Drill instructor

Drill instructor
A USMC drill instructor

A drill instructor is a non-commissioned officer or Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in the armed forces or police forces with specific duties that vary by country. In the U.S. armed forces, they are assigned the duty of indoctrinating new recruits entering the military into the customs and practices of military life. In the U.S., a drill instructor refers to a Marine Corps Drill instructor. In the Air Force they are known as Military Training Instructors. The U.S. Army refers to them as Drill sergeants. In the U.S. Navy, they are called "Recruit Division Commanders" (RDCs). In the U.S. Coast Guard, they are referred to as "Company Commanders". Outside of the U.S., they are assigned the duty of instructing recruits in drill commands only.


Australian Army

In the Australian Army, the staff responsible for training recruits are known as Recruit Instructors. They teach recruits discipline, fieldcraft, marksmanship, service knowledge and drill.

Each recruit platoon is commanded by Recruit Instructors usually consisting of a Lieutenant, a Sergeant and up to four instructors of the Corporal or Bombardier rank. A Recruit Instructor can be identified by a 1st Recruit Training Battalion colour patch on his or her slouch hat and a small Recruit Instructor badge worn on the right breast pocket, if the position has been held long enough.

Members from all Corps in the Army are eligible to become Recruit Instructors, including females. Experience as a Recruit Instructor is often a prerequisite to senior non-commissioned appointments in the military.

Royal Australian Navy

In the Royal Australian Navy, there are Instructors at HMAS Cerberus, where the Recruit School course is held, and HMAS Creswell, where the NEOC (New Entry Officer Course) is held, as well as at ADFA.

Each division is made up of one of the following:

Australian Federal Police

In the Australian Federal Police, Drill Instructors are trained and accredited by the Recognition and Ceremonial team. Each accredited Drill Instructor wears an AFP pin with the wording "DI" positioned 5mm above their name plate or citations. Drill Instructors also are issued with a black coloured Hellweg brand leather basket weave Sam Browne belt and Strap. The AFP is the only police agency to formally train and accredit police drill instructors in Australia, with a number of New South Wales Police Force members attached to the NSW Police College holding that qualification.

The Australian Federal Police College at Barton has a non-commissioned officer of Sergeant Rank holding the position of College Sergeant. The College Sergeant carries a black pace stick as a badge of office at ceremonial functions and a swagger stick during normal duties.

New South Wales Police Force

The New South Wales Police Force has a Drill Sergeant and a Drill Constable attached to the NSW Police College at Goulburn. Drill staff are responsible for training recruits in drill. These personnel wear a blue cord to signify being a protocol officer. The Senior Protocol Officer (formally known as Protocol and Discipline Officer) which carries the rank of Senior Sergeant is responsible for the coordination of the final week of drill, known as Attestation Week and holds the position of Parade Sergeant at all Attestation Parades. The Senior Protocol officer is responsible for dress, bearing and discipline and also is the guardian of NSWPF history, customs, traditions and symbols at the NSW Police College. The Senior Protocol Officer carries a black pace stick with silver fittings and wears a black coloured Hellweg Brand Sam Browne belt with strap as a badge of Office.

Western Australia Police

The Western Australian Police Force has a Drill Sergeant of the Rank of Senior Sergeant who trains recruits in drill. The Senior Sergeant wears a Sam Browne belt and carries a pace stick as a badge of office.

British Army

In the British Army, the appointment of Drill Sergeant (DSgt) is limited to the five Foot Guards regiments, the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), Infantry Training Centre Catterick, London District, and the All-Arms Drill Wing (part of the Army School of Ceremonial, Catterick). Drill Sergeants hold the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2. However, any senior NCO conducting drill can be colloquially referred to as a "drill sergeant".

There are two Drill Sergeants per battalion (one in the HAC) and they have specific responsibilities for all duties, public or battalion (royal duties, barrack duties etc.). They support the Garrison Sergeant Major (GSM) or Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) in the formation, practice and execution of these duties, typically running the duties roster, supervising rehearsals, and undertaking the guard mounts, both royal and barrack. They also deputise for the RSM in disciplinary matters.

