Drill sergeant leads by example
Army Sgt. 1st Class Adam McQuiston was honored to be the grand marshal of the Veterans Day Parade in Sedalia this year. The 40 & 8 chose McQuiston for this honor after he gave two bus loads of veterans a tour of Fort Leonard Wood this fall.
“They were a great group coming in. It was a really good time meeting them and having the privilege to give them the tour,” he said. “It was really an honor to be the grand marshal of the parade.”
McQuiston was named Fort Leonard Wood’s Drill Sergeant of the Year in April. In June, he competed in the national Drill Sergeant of the Year competition at Fort Eustis in Virginia. Four active and two reservists vied for the title.
McQuiston, who is from Minnesota, joined the Army in August 2000. After he saw what his job options were, he chose to pursue the military police. He did his One Station Unit Training, which included basic and advanced individual training, at Fort Leonard Wood.
His first duty station was at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was there for a year and did a small amount of law enforcement and the usual grunt work of a new soldier. Once Sept. 11 hit, they focused on war-time training and deployment preparations. Because he had orders to go to Germany, he didn’t get to go to the Pentagon with his company.
In Germany, he continued his training in law enforcement and possible deployment.
When Iraq first kicked off, two platoons of his unit were selected to be a part of the northern front coming down from Turkey and into Iraq. The mission ended up getting canceled so he stayed in Germany an additional year.
TRAINING IRAQI POLICEMEN
He was sent to Iraq in 2004.
“My first deployment was pretty rough. We were in the east side of Baghdad next to Sadr City. At that time, it was pretty wild,” he said. “The base that we were on, it was always getting hit by mortar and rocket fire. You’d be asleep and all of a sudden the base would be getting hit with mortars and rockets and you never knew where it was going to land. Sometimes it was close, sometimes it was across the base. It was kind of that unknown.”
He was stationed there for a year and his mission was to train the Iraqi police. They were in charge of multiple Iraqi police stations and had to work with them not only on the law enforcement aspect, but also on war-time training.
“It seemed like when we first got there, we’d train them, go out on patrols with them and try to secure their area. Whenever we’d get attacked, they would run, they would hide, they would take off in their vehicles and they didn’t have that strong presence,” he said.
McQuiston and his group helped the Iraqis by building up their courage to stand there and fight. They also worked with them on protocol of how to enter a building, how to search for specific people or weapons and how to conduct police investigations without destroying evidence.
He returned for a second deployment in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2008. He did the same thing and noticed a remarkable difference.
“They had decent police stations, check points throughout the city, they were always doing patrols, they had an investigation section, they had a supply section, and functioning arms room,” he said.
McQuiston and his men helped them with the investigation process and continued to provide them with training.
“The only thing that they were really struggling on is the Army was still giving them all their fuel, vehicles, any supplies that they would need in the police stations. About halfway through our deployment, the Army said we’re not going to hand them out anything. They’re going to have to go through their channels and start up their logistics. For a while, that was a big struggle for them,” he said.
He felt like he’d definitely seen progress being made by the time he left.
LEADING SOLDIERS BY EXAMPLE
McQuiston decided to apply to be a drill sergeant. He received this honor on Nov. 4, 2010. He’s leads a company in the 787th Military Police Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood. Unlike basic training that lasts nine weeks, One Station Unit Training lasts 19 weeks.
“You definitely see more changes from when they (the recruits) first get in to when they graduate across the 19 weeks,” he said.
The hardest part about being a drill sergeant is the hours he works. The first three weeks, also known as the red phase portion, is when the drill sergeants have total control. McQuiston is in charge of waking his soldiers up at 4:30 a.m., staying with them all day and putting them to bed at 8:30 p.m. seven days a week.
The second three weeks is known as the white phase. Though the control is slightly less, he still has to be with his soldiers from morning to night. This is also when they do basic rifle marksmanship so he spends a lot of time standing out on the range.
What sets him off is when a soldier chooses not to listen or is disrespectful.
“The thing that gets me mad is like if you tell a soldier to do something and they don’t do it. Simple things like ‘Hey you’re going to go outside and pick up that trash.’ They go outside and stand there and talk to their buddy and not look at the ground once to pick up a piece of trash,” he said.
He has to dig deep sometimes to find patience and to not get frustrated when a soldier doesn’t understand something.
“You’ve got to be strong, but you also have to be an effective leader and trainer because they’re there to learn and they have to grasp all these new concepts that some of them never even heard of,” he said.
After the end of each 19-week session, he sees all his hard work pay off. This is the biggest reward of all.
“Seeing soldiers overcome things like I never thought I could run this fast or do this many push-ups. I never thought I’d be able to repel off of a tower because I am so afraid of heights. That and at graduation when they are so proud and when their families see the changes. It’s a sense of accomplishment for the soldiers,” he said.
The soldiers in McQuiston’s company were proud of him when he was named Fort Leonard Wood’s Drill Sergeant of the Year in April. He competed against nine drill sergeants for the title in everything from physical strength to assessments to a land navigation course. He was surprised to be the winner.
At the national competition, McQuiston received the 1st Sgt. Tobias C. Meister Army Physical Fitness Test Award for achieving the highest APFT score during the competition. Though a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, S.C., won the title, he was honored to participate and represent Fort Leonard Wood.
After his time as a drill sergeant, he will spend three years at Fort Wainwright in Alaska.
“I wasn’t too excited to be going at first because all I thought about Alaska is freezing cold, snow and ice. I guess that’s what a lot of people think Minnesota is like also,” he said. “I talked to multiple people that have been stationed there and all of them said they loved it. They said it was beautiful, and if you like the outdoors it has everything.”
He’s not sure what his job will entail.
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