JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The top drill sergeant in the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, or HRCoE, is competing from Aug. 18-22 with 11 others to earn the title of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
In the competition hosted at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Camp Bullis, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Lullen represents the HRCoE.
The Drill Sergeant of the Year competition tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army. It is an annual event hosted at a different installation each year by the Center of Initial Military Training, or CIMT, a division of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC.
TRADOC oversees 32 Army schools organized under 10 Centers of Excellence that train more than 500,000 soldiers and service members each year.
The competition, which began in 1969, is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier can face in a U.S. Army competition.
This year’s event marks the 50th anniversary of recognizing drill sergeant excellence in this manner. If he takes home the top prize, Lullen will be the first JBSA-Fort Sam Houston soldier to receive the honor.
Lullen, a 68D surgical technician assigned to 264th Medical Battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, said his competitive spirit is what drives him to push himself. He earned the division level title of HRCoE Drill Sergeant of the Year during a grueling four-day competition conducted at JBSA in May.
“I like to train, and I like being knowledgeable,” Lullen said. “I find myself looking things up a lot just so that I am the one with the answer. I guess I am just competitive.”
Lullen believes that most soldiers in Army medicine don’t get many chances to demonstrate their competence beyond medicine because they often have jobs in a hospital rather than a field environment.
“Even if we maintain ourselves in top physical condition and strive to be technically and tactically proficient, there are few opportunities like this, the Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition, to get out there and perform and show that you hold up,” Lullen added.
Lullen joined the Army in 2005 after graduating high school with the goal of paying for college. Fifteen years and a college degree later, he has had many successful assignments, including a deployment to Iraq.
As a surgical technician, he has assisted in countless surgeries to include general, orthopedics, gynecological, vascular and neurological surgeries. He has been a drill sergeant for one year of his two-year assignment, training Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, soldiers, at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and he said he enjoys imparting his knowledge on new recruits.
“You give recruits all of this knowledge and then you see them putting what you taught them to good use. I like when I see the light come on; when you see them developing soldier skills, knowing that I helped that recruit become successful,” Lullen said.
Lullen is one of a dozen of the most dedicated and qualified drill sergeants in the Army whose skills, knowledge and endurance will be pushed to the limits during the week. They will be tested through marksmanship, ruck marches, warrior tasks, battle drills, modern Army combatives, a written exam, oral boards, the new Army Combat Fitness Test and many other physical and mental challenges for the honor of being named the best of the best.
Lullen, who earned honor graduate at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School in April 2018 ahead of soldiers in other, more traditionally tactical branches, says he is not concerned about the other soldiers vying for the title.
“The Drill Sergeant of the Year competition is more of an opportunity to compete against high standards rather than against any particular person,” Lullen said. “I know I can do it. I know I have the ability and I just have to apply my skills
The competition began Aug. 18 and culminates after a rigorous four days of field events at JBSA-Camp Bullis. The 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year will be announced at a recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston Aug. 22.