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NEWS | Jan. 16, 2013

Squared away: Brig corrections officer to become Army drill sergeant

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Within the U.S. Army, a drill sergeant is the symbol of perfection and military professionalism. They are responsible for coaching, counseling and preparing thousands of civilians and turning them into combat-ready Soldiers.

Becoming a U.S. Army drill sergeant is one of the highest honors for a noncommissioned officer and is a position reserved for the most squared-away soldiers; the best of the best.

Sergeant Eugennie Bednarz, Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston corrections officer at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station, was selected as one of the best. But, to understand her journey to becoming a drill sergeant, you have to go back to where it all started; Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

It was in the early morning hours of the fall and cold weather was blowing through the mid-west. Bednarz was a recruit at BCT and was about to repel 40 feet from the top of a wooden tower to the ground below. It's an obstacle known as "Warrior Wall" and for U.S. Army recruits, it's more than a wall, it's a rite of passage.

Inches from the 40-foot edge of the Warrior Wall and moments before it was her turn to repel, Bednarz swallowed a deep breath of frigid air and let it rest heavily in her lungs. She tried blocking out her drill sergeant's growling presence momentarily by closing her tired eyes and remembering why she enlisted into the U.S. Army.

At 29, Bednarz was not only older than the majority of her peers in her platoon, she also had years of experience within the military community as a manager with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

While working at AAFES, she became friends with service members. They knew her by name and their friendships meant the world to her. It wasn't until a tragedy close to home changed everything.

"I was part of a memorial service at Fort Riley," said Bednarz. "A young Soldier was killed in combat. I was standing road-side for part of his memorial during the funeral precession."

According to Bednarz, the expressions on the family's faces as they rode past, especially the children's lost stares ignited a fire within her.

"Something about seeing that fallen Soldier's family and funeral precession made me reevaluate what I needed to do with my life. I enlisted to honor him and the thousands before him, as well as defend my country," said Bednarz.

Months later, she remembered those feelings and knew it was that very reason why she was standing on the Warrior Wall ... to honor the fallen, defend her country and better herself. She opened her eyes and exhaled, and as her breath faded into the air, she descended down the wall.

In the years following basic training, Bednarz's career took her to Iraq for a year-long deployment and selection for a special duty position as a corrections officer at the NCBC.

"Being a part of team at the Brig has been incredible," said Bednarz. "Working with every branch of service in a joint environment has bettered me as a Soldier. I've learned a lot from everyone I worked with and the lessons they've taught me, such as work ethic and military professionalism, I'll carry those lessons with me throughout my career."

Bednarz will now pass on her experiences and knowledge to the next generation of Soldiers as a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood.

"I loved basic training and wanted to go back," said Bednarz. "Luckily, I'll get that chance and I'll be able to indoctrinate young men and women into the military, which is the most rewarding aspect. I especially can't wait to return to the Warrior Wall. As a drill sergeant, I will be able to develop, train and teach Soldiers to be ready for every challenge they'll face in the military ."

According to Bednarz, training civilians and transforming them into combat-ready Soldiers is an honor. But, making sure they're equipped and prepared for deployment is what motivates her as she begins Drill Sergeant school in February at Fort Jackson, S.C.

"I'll always remember the fallen heroes that paid the ultimate price in the name of freedom," said Bednarz. "I'll honor their memory by keeping the military spirit alive in tomorrow's Soldiers."