After company leadership time, which is the very best in my opinion, it will be hard to escape staff time. There are many options for what staff positions you can occupy, and each requires a slightly different focus and skill set. The toughest, and most important, is without a doubt the S-3 (operations and training) position.
First, the S-3 is responsible for literally everything to do with training for the battalion, therefore they should be an expert at what the mission is and how to train for it. It is my opinion that officers can generally be put into any position and succeed, regardless of their branch, but there are a few positions that I don’t think that applies to. Being the S-3 is one of them.
I believe that a good S-3 should be someone who has been at company level leadership in one of the line units they support. For example, I know for a 100% fact that I could go to any battalion, combat arms or otherwise, and be a successful S-1 or S-4. With some work, I could become a good S-2. But stick me as my squadron S-3? I believe that would be a stretch of the imagination. Someday, this will change, but since right now there aren’t females in company leadership in line units, it is the way it is.
The S-3 works very closely with the battalion XO, and is responsible for a number of tasks in the area of operations and training. These duties include:
- Writing operations orders – This isn’t too different from what most officers are expected to be able to do, but writing a comprehensive and detailed operations order for an entire battalion is a great task that you must master as the S-3.
- Tasking subordinate units – This is very important. All taskings to subordinate units can only come from the 3 shop. This is something to remember if you’re in one of those subordinate units and getting a tasking from, say, the S-1.
- Determining training needs of their battalion – This ties in with my paragraph about knowing what the battalion mission is and understanding it at the company level first.
- Establishing SOPs – SOPs guide us on many different tasks. There should be some unified SOP in the battalion, and some should be determined at the company level. The S-3 is concerned with everything at the battalion level only. This is not to say that they shouldn’t care about company level, because they should.
- Ensuring unit readiness across the battalion – Readiness is comprised of more than just administrative functions. The S-3 should be concerned about training readiness as well as the complete picture. For example, my entire brigade is going through an evaluation called xCTC for AT this year. The line units are getting evaluated on their MTOE tasks to ensure readiness for deployment.
The S-3 position is a complex, but rewarding job. You can help the units achieve training goals and ensure that the entire battalion functions effectively. The S-3 can make or break your organization.
On a side note, if you are (or were) a Battalion S3 at any point in time, I would love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts and insights by leaving a comment below.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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24 thoughts on “Battalion S-3 Duties, Responsibilities and Job Description”
Is it possible to be an Operations Officer without Tasking Authority? Why or Why Not?
I am a Staff Sergeant in the Army reserve and serve as the S3 at battalion level. USAR S3 is unique in that it is a hybrid job and one must wear all different hats. I recommend that any enlisted folks attend Battle Staff school and be ready to track everything. Areas of emphasis are like those stated in other comments MDMP, OPORDS and CONOPS etc. but also include GTC management, ATRRS school management, land and ammo reservations, sharepoints, DTS and others like UMO. I am attending UMO course to help me understand movement and I have been studying the deployment regulations. Be proficient at Running estimates and developing various trackers for unit readiness. Also learn how to do Task Crosswalks to understand the mission and define training goals. Reserve staffing levels are chronically short so you will find yourself managing a lot. Our S3 shop is comprised of 1 E-6 and 1 E-5. Its truly a hybrid position. Besides Battle Staff the best preparation I had for S3 duties came from Recruiting, another complex and difficult task. Good luck to all and it can be a rewarding assignment if you put all your effort into it.
Do you know where are some good resources to convert Company Commander and Staff positions into civilian job descriptions or civil servant positions?
Would you happen to know anything about an assistant S-3 AGR position, typically being a CPT? I am applying for this AGR position and would love some interview tips. Thank you!!
1. Learn about the unit (MTOE, size, mission, history, etc.)
2. Read Army FM 3-0 Operations
3. Educate yourself about the Military Decision Making Process
4. Educate yourself about the information systems the S3 shop uses
5. Sit down with an S3 Officer in a sister unit and pick their brain
6. Be familiar with writing OPORDs and Risk Assessments
7. Educate yourself about the USR and reporting
8. Maybe talk with a couple subordinate units to see how they interact with the S3
That’s all this rusty old civilian can think of right now. I hope that helps. Good luck with your interview.