The London District Drill Sergeant supports the GSM in the supervison of the Trooping of the Colour, State Opening of Parliament, Beating the Retreat, and any state visits. He also has responsibility under the GSM for the definition of British Army foot and arms drill.

They can be distinguished from other WO2s by their dress. They have the right to wear Sam Browne belts when in No.2 dress and carry swords (never drawn) on ceremonial duties.

They are the third most senior Warrant Officers within a regimental structure, after the RSM and the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS). The HAC Drill Sergeant is thus the second most senior Territorial Army soldier in the regiment.

U.S. Armed Forces

Drill Instructors are held responsible for the welfare, behavior, and military education of the recruits assigned to them on a 24-hour basis throughout the period of initial training, of which the most well known is Basic Training or boot camp. Their responsibilities include areas such as military discipline, physical fitness, and weapons training. The title of Drill Instructor is a billet independent of rank, to be held by Non-Commissioned Officers who successfully complete the intense training program to earn that title.

The rank held by drill instructors varies by branch:

The arduous nature of drill instructor duty means that such assignments are among the most prestigious carried out by enlisted personnel. Those who become drill instructors are eligible for a variety of military awards, such as the Marine Drill Instructor Ribbon, and the Army's Drill Sergeant Identification Badge.

U.S. Marine Corps

A Senior Drill Instructor supervises the inspection of his platoon

It may be taken offensively by U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructors to be referred to as 'Drill Sergeants', which is strictly an Army term in the American military, just as Marines may take offense to being called "soldiers". The recipient may find this insulting and rude to do so intentionally. The only acceptable address of a drill instructor by a recruit is "Sir" or "Ma'am". At Officer Candidates School (OCS), candidates are instructed by Drill Instructors who have already served a tour at one of the Recruit Depots. Officer candidates address their instructors as "Sergeant Instructor" (and rank and last name), or "Platoon Sergeant" (and rank and last name). The OCS Platoon sergeant is comparable to the Senior Drill Instructor in an enlisted recruit platoon. In the initial phase of training, officer candidates are trained in almost the same manner, and by the same people, as enlisted Marines, with slight differences reflecting the difference between the responsibilities the candidates will have as second lieutenants and those the recruits will have as junior Marines.

In the U.S. Marine Corps, candidates for Drill Instructor Duty are without exception volunteers. The tour of duty is three years and is widely regarded as one of the most intense, demanding, and important duties in the U.S. Armed Forces. Since the duty is referred to as "Making Marines", it can often be one of the most important duties of a Marine's career because the responsibility is most directly involved with creating the future Marines of the Marine Corps. Marines report to either Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina or to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in California, where they are assigned to Drill Instructor School. Upon graduation, they are assigned to one of the Recruit Training Battalions. Female Drill Instructors are only trained and only serve at Parris Island because that is where the only female Marine Corps recruit training occurs. Service as a Drill Instructor is considered a Special Duty Assignment in the Marine Corps (Or "B" billet), which is factored into consideration of a Marine's eligibility for promotion. A Marine assigned to DI School must be of at least Sergeant (E-5).

The school requires DI School students to complete every task recruits are required to do. The typical training day begins around 4:00 a.m. (0400 military time) and ends around 7:30 p.m. (1930 hours), many times with specific training evaluations and end-of-day cleanups that require even longer days. At the end of each day, DI School students have to practice effective time management in studying for exams, practicing drill, rehearsing the teaching of drill movements verbatim and preparing uniforms all while still making time for intense physical training. The school lasts approximately three months with four classes running throughout the year.

