Top drill sergeant from JBLM

Army drill sergeants awarded after four-day competition

By Jonathan Dahms on September 25, 2023

FORT JACKSON, S.C. - The 2023 U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve Drill Sergeants of the Year were announced during a ceremony Sept. 16 at Fort Jackson.

After four days of physically and mentally grueling competition, Staff Sgt. Ashley Buhl, a drill sergeant with the 193rd Infantry Training Brigade at Fort Jackson, was announced as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year and Staff Sgt. Cody Ramburger, a drill sergeant with the 104th Training Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, earned the title of U.S. Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year.

"I honestly never saw myself standing here," said Buhl. "I've been working so hard the last few months to prepare for this competition, not only the last few months, ever since I became a drill sergeant this has been a dream of mine."

Maj. Gen. John Kline, the commanding general for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, said the Drill Sergeant of the Year competition is different than other Army competitions in that the winner will continue to advocate for the more than 4,000 drill sergeants across the Army by being assigned to the Center for Initial Military Training the following year.

"This one's different," said Kline. "This competition you have to give back. You have a responsibility. You have a responsibility to inspire, you have a responsibility to educate, and you have a responsibility to listen."

Ramburger said he understands the importance of his new responsibility.

"Winning this competition means I will be representing every single drill sergeant in the United States Army," Ramburger said. "I will set the example for them and be their advocate to Army leadership."

In a change from previous competitions, this year all competitors received green belts to distinguish them as their respective Center of Excellence or Army Training Center Drill Sergeant of the Year.

"We demand the very best of our Drill Sergeants of the Year," stated Kline. "They represent not only the institution of drill sergeants, but they also represent their installations and will serve as advisors for those commanding generals and command sergeants major."

The competitors were challenged throughout the four-day contest with events designed to test their strength and grit while also testing their ability to coach teach, and mentor new trainees - the primary tenants for all drill sergeants.

Buhl gave credit to the experts from her brigade's Holistic Health and Fitness Performance Team in preparing her for everything the competition threw her way.

"(Holistic Health and Fitness) was there by my side to help me through all five domains of Holistic Health and Fitness," said Buhl. "Not only was I training to be stronger or to be faster, I had my sports dietician create meal plans for me to make sure I was eating properly. I was seeing the occupational therapist to make sure I was getting enough sleep. Ensuring that every aspect of my well-being was taken care of every step of the way."

Winning the competition at Fort Jackson with the Holistic Health and Fitness team and her friends there for the announcement just made taking home the belt that much sweeter.

"I felt like everyone in the world who has ever cared about me was in that room," said Buhl. "It was an amazing feeling to have so many people there to support me. It truly means the whole world to me to earn this title."