The power of a hat

I have been slammed busy these past few weeks. As an Army Reserve Soldier, I have to balance my life between the civilian world and the Army. But even then, my civilian job is with the active Army. So my two roles are really very the same: taking pictures, writing stories, and managing communications of Soldiers. As a Reserve Soldier, my “client” is an Army Reserve Division. As an Army civilian, my “client” is a unique Army unit. So, I do the same things for both units, I just get to wear cuter clothes when in my civilian role.

This past few weeks, I was on a Reserve mission and started working on some stories. As it was Women’s History Month, I wanted to write an article on that. I had just gone to a drill sergeant graduation for my Reserve unit and had an access of great information and quotes, but I didn’t know where to start on a Women’s History Piece. So what does any good Soldier do? They call their command sergeant major for help.

I contacted my former leader and current mentor to get some historical perspective on female drill sergeants. I am sure I subconsciously remembered that she was a drill sergeant, but at the time, I just needed a perspective from a female Soldier. Of course, my mentor was there for me and she delivered more than just some information. She delivered me the focus of my story. Not only because she is just a wonderful mentor and Soldier, but she herself was a drill sergeant too. And not only that, she was a drill sergeant who was taught by some of the very people I was wanting to talk about in my article.

I love it when things just come together.

Anyway, here is the story (or below) and just one of the reasons why my blog here has been a bit quiet…


Female Drill Sergeant Hat Changes Army, Lives

By Maj. Michelle Lunato | 98th Training Division -Initial Entry Training | March 20, 2017


The drill sergeant hat is an icon in the Army that creates vivid images. When people see a Soldier wearing it, they immediately feel respect because they know it is a job that is earned, not given.

The hat that comes to mind for most, is the male drill sergeant hat, the brown round. However, the female drill sergeant hat holds just as much responsibility. It just hasn’t been around as long, or as much, but it certainly has history.

In February 1972, six Women’s Army Corps noncommissioned officers from Fort McClellan, Ala., enrolled in the Drill Sergeant Program at Fort Jackson, S.C. Upon graduation, they were authorized to wear the newly designed female drill sergeant hat that was designed by Brig. Gen. Mildred C. Bailey.

“Those six women and that hat transformed the entire Army…and my life,” said Command Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Jennifer Dehorty, cemetery director intern, National Cemetery Administration, Veterans Affairs.
Dehorty’s statement is not exaggeration. It’s merely a fact of her own experiences as a trainee at Fort McClellan in 1981.

“All the cadre we had there were former WAC drill sergeants,” said Dehorty. “The esprit-de-corps that we learned from them was different. It was stronger….We even carried ourselves different than the trainees from other posts.”

Dehorty was so inspired by her drill sergeants, that she became one herself in 1984. But like a true Soldier trained by some of the Army’s first female drill sergeants, Dehorty pushed hard to do her best. And in doing so, she earned The Distinguished Honor Graduate title over her peers.

Looking back, Dehorty said she wasn’t trying to exceed the standards. She just wanted to meet them.

“In the day, those women not only set the standard, they WERE the standard. And I couldn’t think of being anything better.”

A little over 45 years have passed and those first female drill sergeants are still remembered for their bravery, said Staff Sgt. Briana Popp, an Army Reservist with 3-518th, 2nd Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training), who just graduated as The Distinguished Honor Graduate and Iron Female from The Drill Sergeant Academy March 8, 2017.

“They stared in the face of adversity and never backed down,” said Popp. The personal courage those first six drill sergeants put forth, paved the way for not only female drill sergeants, but just female Soldiers in general, said Popp.

Years have gone by since the Army’s first female drill sergeants, and progress is still being made. In 2009, Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King became the first female commandant of The Drill Sergeant Academy. In 2015, Capt. Kristen Griest, 1st Lt. Shaye Haver and Maj. Lisa Jaster all became the first female Army Rangers. In 2017, Pvt. Jennifer Sandoval became one the first two females to earn the combat engineer military occupational specialty.

With more and more women paving the way and others joining the Army, female drill sergeants will play a vital role in tomorrow’s Army.
“Being a drill sergeant is the most important job in the Army, hands down,” said Staff Sgt. Briana Kozain, drill sergeant leader at The Drill Sergeant Academy. “From the moment that civilian enters my world, I have the ability to plant a seed to change their entire life.”

Like Dehorty and Popp, Sgt. Earlandrius C. Parker, a Canton, Ohio resident and a drill sergeant with the 108th Training Command (IET), became a drill sergeant as a result of her experience with her drill sergeant.

