, the Marine most compete on a selection process known as a board. Boards are extremely common and are used in a variety of situations from medical issues to granting promotions. Like any other board, a lot of planning goes into to selecting the recipient of this award.
Siaw explained that this particular board and selection process is a tedious one, starting at company level. At San Diego’s recruit depot, there are four companies per battalion and four battalions. Every battalion then chooses their number one drill instructor, who will compete and be placed in order at regiment level. Once that is completed, the top depot staff has the final say on who is to go to Headquarters Marine Corps, Quantico, Va., to compete against the finalist from MCRD Parris Island.
These drill instructors are judged so thoroughly that their entire career is looked at from the day they became active duty. Their past and present career is torn apart and nothing was to go unnoticed.
“It’s not just about you when you win,” said Siaw, 38, Bolingbrook, Ill. “The winning DI is representing every DI on the base. When one wins over the other, they are supportive over each other with a go get ’em attitude.”
For the simple reason the winner is decided by HQMC is reason enough to make this board stand out among the crowd, but winning comes with a lot of weight.
“I feel that it was a huge responsibility to represent the entire depot,” said Richard, 30, San Bernardino, Calif. “Especially now because everyone will always be watching me to make sure I am always on point. Not just now, but my entire career.”
Although this competition is a friendly one, being a winner pays. Literally.
“The winner receives a meritorious promotion among other things, “said Siaw. “Different associations give items similar to plaques and gift cards for their effort because they know what it takes to get here.”
As if drill instructors aren’t competitive enough, they are also competing to give the commanding general, and themselves, bragging rights explained Siaw, who won the award in 2000.
“It’s a blessing to have won,” said Richard, 30, Chicago. “It was a total out of body experience for me, completely unreal. I feel very lucky.”
Even though this annual event is not new to the Marine Corps, this year marks a significant one for MCRD San Diego. With three past recipients of the Drill Instructor of the Year award, MCRD SD is now home to four winners from the past decade. Not to mention, this is the third consecutive year San Diego has won.
The other previous winners are Sgt. Maj. Edward Gonzalez, sergeant major, 3rd Bn. and Staff Sgt. Michael Saldana, drill master, 1st Bn.
“Having the other recipients here helped prepare me for what to expect and how to perform in this competition,” said Richard. “Now I hope to have a larger audience so I can give back and mentor or help them through whatever I can.”