ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - I am a drill sergeant.
The first and last line of the Drill Sergeant’s Creed simply states five words that candidly, and clearly, state who Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Hanna is – a drill sergeant.
Hanna is one of the elect few who have earned the right to don the iconic campaign hat.
The brown felt hat, which is steeped in tradition, is arguably one of the most iconic images in the military.
To have a drill sergeant in the Missouri Army National Guard’s ranks is a rare honor.
According to Army Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Oligschlaeger, operations and training noncommissioned officer, Hanna is only the third Soldier to be sent by the Missouri Recruiting and Retention Battalion to drill sergeant school.
Starting with a class of over 70 students, Hanna was one of the 56 to ultimately graduate in November.
He finished third in his class, placing him on the Commandant’s List. Hanna was the only Citizen-Soldier; all other students were active duty Army.
During week six of the nine-week school in Fort Jackson, S.C., Hanna was allowed to first put on the drill sergeant hat as part of his training.
Though he had not fully earned the right to wear it yet, students were educated on the hat itself. Hanna said the drill sergeant hat is rigid and it is worn to conform to the head, so it becomes part of the training.
“The hat is kind of hard to get used to because it is so big and the brim is out there,” said Hanna. “It’s an adjustment. You even have to relearn how to salute with it on.”
When asked if he feels different when he puts on the hat, a look of pride fills Hanna’s eyes.
“Most definitely,” said Hanna. “It’s hard to explain. You feel like you’re put at a higher standard and need to meet a higher standard. Once you put the hat on you’re looked at different.”
The role of a drill sergeant is to teach recruits every aspect of basic training. They are charged with molding and shaping new Soldiers. Hanna’s recent high-speed training was new to him, yet it also forced him to revisit a time six years ago when he himself went through basic training as a private.
“Drill sergeant school reminds you of the discipline level you had in basic training and how you can let those things slip away,” said Hanna. “I’m more motivated to train Soldiers now. I feel more equipped to train Soldiers.”
The new privates Hanna oversees should now have a better understanding of what a drill sergeant is before going to basic training. He said that they will be better prepared and set up for success, giving them an edge that other recruits may not have.
The motto of the drill sergeant is “This we’ll defend,” and that is how Hanna looks at his service.
“I am defending the country by training privates and through being a Soldier period,” said Hanna. “First, last and always I am sworn to defend the constitution.”
Hanna is the Recruit Sustainment Program coordinator for Area 1 based in St. Joseph. He has served six years with the National Guard, including a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He is a graduate of Lenox High School in Lenox, Ia.