Physical training or "PT" as a unit is conducted at least three times a week, with each session lasting approximately two hours. In addition to warming up, stretching, and calisthenics, students complete the "DI Playground" a circuit course that focuses on enhancing upper body strength. Physical training also prepares the future Drill Instructors for the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test which consists of pull-ups, abdominal crunches, and a 3-mile timed run. Since a drill instructor is often required to spend 20 hours a day or more on his or her feet and to move fast at all times, various running sessions are conducted to enhance speed and endurance. Students are led by their squad instructors in ability group runs based on speed, gradually increasing distance and speed throughout the course. Track workouts, formation runs, and fartlek runs are also a staple of the training. Drill and discipline are crucial parts of the Drill Instructor School curriculum.

Every student is continuously evaluated, corrected, and mentored, with special attention paid to the smallest of details, such as the placement of a finger within 1/4 inch of its required location along a trouser seam, angle of the weapon, and positioning of the student in relation to the unit. Required knowledge is constantly taught and evaluated in the form of written exams, practical applications, and inspections. Uniforms are inspected continually, with surprise inspections conducted randomly in addition to the scheduled inspections. The drill instructor is expected to convey the best possible Marine Corps image to recruits and to America and to conduct his/herself to the highest Marine Corps leadership and integrity standards as well as to impart these standards to every recruit they train. Drill Instructors take a pledge which consists of the following words: "These recruits are entrusted to my care. I will train them to the best of my ability. I will develop them into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Marines, thoroughly indoctrinated in love of Corps and country. I will demand of them, and demonstrate by my own example, the highest standards of personal conduct, morality and professional skill."

Upon completion of Drill Instructor School, Drill Instructors are assigned to Recruit Training Battalions as junior members ("fourth hats", "third hats", "kill hats", "bobby", or "bulldogs") of drill instructor teams. His or her job consists of constant corrections, dispensing punitive "Incentive Training" (IT), and keeping unremitting pressure on recruits to pay attention to details. He or she also teaches and reinforces academic knowledge to recruits. It is his or her duty to command the recruit platoon for initial drill evaluation, in which, in addition to the platoon receiving a score, the Drill Instructor is evaluated as well. These new drill instructors bear the burden of responsibility for breaking down a recruit's sense of self and selfishness, so that the more experienced drill instructors can focus the recruits on selflessness, obedience, and fraternity.

After completing a few 13-week cycles, the drill instructor is moved up to the position of Experienced Drill Instructor (EDI), also called the "heavy", "drill hat" or "J Hat".

The next step in a drill instructor career is becoming a Senior Drill Instructor. Senior Drill Instructors hold a respected position which is distinguished by the wearing of a black sword belt (or Sam Browne Belt, but without the shoulder strap) instead of a green duty belt. A Senior Drill Instructor is ultimately accountable for the training of the platoon and for the efficiency of his or her assistant Drill Instructors. Although Senior Drill Instructors are NCOs (Sergeants) or Staff NCOs, their position in the recruit training platoon is similar to that of a Commissioned Officer Platoon Commander in a line platoon. As such, they are further set apart from "junior" Drill Instructors.

After completing a number of cycles, drill instructors are often assigned to (Support Battalion) duties outside of recruit-training platoons. Such assignments are referred to as quotas, and include jobs as academic instructors, administrative duties at Recruit Processing (Receiving Barracks, also known as Receiving Company at MCRD San Diego), martial arts instructors, Medical Rehabilitation Platoon (MRP) Physical Conditioning Platoon (PCP) Water Survival Instructors, and Basic Warrior Training (BWT) Instructors.

Some drill instructors choose to do a second tour of duty on the drill field. These volunteers still report to Drill Instructor School, but are referred to as course challengers, and are only required to complete a short refresher course. Multiple tour drill instructors, based on rank and experience, are usually assigned as Senior Drill Instructors, Series Gunnery Sergeants, DI school instructors, Company First Sergeants, or Battalion Sergeants Major.

While in Drill Instructor status, both male and female DIs wear a World War I campaign hat with their service and utility uniforms.

