Sgt. 1st Class Michael Houston said, "I always wanted to be a drill sergeant" – but when that route wasn’t opened, he opted to become an Advanced Individual Training platoon sergeant. "They had a slot for aviation, and I grabbed it."
The story Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lamb had was similar.
"I was told ‘chances are no way can we get you there;’" but when the chance came to move to being a platoon sergeant, he took it.
The two noncommissioned officers were among 11 participating in the second AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year Competition that ended Aug. 27 at Fort Monroe, Va.
"We’re competitive people," Houston, representing Fort Rucker, Ala., said. "Being around my peers was great," Lamb, representing Fort Eustis, Va., added.
Staff Sgt. Vernon Maybin, representing Fort Lee, Va., said the competition "helped develop my leadership skills," and he will take that back to his home station.
Adding, "You have [to have leadership skills] to deal with soldier issues."
Being a platoon sergeant in AIT is very different from being one in an operational unit. "You can have 150 to 200 soldiers in the AIT platoon. You take small steps every day" with them as they continue transitioning from being a civilian into being a soldier.
"This job is challenging in so many ways," Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Dodds, representing Redstone Arsenal, Ala., said. "But I’m still having fun. As you move up in rank you have to make adjustments. At times, you’re flying solo."
Being an AIT platoon sergeant is usually a two-year assignment, and there is a two-week preparation course they attend before moving to his or her assignment.
The job "can be very rewarding, especially when you see a soldier trying to do something the right way, to impress you. They all want to impress you" by showing what they can do, Sgt. 1st Class Alexia Moore, representing Fort Bragg, N.C., said.
The soldiers in AIT "want to know how they will fit into the unit, what they will be doing," Sgt. 1st Class Christian Gordon, representing Fort Sill, Okla., said.
He added serving as an AIT platoon sergeant is a bonus for an NCO’s career. "You always need to be asking for more responsibility."
"Every NCO here is very professional. They brought a lot of knowledge that they wanted to share," Sgt. 1st Class Jose Garcia, representing Fort Jackson, S.C., said. "It’s an honor to be here."