In today’s post, I want to talk about some of the most common Army First Sergeant duties and responsibilities.
The First Sergeant is the senior enlisted Soldier in an Army company sized element. A company can range from 50 to 200 Soldiers, depending on the type of unit and its mission.
A First Sergeant normally has 14 to 25-years of military experience. Their job is to work closely with the Company Commander to ensure the unit is trained, proficient, disciplined, motivated, and ready to accomplish its wartime mission. In any unit, the First Sergeant’s duties are endless. The 1SG is normally the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave at night.
From personal experience, I can tell you that the First Sergeant is the backbone of most companies. Look at any successful Army company sized element, and there’s a high likelihood there is a highly motivated, dedicated, and exceptional First Sergeant at the helm. Sure, having a good Company Commander helps, but the First Sergeant’s job is even more important.
In a typical Army company, the First Sergeant’s primary duties and responsibilities include individual training, discipline, Soldier issues, NCO development, and morale.
To keep things simple, the Company Commander typically focuses on “future operations” to include mission planning and strategic work, whereas the First Sergeant focuses on “current operations” handling the day-to-day issues. The commander determines where the unit must go and the First Sergeant makes sure the unit gets there on time.
Top 10 First Sergeant Duties
Here is my list of the top 10 most common First Sergeant duties and responsibilities.
# 1: Individual Training
The First Sergeant is responsible for individual training within their unit. The First Sergeant is responsible to ensure their Soldiers are proficient in their MOS and with their Warrior Tasks.
In essence, their top duty is to ensure their troops are mentally and physically prepared for combat. Their Soldiers must be able to shoot, move, communicate and do their technical job.
The First Sergeant works closely with their Platoon Sergeants and Squad Leaders to ensure the Soldiers receive the training they need to be successful in their jobs, and as Soldiers.
# 2: Administration
Don’t think of the First Sergeant as a pencil pusher. If you’re thinking that right now, drop down and give me twenty good push-ups.
The First Sergeant works with the Readiness NCO, Training NCO, and Company XO to ensure all administrative paperwork is done, done right, and done on time. This includes promotions, awards, reports, routine paperwork, etc.
They don’t necessarily do the paperwork themselves, but they oversee and supervise the process. They also update the attendance roster.
# 3: Enlisted Promotions
The First Sergeant oversees all enlisted promotions in their unit. They recommend potential promotions (up to E-4) to the Company Commander.
In addition, they ensure their NCOs know about promotion opportunities in the unit and outside of the unit. They get input from their subordinate NCOs about who is ready for a promotion and who isn’t. They also teach their subordinates what they need to do if they want to get promoted.
# 4: NCODP
The First Sergeant oversees the unit’s NCODP program. They always look for creative ways to teach and develop their subordinate NCOs. They brainstorm ideas for NCODP, teach classes, and oversee the classes.
# 5: Counseling
The First Sergeant invests lots of their personal time counseling and mentoring the Platoon Sergeants and other NCOs in the unit. They also spearhead the unit’s counseling program to make sure all Soldiers receive the counseling they need and deserve.
# 6: Reenlistments & Retention
Two of the most significant First Sergeant duties are reenlistments and retention. The First Sergeant tracks enlistments and knows when their Soldiers need to reenlist or leave the military. They are very involved with helping their Soldiers make the best decision for their own career.
The First Sergeant also creates an environment where Soldiers WANT to reenlist and continue their military service. Write that one down and remember it!
# 7: Military Schools
The First Sergeant knows which Soldiers need schools and they help their Soldiers get enrolled. They ensure their Soldiers are MOS qualified and also help them get additional schools for career advancement.
# 8: Soldier Discipline
The First Sergeant is the tip-of-the-spear when it comes to soldier discipline. They work with the Platoon Sergeants to handle 99% of the Soldier issues, so they don’t need to get the Company Commander involved. If the issue is serious, they make recommendations to the Company Commander for UCMJ or punitive punishment.
# 9: Health & Welfare
The First Sergeant monitors the health and welfare of their troops. They know about their Soldiers’ family life, their personal problems and their living conditions. They do whatever they can to help their troops.
