Today, I want to talk about some of the most common Army First Sergeant duties and responsibilities.
The First Sergeant is the senior enlisted person in an Army company sized element. They typically have 14 to 25 years of military experience and 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.
Let me start by telling 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 that 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.” 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
That being said, here is my list of some of the 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 are always looking 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 Re-enlistments and Retention
One of the most significant First Sergeant duties is re-enlistments 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 re-enlist and continue their military service.
# 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 he 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.
If you get nothing else out of this article, remember that the First Sergeant’s biggest two responsibilities are to (1) accomplish the mission and (2) take care of their soldiers.
As you can probably tell, 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, 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 1SG’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.
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 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
The rank of Army First Sergeant is prestigious and as such, there are certain paths you should follow.
As the senior enlisted leader in an Army unit, here are some mistakes Army First Sergeants need to avoid:
- 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.
- Don’t play favorites. Enforce the Army standards equally to everyone in your unit.
- Don’t assume… Ask! If you are unsure what your Company Commander wants, ask.
- Don’t let your rank go to your head. Keep your ego in check. You’re still human! People will respect your rank, but you still have to 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.
- Not passing the PT. 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 your boss, it is your job to reprimand them.
Tips for the Commander & 1SG Relationship
Commanders and First Sergeants MUST work together for the good of the unit. There is no “I” in the word team. Here are four basic tips to help you succeed.
1) Establish Unit Goals
Units need to have specific goals. These goals should be written down on paper and agreed upon by the CO and 1SG. This is the commander’s responsibility to set goals for the unit, but the 1SG should set goals for their direct reports.
2) 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.
3) Help Fill In the Other Person’s Weaknesses
No one is perfect. Everyone has shortcomings. Figure out where your commander is weak, and find ways to fill in the gap. Have your commander and Platoon Sergeants do the same thing with you.
4) 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.
In conclusion, serving as an Army First Sergeant is quite perhaps the 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? 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.