For their successful service, Marine Drill Instructors are awarded the Drill Instructor Ribbon. This award is also given to other enlisted Marines and officers assigned to the recruit training environment, although these billets are recognized as being less directly involved in actually training recruits such as Series and Company Commander/ XO, Battalion Executive Officer, S-3, and Commander, and various levels of Sergeants Major at each Depot. At OCS, the ribbon is also given to Officer Candidate Company First Sergeant, Company Gunnery Sergeant, and Platoon Commanders.

U.S. Army

A drill sergeant drills recruits in the U.S. Army.

In the U.S. Army, soldiers of appropriate rank (usually staff sergeants and sergeants first class ) may volunteer or be centrally selected by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command to attend Drill Sergeant School. Those centrally selected are known as "DA Selects" meaning Department of the Army selected. Drill Sergeant School is ten weeks long and consists of exactly the same activities as basic training; drill and ceremony, basic rifle marksmanship, obstacle/confidence courses, and field training exercises, training management, and leadership. Certain aspects of the Primary Leadership Course are included. Drill Sgt. students can expect to be held to the highest of standards while going through the school. The prospective drill sergeants are treated with a great deal of professionalism and not like new soldiers.

A U.S. Army drill sergeant's normal tour of duty (called being "on the trail") is two years with a possible one-year extension. Drill sergeants may be assigned to units that conduct Basic Combat Training (BCT) or One-Station Unit Training (OSUT). BCT lasts ten weeks so BCT drill sergeants train approximately 11 cycles during their two year tours. OSUT drill sergeants train soldiers for nine weeks of Basic Training and a number of weeks depending on the MOS the drill sergeant trains, so the number of cycles is less. The breaks between cycles are extremely short; a cycle will usually graduate on a Thursday or Friday with new recruits arriving the following Monday or Tuesday. Due to the recent changes in basic training, the U.S. Army is trying to remove drill sergeants from AIT and replace them with regular noncommissioned officers. This would free up drill sergeants for basic.

Senior Drill Sergeants are the most senior NCO in a given training platoon, and are ultimately responsible for soldiers within the under their authority. The only NCOs more senior to these individuals are the First Sergeants at the company level, who report directly to the company commander as in regular line units.

Successful completion of drill sergeant duty greatly enhances opportunities for promotion. Many of the U.S. Army's most senior noncommissioned officers were drill sergeants earlier in their careers.

Male Drill Sergeants wear the World War I campaign hat (nicknamed the "Brown Round") and female Drill Sergeants wear the olive drab Australian bush cap informally known as "cowgirl" hats.[1] It is one of the most important duty positions in the military and only the best non-commissioned officers are selected for such duty.

U.S. Air Force

A female Military Training Instructor at graduation parade at USAF basic training

Air Force MTIs are non-commissioned officers ranging from Senior Airman(E-4) through Master Sergeant (E-7). They are trained at the Military Training Instructor School at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. Course length has changed several times during the last decade, but generally includes a period of assignment to a senior instructor to observe training (called "bird-dogging"). MTIs initially conduct basic training at Lackland Air Force Base as part of the 737th Training Group, but a select few conduct military training at the Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB and at the Air Force Academy during basic cadet training.[1]

MTIs are commonly identified by the AF blue campaign hat. Their usual duty uniform is either the ABU or BDU. They wear, in the case of BDUs, highly polished boots. In the case of ABUs, either sand colored or sage green boots are worn. After completion of their MTI schooling, they are awarded the time-honored campaign hat. Upon receiving their certification as an instructor, they receive the Air Education and Training Command Instructor badge for wear on the right side of the BDU blouse (the badge is also worn on the service uniform, but not on the ABU.) The MTI ribbon is also awarded but may be revoked if the MTI fails to successfully complete a tour of four years. [2]

MTIs usually begin their tours as "team members" - junior partners of a two-person team. Experienced MTIs becomes "team chiefs" and often work a basic training flight alone when manning shortages occur (especially during summer). MTIs refer to direct recruit training as being "on the street". At the conclusion of a tour, some MTIs are offered the chance to work in essential support training roles in the basic training course. This includes the combat training portions of the course, classroom academic instruction, and the "confidence" obstacle course.[3]

MTIs who are rated in the top 10% of their ranks are awarded with a blue "rope" replacing the black leather hat strap on the campaign or bush hat. These master military training instructors often evaluate the trainees and MTI ranks during parades and retreat ceremonies. Special trainers of MTIs used to wear a black "rope" and MTIs certified and assigned to train officer candidates wear a bright silver "rope".