# 10: Senior Enlisted Adviser
The First Sergeant advocates for their Soldiers and they also serve as the Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Company Commander. This means that the 1SG keeps the Company Commander informed about all Soldier issues and they “keep the Company Commander grounded” from making dumb decisions that negatively affect the Soldiers and unit. This is the First Sergeant’s second most important job, other than preparing their troops for combat.
In a nutshell:
First sergeants handle the leadership and professional development of their Soldiers, especially the non-commissioned officer development and grooming of enlisted soldiers for promotions. They also manage pay issues, supervise administrative issues, recommend and prepare enlisted soldiers for specialty and leadership schools, re-enlistment, career development and they manage the promotable soldiers within the company. First sergeants are the first step in disciplinary actions such as an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment) proceeding. A first sergeant may place a soldier under arrest and on restriction to quarters in certain cases, as well as manage all of the daily responsibilities of running the company/unit. ~ Source: Wikipedia
If you get nothing else out of this article, remember that the two most important Army First Sergeant duties are to: (1) accomplish the mission, and (2) take care of their Soldiers.
As you can see, the First Sergeant has an incredibly tough job with lots of responsibilities. These ten things listed above are only a small portion of the potential First Sergeant duties.
These duties might vary a little bit based upon the type of unit, the size of the unit, and the competence of the Company Commander.
The Company Commander and First Sergeant need to work together to accomplish the mission and take care of their Soldiers. All other things come second. Any personality differences must be put aside.
It’s also important to realize that everyone is different. This means that every Company Commander and 1SG will have a different relationship. Based upon the Company Commander’s priorities, their skills, and their relationship, the CO and 1SG might have different priorities and duties than I listed above.
For instance, when I was a Company Commander, my top three priorities were mission planning, collective training and leader development. My First Sergeant’s top 3 duties were individual training, Soldier care, and discipline.
Since we knew each other’s duties and priorities, we stayed in our own lanes and were much more effective. When an issue arose, we knew whose job it was to fix it. That made life much easier for both of us.
Example Army First Sergeant Job Descriptions
Here are a two example Army First Sergeant job descriptions.
# 1: 11Z5M BCT First Sergeant
Serves as a First Sergeant of a Basic Combat Training Company that consists of 25 cadre and an average annual training load of over 1,100 Initial Entry Training (IET) Soldiers; overall responsible for the enforcement and execution of TRADOC Program of Instruction (POI) and Training Support Package (TSP); provides mentorship to all personnel on Army Values and Warrior Ethos; directly develops four senior Drill Sergeants, and oversees the daily performance of 14 line Drill Sergeants and three support cadre; prepares, executes, supervises, and assesses rifle marksmanship, physical readiness, and combat skills training; maintains discipline and advises the commander on administrative, sustainment, safety, morale and welfare of all personnel and their families. ~ Army Writer
# 2: Forward Support Company
Served as a First Sergeant for the Forward Support Company in an Infantry Battalion that includes a Maintenance Platoon, Distribution Platoon and a Food Service Section consisting of 127 Soldiers; assisted the commander in planning, resourcing, coordinating, and supervising all logistical activities that support the Battalion; advised the Company Commander on enlisted Soldier issues to include duty assignments, promotions, schools, awards, morale, welfare, and professional development; served as senior maintenance NCO responsible for operational readiness of 120 vehicles and $4.8 million in MTOE equipment.
The History of the Army First Sergeant
In the 1780’s, the rank of First Sergeant became a reality in the U.S. Army, but it did not carry the same responsibilities and esteem that it now does. It was in the mid-1800’s when the First Sergeant became a separate pay grade and the diamond was added below the chevrons.
The pay grade for the Army First Sergeant is the same as a Master Sergeant, but in reality, the First Sergeant carries more power. To become a First Sergeant, a Soldier must be a Master Sergeant.
Mistakes to Avoid as an Army First Sergeant
Most First Sergeants are extremely squared away; however, they are human and prone to make mistakes from time-to-time. What you see below is a collection of responses I gathered from former First Sergeants, covering the most common mistakes.
Don’t try to be your Soldiers’ friend. It is in your best interest to NOT go out drinking and partying with your Soldiers and NCOs, ever. Maintain the line. Once you cross that boundary, it’s difficult to go back.
Don’t play favorites. Enforce the Army standards equally to everyone in your unit. This is one of the most common mistakes. We all have coworkers we naturally get along with and admire. Don’t make that mistake. At least, don’t create the perception that you are playing favorites.
