Army First Sergeant Duties and Responsibilities

Today, I want to talk about some of the common Army First Sergeant duties and responsibilities.

The First Sergeant is the senior enlisted person in an Army company.

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, and motivated.

In any Army company, 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 unit, and there’s a high likelihood that there is a 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” whereas the First Sergeant focuses on “current operations.”

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 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.

2. Administration: 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, etc.

They don’t necessarily do the paperwork themselves, but they oversee and supervise the process.

They also do 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.

And 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 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 & Retention: One of the 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 his Soldiers make the best decision for their own Army First Sergeant Dutiescareer.

The First Sergeant also creates an environment where Soldiers WANT to re-enlist and continue their military service.

7. 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.

Read more about Soldier discipline.

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 is a Soldier Advocate and he is also 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.

This is the First Sergeant’s second most important job, other than preparing their troops for combat.

Additional Thoughts

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.

The duties might vary a little bit based upon the type of unit, the size of the unit, and the competence of the Company Commander.

If you are a Company Commander it is in your best interest to develop a good relationship with your 1SG.

You don’t need to kiss their butt or worship them, but you do want to do what you can to build a solid, professional relationship based upon mutual respect and trust.

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 lane 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.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. Leadership Advice for Army First Sergeants
  2. Army First Sergeant Career Advice and Success Tips
  3. Five Things I Learned from My Army First Sergeant
  4. The NCO Journey to First Sergeant
  5. The Top 5 Lessons I Learned as a First Sergeant

The History of the First Sergeant

In the 1780’s, the rank of 1st 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 buddy up with your soldiers. It is in your best interest to not go out drinking and partying with your soldiers and to not favor any over others.
  • Don’t assume… Ask! If you are unsure what your Company Commander wants, ask.
  • Neglecting your personal knowledge. Just because you are First Sergeant doesn’t mean to let go of reading and learning.
  • Being dishonest. There is never a good reason to lie, so don’t!
  • Not holding yourself responsible. You will make mistakes, so own them.
  • Not passing the PT. This is unforgivable. You may not have the best score, but pass it.
  • Not defending the boss. If you hear your soldiers badmouthing your boss, it is your job to reprimand them.

Tips for Company Commanders When Working With Their 1SG

Your secret to success working with your First Sergeant is to sit down with them and do the following:

1) Establish Unit Goals: As the Company Commander, you set the vision for your organization.

Your First Sergeant needs to know your vision so they can help you get there.

And if you are ideas are unattainable or unrealistic, your First Sergeant will bring you back to reality.

No matter what, the two of you must work together towards a common goal.

2) Determine Each Other’s Primary Areas of Responsibility: You must have your own clearly identified areas of responsibility.

If you don’t establish areas of responsibility, you will constantly step on each other’s toes and be combat ineffective.

You don’t want to micromanage each other or constantly argue with each other.

Figure out who will do what and stay in your lane.

This will eliminate 95% of potential problems.

3) Identify Each Other Strengths and Weaknesses: You won’t hear this one very much in the FMs or in any textbook.

One of your secrets to success is to determine each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Use your strengths to your advantage.

If your First Sergeant is a dynamic writer, have him oversee the awards program.

On the other hand, if they are horrible at it, delegate it to someone else.

Adjust your responsibilities based upon your strengths, not just what the FM says you should do.

Every command team is different.

4) Build a Strong Relationship: Personally, I think the First Sergeant and Company Commander should become close friends.

They don’t need to be on a first name basis, but you need to have a strong relationship based upon trust, loyalty and mutual respect.

Therefore, you need to spend time together.

Get together with your families from time-to-time.

By forming a strong bond, you will improve your effectiveness as a team.

I always looked at my First Sergeant as a peer, not a subordinate.

That helped me a lot.

What others are saying about Army First Sergeants

One of the best places to learn about the position of First Sergeant is to learn from former and current First Sergeants.

Here is some great information online that you should read:

  1. https://www.military1.com/army/article/460845-passing-the-baton-6-pieces-of-advice-for-future-first-sergeants/
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/11-things-first-sergeants-say-that-make-troops-lose-their-minds-2015-4

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, First Sergeants are the back-bone of every Army company.

