Army Squad Leader Initial Counseling Tips, Ideas, & Packet

In this article, I’d like to share some tips on the Army Squad Leader Initial Counseling. 

As a Platoon Sergeant, you have a responsibility to conduct your initial counseling with your Squad Leaders within their first 30-days on the job. This is a formal counseling session that should be done one-on-one, in private, and in writing.

In your initial counseling you will tell your Squad Leader what you expect of them. This includes their job description, implied tasks, appointed duties, additional duties, performance expectations, professional conduct, and anything else you deem pertinent. You will also ask questions, address their concerns, and learn more about them on a personal level.

The purpose of your initial counseling is to prepare your Squad Leader for success in their new job. You owe it to them to make sure they understand what they are responsible for, that they know what to expect from you, and what resources are available to them. Keep in mind, if they succeed in their job, it helps you succeed in your job, so give it your best and do the counseling!

Since you’re a Platoon Sergeant, and this isn’t your first rodeo in the Army, you know the basics about counseling and should understand the process.

In my experience in the Army, and from my many veteran friends I’ve talked with, I’ve discovered that this initial counseling seldom gets done FORMALLY (or in writing). Yes, there might be a brief conversation between the Platoon Sergeant and the Squad Leader to cover performance expectations, followed by a few head nods, a handshake, and a “Yes, Sergeant!” but that’s about it. It’s rarely done in writing.

Not doing your initial counseling in writing is a recipe for failure. Don’t let this happen to you! When you do not put things in writing, the following things can happen:

  1. Confusion and misunderstanding
  2. You said vs. what they said
  3. No paper trail
  4. Nothing to refer to for future reference

You hope your working relationship goes well, but if things go sour, at least you will have things in writing, AKA “supporting documentation” that back your recommendations or evaluations.

Army Squad Leader Initial Counseling Tips

Here are some simple success tips for Platoon Sergeants about to do an initial counseling with one of their Squad Leaders.

Schedule It

Ideally, you want to do this as quickly as possible. In the Active-Duty Army, try to complete the counseling within their first 7 days in the unit. For the Guard and Reserve, conduct their initial counseling on their first or second drill weekend. Set a time and location where you can knock it out.

Give Them Your Respect

During the counseling, be a professional. Show them your respect right from day one. Let them know they have your trust and respect right out the gate, unless they give you a reason not to.

Document Everything

As I mentioned earlier, put everything in writing. You can fill out the forms after the counseling session, if you want to, but make sure you follow an agenda and have a game plan for the counseling session. I like to gather the supporting documents ahead of time, takes notes during the meeting, and then present the final documents for signature, within 24 to 48 hours after the session.

Ask a Lot of Questions

During the counseling session, ask a lot of questions. As the counselor, you should talk about 20 percent of the time and the Squad Leader can talk the remaining 80 percent of the time.

Find Out What Motivates Them

Figure out what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about, and what their leadership style is. Knowing this information will help you lead them more effectively.

Let Them Make Their Own Assessment of the Squad

This is a big one. Don’t tell them your thoughts on the squad members. You don’t want them to have pre-conceived notions going into the job. Let them grab the bull by the horns and make their own unbiased assessment.

Give Them a Learning Curve

Let them know that you expect them to make some mistakes, especially their first 30-days in the job. Give them a learning curve.

Give Them Confidence

Finally, give them confidence. Tell them you believe in them and that you believe they will be successful in the job. This will help boost their morale and confidence.

Sample Squad Leader Initial Counseling Packet

If you’re a new Platoon Sergeant and you need help with your counseling, I can help you. I’ve put together a comprehensive Squad Leader Initial Counseling packet. This is what it includes:

  • 22 minute video covering everything you need to know to have a successful initial counseling session.
  • Example completed DA Form 4856.
  • Example Counseling Form, completed.
  • Recommended Reading list to give to your subordinate.
  • Example Interview Questions.
  • List of Items needed for your counseling packet.
  • Example agenda for the counseling session.

You can take this information and know what to say and do. Plus, it can save you hours of time in prep work. While it’s geared for USAR and ARNG personnel, it will benefit any Army Platoon Sergeant. You can learn more about the packet here.


In conclusion, it is your job as the Platoon Sergeant to prepare your Squad Leaders for success. If you help them succeed, it will help you succeed. The best way to get them off to a good start in their job is to do your initial counseling with them. If you follow the advice covered in this article, there is no doubt in my mind you will make it work.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

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Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Army Squad Leader Initial Counseling Tips, Ideas, & Packet”

  1. Candace Ginestar

    If someone doesn’t have a good template built, the packet would be a good investment. A lot of Soldiers don’t know where to start, but generally speaking, someone somewhere has already done most of the work for you.

  2. This is some great advice. The packet you are offering seems like it would be a wise investment for platoon sergeants as it would free them up to take care of putting out other fires. i think one of the most important pieces of advice is the part where you stated to spend some time getting to know each other. This will make the meeting more personal and the squad leader will feel comfortable.

      1. I had to also mention that you stated a very important fact here….Prepare. If the leader wasn’t a Boy Scout, I must mention the Boy Scout motto-Be Prepared! Preparation separates the successful from the non successful. Just taking that little bit of time to prepare can make a counseling session run much smoother.

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