Don’t assume… Ask! If you are unsure what your Company Commander wants, ask. If you are unsure what your NCOs and Soldiers need, ask them!
Don’t let your rank go to your head. Keep your ego in check. You’re still human! Be tough, but fair, and consistent. People will respect your rank, but you still must earn their respect.
Don’t act like the rules and standards don’t apply to you anymore. Hold yourself accountable to the same standards you enforce with your subordinates. If anything, hold yourself to a higher standard than the people you lead. Inspire others by your own personal example.
Not passing the Army Physical Fitness Test. This is unforgivable. You may not have the best score, but make sure your APFT and HT/WT are current, and you have the best score you are capable of getting. Always complete your APFT with your unit so there is no question.
Not defending your boss. If you hear your Soldiers badmouthing the Company Commander, or any leader, it is your job to reprimand them. If you disagree with your boss, do it in private behind closed doors. Always be unified with your boss when in front of your troops.
Tips for the Commander & 1SG Relationship
I was fortunate to serve as a Company Commander for two years. I had a great relationship with my First Sergeant. These are a few tips I can recommend to make the command team relationship work.
# 1: Mutual Trust & Respect
The Company Commander and First Sergeant working together is like a marriage. There must be mutual trust and respect for the relationship to work. This means you communicate with each other, keep each other in the loop, look out for each other, and deal with issues as they arise. You are LOYAL to each other and overlook each other’s weaknesses.
# 2: Put the Unit, Mission, & Soldiers First
If you adopt the mindset that the unit, mission, and Soldiers are your biggest priorities, you will succeed in the job. Remember, it’s not about you. Your job is to be the servant leader and serve the people you lead. They don’t work for you. Instead, you work for them.
# 3: Establish Unit Goals
The commander and First Sergeant should sit down together at the beginning of the relationship and establish clear goals for the unit. This is primarily the Company Commander’s responsibility, but the Company Commander should get input from the First Sergeant. Ultimately, you want the 1SG and Commander unified about the company’s goals.
# 4: Establish Lanes
Both the First Sergeant and Company Commander need to stay in their lane. The only way this will ever happen is if the Company Commander and 1SG sit down and determine who is responsible for what. Know your lane and stay in your lane. This will eliminate 90% of your potential problems.
# 5: Help Fill In the Other Person’s Weaknesses
No one is perfect. Everyone has shortcomings, even the First Sergeant (just don’t tell them I said that). Figure out where your Company Commander is weak, and find ways to fill in the gap. Have your Company Commander and Platoon Sergeants do the same thing with you. For example, if the 1SG isn’t good at admin, he can delegate a lot of it to others around him who are good at it.
# 6: Be Unified
Your must be unified with your Company Commander, even if you don’t like them as a person. The mission and Soldiers must come first, no matter what. Be loyal to each other and have each other’s back at all times, especially when you are in front of your Soldiers. If you have issues, work them out in private, behind closed doors.
These things are easy to do and easy not to do. What you do is your decision!
The First Sergeant is the highest ranking non-commissioned officer that still performs “hands-on” leadership in the United States Army. The importance of the position is exemplified in a phrase used in the German Army, they call the First Sergeant the “Father of the unit”. This is just as true in the U.S. Army. Although equal in grade to rank of master sergeant (MSG), personnel at these two ranks typically have very different responsibilities. ~ Army Facts
If you’re about to become an Army First Sergeant, or you are already in the job and looking to level up your performance, here are a few books I recommend. The first one is Small Unit Leadership by Dan Malone. This is easily my favorite book for company level leaders. Order this book, read it, and study it. The second book is The Three Meter Zone, which is a great book to read along with your NCOs for a NCDOP. If you click on either of the links you will redirected to my Amazon store.
In conclusion, serving as an Army First Sergeant is quite perhaps the most demanding and best job in the Army. If you ever get the opportunity to serve as a First Sergeant, make sure you do your best! Your Soldiers deserve great leadership.
On a side note, what are your thoughts about the most common Army First Sergeant duties, responsibilities, and job description? What success tips can you share with our readers? If you’ve ever spent time as an Army First Sergeant in the past, please leave a comment below to tell us what your experience was like. I look forward to hearing from you. Hooah!
Former Army Major (resigned)
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