A good First Sergeant will make an average Company Commander good and a good Company Commander great.

Make sure that you work together with your First Sergeant to help your company succeed.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think are the biggest and most important Army First Sergeant duties and responsibilities?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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18 thoughts on “Army First Sergeant Duties and Responsibilities”

  1. I served as a 1SG for seven years. During my service, I developed a positive relationship and understanding with my Company Commander (CO). This relationship and understanding was based on a philosophy that the CO commanded the Company and I ran it. By that, I mean that the CO would tell me company objectives and I would ensure that they were met. I would ask for a copy of the CO’s Officer Efficiency Report (OER) Support Form, upon arrival at a new assignment, and I would advise and ensure the objectives were met. Using this tool, I was able to concentrate on the CO’s plan and direction for the Company.

    Daily interactions helped to keep both of us informed and on tract. We did have disagreements, but the CO was receptive to listening to my concerns and suggestions. Regardless of the CO’s decision, I left and implemented the final decision as if it was mine! No grumbling or disrespect, the mission is the responsibility of the CO, mine was to execute!

    Information is a two way street. Therefore, I held a platoon sergeants meeting each morning prior to physical training (PT) formation. I would outline and assign responsibilities for daily and upcoming events. The platoon sergeants would alert me to their necessary support requirements to accomplsh the mission.
    We would discuss, in a round robin forum, soldier welfare to include; health, family, promotion and school eligibility, mock promotion preparation boards boards, financial problems, requirements for both good and bad performance soldier councilings, and other soldier issues.

    I would allow soldiers who committed small infractions to choose, UCMJ action, or what I referred to as first sergeant time (two hrs. of after normal duty hour company benefit duty, discussed first with the platoon sergeant & CO). Still getting the soldiers attention without destroying a career. I always gave the benefit of the doubt to the soldier, at least the first time.

    I visited the clubs my soldiers frequented, both on post and off. Furnishing the managers my name, unit, and phone numbers, so if any of my soldiers were involved in an minor incident, to contact me instead of MPs or local law enforcement. I promised to provide restitution for any damages (the soldier, with sufficient evidence). When summed by law enforcement to retrieve a soldier, I would require the platoon sergeants & when appropriate the squad leader to meet me at the location to ensure we all got the same story. Platoon leaders could also attend, but were required (per the CO) to remain silent and just listen while in the presence of the soldier or law enforcement.

    We had platoon competitions in PT, Drill & ceremony (D&C), marksmanship, skill qualification test (SQT), and common tasks (CT). Platoons that won were given a training day, which allowed the platoon to engage in a platoon chosen activity of their choosing, but in which all platoon members must participate (accountability was required prior to and after the event). Family members could participate in select activities with the soldier’s and platoon sergeant’s approval. Soldiers and family members were always recognized when in the hospital or upon a family member death.
    These are a few of the principals that worked for me and we’re successful to rise to the top of the battalion in every category. Suggest 1SGs empower their platoon sargeants, reward as well as discipline their soldiers, and stay loyal to their CO, soldiers, themselves, and those who count upon them!
    Michael Manning
    1SG, USA (Ret.)

    1. It is my opinion that anyone who is about to become a first sergeant should read your advice.

      I like your approach and I am sure that your soldiers respected you in many ways.

      If all First Sergeants would use a similar approach, we would have a very solid force, but many follow other patterns.

      I believe the key is not playing favorites and working with the Company Commander as a team.

      Thanks for sharing all of that.

  2. I know the duties and responsibilities of Army First Sergeant. Because my father server as 1SG for 5 years in US Army. It is very tough job and you need to pass from very up and downs and fulfill the above requirements as you duty.

  3. A 1SG can certainly make or break the morale of his unit.

    It’s his job to be close to the soldiers and help them be ready. Sometimes that means tough love, but tough love should never be abused.

    Other times it means simply checking with each individual and asking if they are ready and have everything.

    A good 1SG is priceless to a unit.

