Winner
Staff Sgt. Joseph Fontenot
3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky

"He's just got an amazing level of presence. He's extremely physically fit, very committed and dedicated, all those really great adjectives that we look for."

Sgt. Maj. Edward Roderiques, deputy commandant, U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy.

Inspired by a chance meeting with a young soldier, Joseph Fontenot went from playing in a heavy metal band to shipping off to boot camp.

He is now Staff Sgt. Fontenot, a decorated veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who has served as a drill sergeant and volunteered countless hours to give back to his community.

He was nominated for this award by his chain of command at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, where he served until this spring before returning to the 101st.

"To me, having the respect of my peers means a whole lot," Fontenot said. "It's validation that the last 10 years of spending an ungodly amount of hours trying to do the right thing, it was not in vain."

Fontenot joined the Army as a field artillery soldier when he was 31, later than most and after successful stints playing bass in metal bands such as Acid Bath and Jacknife.

It was on tour that Fontenot ran into a young soldier who made an impression on the road-weary rocker from Larose, Louisiana.

"This kid's probably 19 years old and probably has more direction than I did when I was 30 years old," Fontenot said. "When we got home, I decided I wanted to join the Army."

Fontenot credits his drill sergeants for "setting the precedent for me for my whole career."

When he became a drill sergeant, Fontenot discovered he liked forging new soldiers.

He was later selected to become a drill sergeant leader. He spearheaded the creation of the drill sergeant prep program, designed to better prepare candidates for the nine-week school.

He also started an Adopt a Highway effort and volunteered at the veterans hospital, a homeless children's shelter and Camp Kemo, for kids fighting cancer.