Best Advice for Combat Support and Combat Service Support Leaders in the Army

Today, I want to share some advice for combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) Leaders in the Army, both officers and NCOs alike.

When you talk to most, not all, combat arms folks, you will quickly discover how they “really feel” about the combat support and combat service support units and Soldiers (don’t believe me just ask one).

In a many cases, you will find that they believe there are major customer service issues, discipline issues, lack of leadership issues, and low standards within the combat support and combat service support units.

And while this does not apply to every CSS or CS unit or leader, I do believe there is a big problem, Army wide.

I hope to fix that!

I know there are some exceptional CSS and CS units in the Army.  And there are some tremendous Officers, NCOs and Soldiers in those units.  I’ve worked with many of them and it was an honor to do so.

There are also a lot of dirt bags and incompetent leaders and Soldiers in those same units.

For the rest of this article, I want to share some leadership and career advice geared for Army Combat Support and Combat Service Support LEADERS.  This advice is for officers and NCOs alike.

These are just six things you can do to be a better Soldier or Leader, to improve the reputation of your unit, and to promote the warrior ethos.  Please keep in mind these are just my opinion. 

1. Don’t Baby Your Soldiers – This happens all the time in the combat support and combat service support units.  First of all, your Soldiers are not your children. They are grown adults.  And they have all graduated from Basic Training, so they are Soldiers. Every time you let your Soldier talk back, not do their job, give you attitude, or fail to meet the standards, it makes everyone, including you and your unit, look bad.  Hold your Soldiers accountable to the Army standards.  Counsel, punish and reprimand the bad Soldiers and reward the good ones.  Remember, you are not your Soldiers’ friend!  You are their leader.

2. Don’t Forget Your True Purpose –  Regardless of your MOS or branch, you are a Soldier first.  The enemy does not care if you are an infantryman, finance clerk or mechanic!  They will try to kill you either way.  And in most cases, the enemy would RATHER attack the non-combat arms folks!  Simply put, the enemy does not discriminate.  Your most important objective, regardless of your MOS, rank or unit, is to prepare yourself, your unit, and your troops for their combat mission.  Please don’t forget that. 

3. Hold Yourself to The Highest Standards – The Army standards are the minimum, not the maximum!  Strive for excellence in everything you do.  Never shoot for the minimum on anything you do.  Strive for excellence.  Don’t let yourself go.  Stay in shape, keep your uniform squared away and look and act like a Soldier at all times. Your unit is a reflection of you, so make sure you are worth copying.

4. Be Proud of What You Do – Take pride in your job.  Stop thinking of yourself as a second class Soldier. Instead of thinking of yourself as a mechanic, supply guy, fueler, truck driver, human resources specialist, or anything else think of yourself as a SOLDIER first.  Whatever task you are given, whether it is cleaning a latrine, running an S1 Office, or leading a convoy, man up or woman up and do the best you can.  If you’re a cook, be the best cook in the Army.  If you are a mechanic, be the best mechanic in the Army.  The job does not make the person. The person makes the job.

5. Act Like a Leader At All Times – When you scan across the combat support and combat service support branches, you see a shortage of LEADERSHIP.  Without a doubt, the best leaders I’ve ever served with were combat arms folks.  Yes, I’ve met some great non-combat arms leaders, but they were few and far between.  One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is the be the best leader you can.  Act like a leader.  Study leadership.  Learn everything you can about it and then be, know and do!

6. ALWAYS Support the War-fighter – I saved the most important one for last.  You should never think of the war-fighter as a pain in your butt.  Our jobs in the CSS and CS arena would not exist if we did not have the war-fighter to support. Realize that providing WORLD CLASS customer service to the war-fighter is of paramount importance.  The war-fighter does not get to choose who they do business with!  Don’t be one of those you know what government bureaucrats.  Put in the hours, make life easier for the war-fighter and get them what they want, when they want it (as long as it is legal and ethical).  They are not there to support you.  You exist (in the Army anyway) to support them!

Final Thoughts

I spent my entire career in Combat Service Support.  While it was a great experience, I definitely observed these six hang ups that a lot of CS and CSS leaders (and units) mess up.  Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way.

My goal for you is to be the best CS and/or CSS Soldier possible.  Rise to the occasion and take your unit to the next level.  Do what you can to improve the reputation of the non-combat arms folks so we can earn our respect with the combat arms Soldiers.  Follow this advice and you will be well on your way.

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

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “Best Advice for Combat Support and Combat Service Support Leaders in the Army”

  1. The idea of a soldier talking back to anyone who isn’t their peer or subordinate boggles my mind! In stressful situations it is vital for people to know their roles inside and out. Stragglers and out of line soldiers are more likely to get someone else killed while they survive. I have always told my subordinates (civilian workplace) that I would never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. It amazes me when people are offended when I say, “Know your role.” Would you find that offensive or would you want to better yourself?

  2. I just had to mention that a very important one you listed here is to hold yourself to the highest standards. As soldiers, people are always watching. They may not seem to be, but they are. When there is a uniform on a man or woman, it deems they need to show that the American military is the best acting in the world. As Chuck mentioned, Army standards are at the minimum. Striving to go above and beyond should be the priority.

  3. Candace Ginestar

    I have learned that if you do the last tip like you said, Chuck, and take good care of the warfighter, they will respect you and find ways to repay you (sniper range, anyone?).

  4. It truly saddens me that you need to write an article of this sort. I believe many of these leaders and soldiers could take some lessons from veterans who have served. As you know, I am in the process of writing a book on Puerto Ricans who have served. In my research, I have seen where there were non-combat soldiers who ended up in combat. I believe every soldier should always remember that at any given time, they could be. They need to realize they are as important as the next soldier. They represent our great nation and need to act accordingly.

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