“She inspired me and had such an impact on me that it was my mission, once I became a noncommissioned officer, to do all the things I needed to do to get to where I am today and become a drill sergeant,” said Parker who graduated with Popp from The Drill Sergeant Academy March 8, 2017.

Of course, becoming a drill sergeant is not an easy task. It just takes hard work, dedication and training. But it’s not impossible, said Parker.
“It is obtainable. You can do it,” said Parker who invited the drill sergeant who changed her life to her graduation.

Many female Soldiers have the ability to become a drill sergeant, they just need to believe they can, said Staff Sgt. Crystal L. Doherty, a combat medic who earned her drill sergeant title along with Popp and Parker and will be going on the trail at Fort Benning, Ga.

“Never let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. Always strive to be stronger than the next person. And, just keep pushing forward. There are no limits.”

With each new trail blazer, the Army gets better and more diverse. Many female drill sergeants said it is not about being female. It is about being their best and serving the uniform with pride. However, the best explanation about being a female drill sergeant came from the highest ranking female drill sergeant there is to date during a 2009 interview the New York Times.

“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a female,” said King. “I see a Soldier.”


For noncommissioned officers interested in taking on the challenging and rewarding role of U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeant, please contact Sgt. 1st Class Dorothy Sherrin at or 704-475-2307 (cell) or 706-626-0443 (office).

The 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) has units in: Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, Connecticut, California, and Puerto Rico.

I am a Soldier and I am not Sorry

I used to date a guy who said I talked about the military too much. “The Army is just a job. It’s not your life,” he said. My first reaction was to be offended, but I apologized instead because that’s what I do.

After some time though, I realized I am upset and embarrassed with myself for apologizing back then because – I am not sorry, at all. Let me explain.

First of all, you should know that I am not some super Soldier. There are much more impressive, hard-core heros out there. I don’t know every regulation, so you won’t hear me quoting them. I probably don’t have my dress uniform aligned to the exact micromillimeter and degree of those regulations either. I can’t repel from a helicopter to descend onto the front lines. And, I have fortunately never had to kill anything but a target nor earn a purple heart. On the other hand, I do love my country. I wear my uniform with pride and try to honor it with my actions, even when I am not wearing it. My heart tugs at the National Anthem as I remember those who fought and died for it. I have deployed to three different countries where I felt like I did make a difference, however small. So overall, I think I am a typical average Soldier. I am not elite, but I am certainly not the bottom of the barrel either.

My first experience with the Army was when I was 18. I married my high school sweetheart who joined the Army. As a young couple, we moved to Germany, his first duty station. After that, we spent the next two decades moving around the bases in the United States. About half way through those 22 years, I became a Soldier myself when I joined the Army Reserve. So, I can say I have a unique perspective. I know what it is like to be the spouse sitting home worried about their deployed Soldier. I also know what it is like to be the one overseas serving. I have felt the pain on both sides of that fence.

As Reservist, I can have a civilian job too. For most of my life, I worked in several different jobs since I had to follow my active duty Soldier spouse around. I did everything from being a tired waitress to a stressed out retail manager to a blissfully happy photographer. Upon redeploying from my last deployment though, I was offered a government civilian job with the Army. As much as I adored my full time photography gig, I could not refuse the stability and pay that the federal government job offered (especially since I was now divorced and on my own). So, now that means I have two Army jobs. I just get to wear girly clothes at one of them. Either way though, every day is mostly consumed with Army stuff.

After that complaint, I did dutifully try to not speak about Army stuff as much. It was nearly impossible though. I would start sentences and then stop realizing it was Army related. Eventually, I just felt like I had nothing to say. How do you not talk about something that has been such a huge part of your life? I couldn’t, and that was just one of the reasons for the failure of that relationship.

That experience taught me a lesson though. I learned to love me for who I am. I am a Soldier and I can’t change it – nor do I want too. The Army has not been just a job. It has been part of my past, my roots. It has taught me values, appreciation, patience, courtesy, empathy, history, honor, courage, and respect. I have traveled the world in the uniform. I have made friends for life. Trying to remove that “job” would be like removing water from my body. They cannot be separated without killing me. The Army has been part of my past. It stays a part of my daily activities. And, I imagine, it will be a part of my future for awhile more.

I guess the bottom line is, I can no longer try to transform myself into what others want me to be. I have to be me and be proud of it. Like most people, I am a work in progress as I alway try to grow and improve. I want to be a better person and make a difference in the world. I just can’t do that if I have to hid a part of who I am. Therefore, part of me is a Soldier, and I am not sorry.


This was inspired by the Writing Challenge ~ Digging for Roots.