Unlike the Army, the Air Force uses a different specialist to continue military training during advanced individual or technical training. Military training leaders [4] (MTLs) wear a blue aguillette on the left shoulder and act in the same capacity as Army drill sergeants during technical training. The aguillette in various colors is worn by students to indicate leadership roles - green for student flight leaders, yellow for student squadron leaders, and red for squadron student commanders. A white aguillette is worn by chapel guides. At some technical training centers a black aguillette is worn by members of student honor guards or drill teams.[5]

U.S. Coast Guard

A Coast Guard Company Commander instructs recruits.

In the U.S. Coast Guard, Company Commanders are usually E-5 to E-8 and are special duty volunteers. Candidates attend Company Commander School in Cape May, New Jersey, which is collocated with recruit basic training. Upon completion, candidates then go in front of a board for final approval. Upon becoming a Company Commander (CC), the Coast Guardsman earns the right to wear the Company Commander Badge. Coast Guard recruit companies average two or three CCs per, with the newer CCs serving as Assistants to the more experienced Lead CC. Male and female CCs wear the World War I campaign hat.

Drill Instructor's Creed

In many military services, a Drill Instructors' creed has been created to succinctly state the beliefs that a Drill Instructor should follow.

United States Army

The Drill Sergeant Creed of the United States Army is:

"I am a Drill Sergeant.
I will assist each individual in their efforts to become a highly motivated, well disciplined, physically and mentally fit soldier, capable of defeating any enemy on today’s modern battlefield.
I will instill pride in all I train. Pride in self, in the Army, and in Country.
I will insist that each Soldier meets and maintains the Army standards of military bearing and courtesy, consistent with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.
I will lead by example, never requiring a Soldier to attempt any task I would not do myself.
But first, last, and always, I am an American Soldier - Sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.
I am a Drill Sergeant"[2]

United State Marine Corps

The Drill Instructor Creed of the United States Marine Corps is:

"These recruits are entrusted to my care.
I will train them to the best of my ability.
I will develop them into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Marines, thoroughly indoctrinated in love of Corps and country.
I will demand of them, and demonstrate by my own example, the highest standards of personal conduct, morality and professional skill."[3]

United States Air Force

The Military Training Instructor Code:

The training instructor hat that I wear is a symbol of honor, integrity, and excellence in military deportment.
My job is one of the most important in the Air Force
and I will spare no effort to properly prepare young men and women for military duty.
I am dedicated to the principles of fairness, firmness, and honesty
in my dealings with those entrusted to my charge.
I am pledged to strive for perfection and reject mediocrity
both in my personal behavior and in the performance of those for whom I am responsible.
I am an Air Force Military Training Instructor.

Popular culture

Drill instructors have a reputation as unforgiving taskmasters, and they are often portrayed as such in popular culture. Among the definitive fictional portrayals are:

Real-life Drill Instructors from law enforcement agencies around the globe are becoming increasingly popular in documentaries such as:


  1. ^ Army Regulation 670-1.
  2. ^ United States Army. From Fort Jackson Drill Instructor's School, retrieved 19 June 2007.
  3. ^ United States Marine Corps. From DI School students take pledge to make Marines, July 1, 2005. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  4. ^ The rank of Gunnery Sergeant did not exist from 1946 until 1958, although the informal title "Gunny" was commonly applied to technical sergeants during the interim. Technical Sergeants' rank insignia of the era was three chevrons over two rockers, separated by crossed rifles. The rank of Gunnery Sergeant was revived in 1958, and technical sergeants were rechristened gunnery sergeants, their insignia remaining the same. History: The Gunnery Sergeant Rank USMC

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