  4. We recently got a new commander and 1SG. Short words, 1SG shouldn’t even be a SGT. Anyways, my company recently went to the field and I couldn’t go because I am currently getting med board, my 1SG was very upset because he couldn’t make all the profiles go, and for that matter he made us stay in the company building and spent the night there, by the way, the company area was infested with roaches. The bad part about it was that he said since we cant go to the field we are going to be cleaning the building. All of us knew he was punishing us just because we were on profiles and he couldn’t count us as part of his training to meet his required number.

    One of the soldiers came to me the following day and told me 1SG have been talking about me inside the tent, and in front of everyone saying that he will give me an article 15, how bad of a soldier I am, and he will do his best to get me chapter out and not med board. All of this came into place just because I was the only one at the time who actually stood up and told him he was wrong for what he was doing. 1SG is the type of person who is never wrong, you can’t be against him or else, he threats everyone with promotions if they do not do as he please, ex: FRG meetings are not in the training schedule, he forces us to go and tell us he will give us a counseling statement if we do not attend his functions, well, he did. He also said if you think you are going to get promoted in this unit you might want to think twice. Personally, I just wanted to know which part of the regulation states 1SG and commanders are not allow to expose soldiers business to others who do not need to know. I have read AR 340-21 and couldn’t make sense of it, please help me.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you have to go through this. Your private information is protected by HIPPA, but the idea of the 1SG simply saying bad things about you in front of other soldiers is quite unprofessional. I suggest you use you Commander’s Open Door Policy and have a conversation with them.

  5. Just a tidbit on discipline. It is important for leaders especially 1SG’s to understand the unintended consequences of their recommendations when it comes to discipline. Currently the Army is in the midst of a major drawdown. As such a Soldier receiving a poor evaluation report (needs improvement, No comment, or 4-5 rating) and/or a Soldier receiving an Article 15 is pretty much guaranteed to be separated from service. Therefore leaders must seriously think about what actions are appropriate given the situation. If the issue is minor in nature or can be best handled with corrective training, a verbal counseling, formal counseling, local letter of reprimand….don’t recommend an Article 15 as this will most likely remove your ability to influence the retention of the Soldier at some point in the future as these decisions will be made by more senior leaders based on Army policy.

    1. You’re right, in today’s Army a bad NCOER or Article 15 can ruin someone’s career. I always tell leaders to put some serious thought into their serious decisions, so they can make the right decision. You don’t want to make a rash decision that you will go on to regret later.

      Chuck

    2. On the flip side, some leaders are too afraid to discipline when the Soldier needs it. I agree, see if things can be handled in a lesser format than Article 15 when possible. There are a lot of ways to correct a Soldier, but sometimes more is needed.

  6. Knowing the duties of any position is important and this post does a good job of highlighting the top ten duties of the First Sergeant. Non-military folks have a hard time understanding all the various responsibilities and sometimes it is hard to explain. You have laid it all out here in an easy to understand format. Working with the Readiness NCO and Training NCO is important.

    1. I agree. For those of us who have grown up without a military background, it’s difficult to keep all of the rankings and positions straight. I’m trying to understand for my fiance’s sake, but even though I grew up in a family full of the military lifestyle, I never seemed to pick up on what each rank did. I feel like Re-enlistments and retention would be a huge issue though. Important for our country, and for our service.

  7. Good post for both Company Commanders AND Platoon Leaders. It is always good to have a strong working relationship with your Company 1SG as a PL. Remember, your PSG reports to him AND you. If you understand what the 1SG expects and how he works things, there is less of a chance that you two will butt heads…

    1. So true. The key to success is to build strong relationships. That means you need to talk, listen to each other and get on the same sheet of music. Most new Platoon Leaders struggle to do this with the 1SG as they figure out their role, responsibilities and leadership style. But the smart Platoon Leaders do what they can to work with the First Sergeant, because they know he is the one who can “influence” the commander more than anyone else.

      Chuck

    2. Communication is always the main factor. This was an excellent post and I hope many Company Commanders and 1st Sergeants read it. If everyone who has a leadership position can communicate and get on common ground, the company will be successful and everyone within will be happy for the most part. When there is division, it causes chaos and things will fall apart.

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