When Army Staff Sgt. Brittany McCrea looks at each of her 62 soldiers, she doesn’t see a blur of monotonous camouflage. She instead sees her 7-year-old son D.J.
“If my son were to join the Army someday, would I be the type of drill sergeant he would look up to?” she wonders.
That line of thought shapes how McCrea, a single mother, operates as a drill sergeant at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Decidedly different drilling
McCrea, a South Caroline native, joined the Army in 2014. She saw a greater purpose in the military than taking the traditional college route and wanted to make a long-term difference in society. It wasn’t long before she knew she had made the correct choice.
“I love the stability of the Army, knowing that what I’m doing is helping others,” she said.
Today, “helping others” looks like being a different type of drill sergeant than those from past generations or depictions in movies. She’s not fond of yelling, disparaging or making others feel like failures.
She prefers getting to know her troops from day one. What makes them tick? What brought them to the Army? Do they need a strict touch or grace to reach their potential?
“They come to me with the different aspects of their lives and count on me to be flexible and understanding,” McCrea said. “Although it’s not my story, it’s my job to make sure they’re taken care of, to make sure they’re treated fairly across the board.”
Her end goal: when one of her soldiers PCSes or exits the Army, McCrea never wants to be remembered as one who didn’t help or contribute to that soldier’s success. That philosophy started, she said, when she first joined the Army and didn’t always find that sort of support herself.
“When I started getting into leadership, I started treating my soldiers the way I wanted to be led,” she said. “I try to cater my leadership style to whomever is under me.”
Drill sergeant mom
McCrea tries to pass on that servant-first attitude outside of the military, too. Most mornings start at 0330 or 0400, including waking D.J. for day care. After work and on weekends, McCrea spends time crafting concoctions for L’s Bees, her line of ethnic skin and hair care named after her grandmother. She kickstarted the business in early 2020, mostly for local contacts, and has mailed products to seven or eight states.
D.J. hasn’t always loved Army life ― but thanks to his mother’s co-workers, whom they now view as family, he’s a big fan.
“He has multiple aunts and uncles on my drill sergeant team,” McCrea said. “If anything happens, they’re like, ‘I got him, I’ll take care of him.’”
The family style work environment at Huachuca has been so good for D.J. that he recently OK’d McCrea extending her time there for another year. He has a best friend, a love for Legos and prides himself on learning Spanish.
“Do I feel guilty for choosing this job and serving my country?” McCrea said she sometimes asks herself. “Is my child in a better situation than I was?”
Then she sees D.J. thriving as an Army child and knows her sacrifices have been worth it.
It’s not a cookie-cutter approach to Army life or parenting. But McCrea said she thinks that might be the reason for her success, on or off-post.
“Everyone is different, even though we all go through the same basic training,” she said. “Regardless of who’s talking to me, I treat them as if I would treat D.J., and if the answer is no ― that I wouldn’t treat him that way ― then I don’t do it.”Read comments