Billet Over Rank

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A select group of sergeants on Parris Island have been chosen to serve as senior drill instructors among the staff sergeants or gunnery sergeants

By Lance Cpl. Ryan Hageali, USMC

The billet of senior drill instructor is historically reserved for exemplary staff noncommissioned officers who are the best the Corps has to offer.

Though this position is normally filled by a staff sergeant or gunnery sergeant, there are a choice few sergeants who are selected to serve as SDIs and earn the coveted “black belt.”

Sgt. Jeffery Ky Willman II is one of the select group of sergeants who have been chosen to serve as a senior drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. To even be considered for this billet as a sergeant, Willman had to consistently impress his leadership and seek responsibilities outside of his normal, already demanding schedule as a drill instructor.

Sgt. Jeffery Ky Willman II with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Posses for a photo Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island S.C., Sgt. Jeffery Ky Willman II is one of the few Sergeants nominated to become a senior drill instructor, a coveted billet traditionally reserved for Staff Sergeant or Gunnery Sergeants.

In a few weeks, Willman will embark on his first cycle as the head of the platoon with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion.

“The team is more important than myself, and the recruits we train deserve everything we have,” Willman said. “I hope that when my tour is completed, I will have contributed in some small way to the massive legacy left behind by the drill instructors who have helped shape our Corps.”

Sgt. Alli Faith Tellez is another sergeant currently serving as a SDI. She originally became a drill instructor to impact others the way her drill instructors impacted her.

“My drill instructors had a very positive and far-reaching impact on who I am personally and professionally,” Tellez said. “I wanted to give back to the Marine Corps and impact its future generations in the same way and I knew by being a drill instructor I would have the opportunity to do that.”

Sgt. Alli Faith Tellez with Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, Posses for a photo Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island S.C., Sgt. Alli Faith Tellez is one of the few Sergeants nominated to become a senior drill instructor, a coveted billet traditionally reserved for Staff Sergeant or Gunnery Sergeants.

The bigger picture

“Serving in a billet usually reserved for SNCOs is a very difficult, humbling and rewarding experience,” Tellez said. “I am challenged every day to think outside the box both in problem solving and leadership situations. I have learned a lot about myself, but even more about the Marines I serve with. Staying grounded, approachable, and continuing to keep an open mind to new and innovative ways of training recruits and drill instructors is something I push myself to do every day.”

Sgt. Jose M. Feliciano initially joined the Marine Corps because he wanted to go to war with the best and now he trains his recruits and drill instructors to demand the best of themselves every day. Feliciano is a SDI with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and is looking forward to his next steps as he prepares to leave the drill field and transition back to the fleet Marine Corps.

“I felt that becoming a drill instructor was my way of paying back the Marine Corps for taking care of me when I was at my weakest,” Feliciano said. “Hard work and confidence helped me become a senior drill instructor and made me realize that I am never too big of a person to complete a task. Because of this opportunity, I can see the bigger picture and I can teach these young men how to be effective leaders and how to take ownership of all their actions.”

Pictured at top: Sgt. Jose M. Feliciano with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, poses for a photo aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Sgt. Feliciano is one of the few sergeants nominated to become a senior drill instructor, a coveted billet traditionally reserved for Staff Sergeant or Gunnery Sergeants.