What is the Role of Drill Sergeants in Nutrition Behaviours of Soldiers in Basic Combat Training?

Research Paper Title

Role of Drill Sergeants in Nutrition Behaviours of Soldiers in Basic Combat Training.


In the US Army, soldiers’ nutrition behaviours have a direct impact on their performance. The emphasis in basic combat training is on “soldierisation” (transforming a civilian into a soldier), and drill sergeants are instrumental in this process. Limited information about how drill sergeants use their influence to have an impact on nutrition behaviours of new soldiers is available.

This study aimed to determine nutrition attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge of drill sergeants; the ways drill sergeants instil new soldiers with an army identity (e.g., warrior athlete, army strong); and how healthy eating is perceived to fit with this new identity.

This qualitative, phenomenological study used in-depth interviews conducted with army drill sergeants at two southeast US Army posts between July and August 2011 (n=30).


Interviews emphasised drill sergeants’ perceptions of the eating environment during basic training, the drill sergeant role, and drill sergeants’ main duties.

An iterative process of group coding using a constant comparative method was used to find distinct themes. Data were analysed using qualitative data analysis software.


Drill sergeants described their main duty as training new soldiers. Drill sergeants identified the ideal soldier as lean and physically fit but did not identify training soldiers how to eat to become the ideal soldier as part of their duties. Confusion about nutrition concepts was common. Overall, drill sergeants recognised that what soldiers eat affects their physical performance and appearance, but they did not see helping soldiers establish healthy eating behaviours as one of their duties or responsibilities during basic combat training.


Drill sergeants are key individuals in the process by which new recruits develop a soldier identity. Additional resources are necessary to help drill sergeants emphasise nutrition and health during basic combat training and help them guide soldiers toward adopting healthy eating as part of their soldier identity to improve weight management, health, and performance.


Jayne, J.M., Bujak, B.K., Torres-McGehee, T.M., Frongillo, E.A., Cable, S.J. & Blake, C.E. (2018) Role of Drill Sergeants in Nutrition Behaviors of Soldiers in Basic Combat Training. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. pii: S2212-2672(18)30741-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2018.05.009. [Epub ahead of print].


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