What is a Drill Instructor?

Drill instructors are members of the military who have been given non-commissioned and non-combatant status in order to focus on matters closer to home, such as breaking in new recruits. However, depending on the country represented and even among its military branches, the term has different regulatory definitions. A drill instructor, for example, is aptly named in many parts of the world because the officer’s sole responsibility is to teach drill commands. In the United States, on the other hand, a drill instructor conjures up images of a domineering figure who instills fear in the hearts of those about to enter the military. A drill instructor in the United States Armed Forces oversees nearly every waking moment of a new recruit for the entire time they are in Basic Training, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to add to this larger-than-life persona.

In the United States, there are additional distinctions for instructors. For one thing, the title of drill instructor is reserved solely for Marine Corps officers. Other designations are used in other branches of the US military, such as drill sergeant in the Army and company commander in the Navy. If you’re reading this because you’re about to join the Marine Corps, keep in mind that you should never refer to your drill instructor as a drill sergeant, and that you should start and end every sentence you say to him or her with “Yes, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am.” If you break these basic rules, you’ll probably go through a lot of toothbrushes before you finish basic training.

Being a Marine Corps drill instructor, as one might expect, necessitates a high level of stamina and physical fitness. The training itself is thought to be among the most rigorous of any in the United States military. Officer Candidates School (OCS) training typically lasts 15-16 hours per day, beginning at 5:00 a.m. The drill instructor is assigned to a Recruit Training Battalion after completing training and is expected to serve for three years. Although becoming a drill instructor is entirely voluntary, it is a highly regarded mission, and many instructors receive awards and commendations for their service on the drill field.

While it’s not difficult to spot a drill instructor in a crowd with a single glance, it’s worth noting that they have certain “badges of honor” that set them apart from other military officers. The Drill Instructor Ribbon, for example, is worn each instructor. Drill instructors also wear campaign hats, which are similar to the Stetson-style hats worn Army officers during World War I. This style of hat, also known as a “lemon squeezer” and reminiscent of Smokey the Bear’s hat, is also traditional Boy Scout attire. A drill instructor, on the other hand, is unlikely to be mistaken for either given their general demeanor.