Have you ever heard of a Warrant Officer as a BN Training Officer/ S3?
Cannot say that I have, but I guess there is always a first.
What is more important, duty position for career advancement or MTOE position?
I would say that duty position is the more important thing. Of course, the duty position you want in a MTOE unit is IDEAL. I’d also argue that it is much less relevant in the Guard and Reserves than on Active Duty.
I just got transferred to RGT S3 shop in the Texas State Guard, so I will be using much of what I have read in your posts to maintain my sanity and make sure I serve our troops to the level they deserve.
Thank you for taking the time to put it out there for others to see.
I’m glad I could help Christopher. Good luck in your new assignment.
The S3 job is one of those unique jobs that isn’t for everyone. I’ve met some bad leaders that ended up being great S3 Officers. And I’ve met some good commanders that couldn’t do the S3 job right if they had to. You really need good conceptualization skills and you need to be able to think methodically. Not everyone can do that.
It definitely takes a special officer to succeed in this duty position.
The S3 job isn’t for everyone. We have some great leaders in our battalion that just happen to suck at staff work. Put them in charge of soldiers and they are good, but make them eat, breathe, live and sleep MDMP and OPORDs and they become a completely different person.
So true, Brock. A good troop leader won’t always be a good staff officer, and vice versa. Lucky is the person who could do both jobs well.
I can totally relate to this article. I was assigned to be the assistant S-3 (acting S-3) at the mark of my 2.5 years as an officer. Being the 2nd youngest 1st Lieutenant in the battalion, I have the privilege and entrusted by the BC and BXO to take this job. I said acting S-3 also because the S-3 actual left for a special deployment before I even got to meet him. Long story short, I am in charge of the S-3 shop. Like what it says in this article, this position is the toughest I ever faced especially with minimal experience and under-staff in the S-3 shop (3 NCOs and 1 other Lieutenant). Not only that, I am currently in charge of the MDMP, ATMS, OIP (helping the CO XO) and working with the BXO. Although my current assignment is taking a toll out of me, but I learned a lot and gain more experience than any 1st Lieutenant out there. For anyone out there who seeks to gain more faster experience, I recommend S-3 shop.
I’m glad you are learning Kelvin. This experience will make you a better commander and leader, later on down the road. Stay strong, brother!
Great article, Candace. The Battalion S3 is a very difficult job, especially in the ARNG. My last assignment in the Guard was as a Brigade S3 and that was challenging too. Depending upon what you want in your military career, I will tell you that it is NOT mandatory to have this job to move up through the ranks, but it’s still a good job to have.
Trying to do the S3 job as a “part-time” Soldier is daunting. You will be in the armory at least one day during the week and probably doing something for the job every single day. The biggest challenge is the planning, mission analysis, MDMP, staff coordination and all of those other things with the other “part-timers.” It just makes life difficult when people are located in different places and are hard to get a hold of.
The Battalion S3 should be technically and tactically proficient, familiar with MDMP and OPORDs, understand the big picture, and know the strengths, weaknesses and capabilities of the unit. The job isn’t for everyone, but if you are up for a challenge, spend 9 to 18 months as a Battalion S3. It will definitely round out your experience and make you that much more prepared for Battalion Command.
Candace, I could not agree more with your perspective on the S3 being the toughest and most important staff position within the BTN. I have to say that our last S3 was hardcore…a real go getter and he had standards that not even God himself could achieve. But, now that he is gone it can feel the effects. Now, that is not to say that our new S3 is not a good S3, but I guess what I am getting at is that staff Officers will come and go without much notice, but a new S3 can be felt by all. It directly impacts everyone… Shout out to, now, LTC Jorgensen who has been a HUGE influence on my career as an Officer…
The S3 could easily have more influence on a battalion than the Battalion Commander!
This is a pretty good list, Chuck. Believe it or not, my time as a Battalion S3 was horrible. I was okay at the job but I hated it. I am more of hands on guy than a strategic thinker. However, I did learn a lot about leadership, tactics and the Military Decision Making Process while I was in the job.
I can totally relate to you, Luke. However, I know the experience made you a better leader and that’s what is most important.
In any MTOE or deployable unit, the S3 probably is the most important position in the unit. They basically plan and run the battle.
Very good point, Lance.