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.

Proving My Worth in 2015

I was going through some pictures from my Afghanistan deployment the other day and it got me thinking about being a female in the Army. On one particular mission, which I wrote about on my photo blog, being female was critical for the mission. Normally, it is not such a plus but rather something to compensate for.

Years ago, I had an officer, a female officer by the way, point out that I had many stereotypes to overcome. She said, “You are a blonde, female, public affairs, Reserve lieutenant. I am not sure there are many other stereotypes for you to fight.” She had a point. I am sure most of you know some blonde female jokes. Well, public affairs Soldiers and lieutenants have about the same level of jokes in the military. Phrases like candy Soldiers and lost lieutenants are thrown about. I will just say that none of these singular descriptions bring about images of heroic warriors defending our Nation. And here I was, trying to fight all at once.

Time has passed and I am no longer a lieutenant, but all the other descriptors are still the same. I am still the same. All I can say as is that I have tried to be the best Soldier I can be, but I am sure I have not always been the best at fighting the stereotypes stacked against me. Sometimes I am silly. Sometimes I ask airhead questions. Sometimes I am not the most athletic. Overall though, I think I have succeeded in working hard and have a good reputation as a Soldier. I am not the best, but I am certainly not the worst.

I have always tried to work ethically and never ask others to do what I would not. I try to live within the characteristic and morals expected for those who wear the uniform. I am embarrassed by those in uniform who do not. I have never played the “female card” and have tried to go out of my way to prove myself worthy of the uniform, job and rank. So, as a woman, I don’t think I have been treated differently because of my sex. The times that I have, it was because of my behavior or lack of experience/rank.

In my civilian job, I also work for the Army. But at this job, I don’t wear a uniform. I get to dress up like a girl. I wear dresses and all the scarves and jewelry I purchased across the globe while deployed. Many people don’t even know that I am Reserve Soldier.

A few months back, all the females of my division were brought together to discuss harassment/sexist situations. It is a predominantly male workforce, so the leadership wanted to ensure that the ladies were not being treated unfairly and such. Some women had complaints. Others did not.

At that moment, it dawned on me that being female was not the issue of the times that I felt different at that job. For in those limited situations where I felt like a male was talking to me in a certain way, it changed the moment he realized I too wore the uniform that he wore (or once wore). It was like I was in the club. I had paid the dues. I knew his language. Therefore, he could relate to me more. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was female. It was simple, I could relate to him more because of our shared experiences. We were both veterans.

I know this might be naive as surely there are very real examples of sexism and harassment in the world, but I wonder if part of the problem sometimes is just not ourselves. A leader once told me, you have to demand a seat at the table. If I act unsure or am not knowledgeable, how can be expect to be treated or given some level of work/respect/position/etc just because I am a female? In my opinion, I cannot, nor should I. I should have to work hard and prove my worth. I need to meet the standards of the job. I have to show that I can handle the position just like anyone else. And, when I think about my past successes and failures, it was always my behavior and results that got me there. When I produced good work, spoke with confidence and earned my seat at the table, I was acknowledged. When I was timid, silly, and not meeting the standards, I was ignored and not taken seriously.

So as 2015 kicks off, I think, I can’t stop being lumped into any of those stereotypes. What I can do though, is prove that they are wrong.