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Benning names 2005 Drill Sergeant of Year

By Kris Gonzalez/The Bayonet

SSG Roger MathersonFORT BENNING, Ga. (TRADOC News Service, June 2, 2005) – He’s known to his trainees as “the enforcer.” Fellow drill sergeants say he upholds the Army’s highest standards. His friends say he’s a good person, a good instructor and a great noncommissioned officer. Now Fort Benning has named him the “best of the best.”

Staff Sgt. Roger D. Matherson is Fort Benning’s 2005 Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Matherson was awarded the title May 13 in a ceremony at Infantry Hall. He was nominated among 500 drill sergeants from various units, including the Infantry Training Brigade, the Basic Combat Training Brigade and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School.

He will travel to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command headquarters at Fort Monroe, Va., June 20-24, to vie for the Army’s 2005 Drill Sergeant of the Year title.

“I’m looking forward to representing Fort Benning at the TRADOC level,” Matherson said. “I’ll do everything I did to prepare for the post-level competition, just twice over. I’ll give 110 percent.”

“If he’s really motivated to win and represent Fort Benning, he needs to put all his time and effort in the competition,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brain J. Rudick, Fort Benning’s 2004 Drill Sergeant of the Year. “He needs to be ready mentally as well as physically.”

It’s not an easy task, said Command Sgt. Maj. Wayne D. Andrews, Infantry Training Brigade. The hours are long and hard, and the family pays the price, but they also withstand the test of time.

“When the going gets rough, your kids, your wife, your family will always love you. Everybody else can hate you, but they will always love you,” said Andrews.

Matherson, a drill sergeant who has trained drill sergeants for the past two years, said his buddies urged him to compete for the title, but his wife, Nikisha, was his inspiration.

“If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be standing up here,” Matherson said. “She encouraged me a lot.”

Nikisha, who gave birth to their son 11 days before the announcement, said her husband managed to make every doctor’s appointment during her pregnancy. He took his training books to read while they waited in the doctor’s lounge.

“He had a tape recorder and taped things and listened to them on the way to the doctor’s office,” Nikisha said. “Everything he could do, he did. He worked very, very hard.”

“She sat down and listened to a lot of modules,” said Matherson, who was appreciative of his wife’s role in receiving the award.

Matherson, along with his competition, Sgt. 1st Class Clifford G. Cheeseman and Sgt. 1st Class James I. Hill, had to present eight modules, or oral presentations, highlighting specific soldiering skills.

The drill sergeants were required to take a physical-training test, perform hands-on tasks, qualify on their weapons and at land navigation, and – what Matherson said he considers the most challenging of the competition – appear before a formal board.

“It’s not one set thing a drill sergeant does that makes him a drill sergeant,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Lonny D. Wright, U.S. Army Infantry School. “As a noncommissioned officer, he must be able to perform well in all tasks to be successful.”

Matherson said when he began his Army career in 1994 as a mechanized infantryman, he was looking for something different in his life. “I didn’t really set a goal for myself, but as my years progressed in the Army, I started getting a feel for it,” he said.

Matherson, 30, said he thinks about the drill sergeants who trained him when he was just 19.

“I was frightened. I had never met this person, and the first thing I see is that hat and that voice coming at me,” he said. “Of course, it was natural to be a little intimidated, but I thought they were knowledgeable and real professionals. I didn’t know anything about the military before I joined, so I learned a lot from them.”

Now he aspires to be a mentor for new recruits.

“When I get out of the military, I want to hear somebody say, ‘You were the role model for me while you were in the service. You touched my life in many ways.’”

Matherson is no stranger to being recognized for excellence.

Raised in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, he attended James Ford Rhodes High School in Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated as valedictorian of his 1993 class. Fifteen years later, he’s again at the top of a class, this time among “the best noncommissioned officers in the Army,” said the Infantry Center’s deputy commander, Brig. Gen. James C. Yarbrough.