"It doesn't matter if you are male or female," Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King said in a telephone interview. "I have always found that if you enforce your standards, people will respect you."
King, 47, said she hopes her selection will inspire other women in the military.
"If I can do it, other female soldiers can," she said.
Last year, the Army consolidated its three schools for the famously tough instructors at Fort Jackson, the service's largest training installation.
Only topflight soldiers are allowed to enter the school, which graduates about 120 drill sergeants a year.
King, a native of Clinton, N.C., said she feels like she is going home by taking command of the school. The 28-year Army veteran went through her basic and advanced training at Fort Jackson.
She entered her training as a drill instructor just three years after joining the Army.
"I was very young when I became a drill sergeant. Now I am going back to where I was when I started," she said. Her drill sergeant school was at Fort Dix, N.J., she said.
Her latest promotion is another one of the "firsts," in her career, she said, explaining that she was the first female first sergeant named to support the Headquarters and the Headquarters Company attached to the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"I was responsible for about 500 paratroopers, 22 sergeant majors, 22 colonels and three general officers," she said with a laugh, explaining how she was undaunted by working with so many senior warfighters. "It definitely is an infantryman's company."
King has held a wide variety of posts in the service, including serving as the top enlisted adviser to NATO's military commander in Europe.
She said she is slated to take command of the drill instructor's school in September.
The Army started construction on a new building for the school in June.