Army Standard Operating Procedures

Army Standing Operating Procedures, also known as SOPs are vital for an Army unit’s success. As a Company Commander, your job is to ensure your unit has accurate, up-to-date, and effective Army Standing Operating Procedures for a variety of things to include unit maintenance, Supply Operations, and the Command Supply Discipline Program.

Army SOP

The purpose of an Army Standing Operating Procedure is to “establish procedures” for doing something. That way, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when given a task. When you have a “system” anyone can read your Army Standard Operating Procedure and know how your unit operates. When someone new arrives in your unit, they can read the unit’s Standing Operating Procedures and know how to do something.

According to Joint Publication (JP) 3-31, Joint Land Operations, “a standard operating procedure is a set of instructions applicable to those features of operations that lend themselves to a definite or standardized procedure without the loss of effectiveness.” Therefore, the purpose of an SOP is to standardize how a unit operates through the use of organizational best practices to preserve the efficacy of the organization.  ~ U.S. Army

The downfall of most Army Standing Operating Procedures is that the SOP is out-of-date or impractical. Many units make an Army SOP just to check the block and comply with battalion directives. In my opinion, that’s the wrong reason to make an Army SOP. You should create Army SOPs so your unit can be effective and efficient.

In addition, many units have Army SOPs that just sit in a binder. Unfortunately, no one knows what the actual procedure is. More often than not, the procedure is unknown to everyone in the unit. Sure, your leaders know there is a SOP in effect, but they don’t know what it actually says. As the Company Commander, you can do better than that.

When you first take command, you should review your unit’s Army Standing Operating Procedures. Decide whether or not they make sense to you. If they don’t make sense to you, seek input from your key leaders and make any necessary revisions. Once you have a final product, add your signature block and put the Army SOPs in effect.

Next, share the SOPs with everyone in the company. Tell them why the Army Standing Operating Procedures exists. Discuss the purpose. Review the procedures. And, when you go to the field or complete a training exercise, follow your unit SOP.

If you find a better way to do something, update your Army Standing Operating Procedures. There’s nothing wrong with doing that. And minimum once a year, review the SOP to see if it is still the best way of doing things.

By following these simple steps, you can create Army SOPs that benefit your unit. Your unit will become more efficient and more effective too.

According to the U.S. Army, a Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP, is “a clearly written set of instructions for methods detailing the procedures for carrying out a routine or recurring task or study.” Army SOPs are templates used to define tasks ranging from inspections to cleaning duties.

In conclusion, and Army SOP is a standardized, documented way of doing something. Army SOPs are important because they  standardize a specific task. That way Soldiers simply need to refer to the SOP to learn how to do something. As a Small Unit Leader you must ensure your unit has effective and up-to-date SOPs. More importantly, you must ensure that everyone in your unit understands the SOP and follows it.

How is your units SOPs? Do you understand what is in them? Have you read them? You can provide comments or questions below.

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chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “Army Standard Operating Procedures”

  1. I always told my guys that anyone who has a basic knowledge of a task should be able to pick up your units SOP on the subject and be able to do the task the way your unit does it.

    As stated in the article the biggest problem of the SOP's is keeping them up to date. I can't tell how many times I've pulled an SOP and it's out of date or it mentions personnel or equipment that are no longer in the unit.

    1. Have an SOP for all tasks
    2. Maintain a current SOP
    3. Train your people on how to use them

  2. It only makes good sense to use and follow the SOP. It is even practical that civilian businesses use this type of approach also. The great part about an SOP is, if a person is out sick, or some other reason, another can just follow the SOP and get the job done. If the SOP is out of date, it takes time away from others and makes everything more difficult. I also agree withone commenter about using other SOPs to develop yours.

  3. Katelyn Hensel

    It’s great to have a Standard Operating Procedure. It’s easy. That way, everything is spelled out for you and you know exactly what to do, when and how to do it, and what you should be thinking along the way. The good thing is that they give you a foundation on which to build, but they are occasionally out of date, and sometimes higher-ups are reluctant to adopt change to them even if the change makes units or procedures to become better.

    1. Good SOPs need to be reviewed and updated often. Unit leaders need to teach their subordinates how the SOP works and what’s in it. It doesn’t do much good if the SOP is just sitting on the shelf collecting dust and never getting used.


  4. Good information about the importance of following the Army SOP and the role the Company Commander should have in knowing the procedures inside and out. Regularly freshening up on the content of the Army SOP will help a Company Commander be informed for a variety of situations and he or she can also share that information with others.

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