Debate: Should Lieutenants Be Allowed to Be Company Commanders?

Today’s debate question is “should Lieutenants be allowed to be Company Commanders?”  My immediate answer to that question is a big NO.  Before you attack me for what I think, please allow me to explain my viewpoint on the subject.

Through the years, I’ve met some great Lieutenants.  Some of these superstars could do some amazing things, even be good Company Commanders.  They were smart, decisive, technically and tactically proficient, and hungry for success.  I admire that.  In addition, I’ve met some not so smart Lieutenants that couldn’t tie their shoes if you asked them to.  In every rank there are squared away and not so squared away people.

The reason I don’t believe Lieutenants should be allowed to serve as Company Commanders is because they do not have sufficient MILITARY EXPERIENCE to do the job right.  Most LT’s have only served in one unit and have only had one or two different jobs in the Army. Most Lieutenants are really, really young and don’t have much life experience either.

Serving as a Company Commander with only one to three years in the Army under your belt is not a good thing for the Soldiers you would command.  Even if you were enlisted before you became an officer, it’s not enough.  I believe you should have at least five years experience as an Officer before you become a Company Commander.  And by the time you reach five years of service as an Officer you should be a Captain with one or two years time in grade under your belt.

I think five years is the magic number because by that point you will have probably had three to seven different jobs in the Army. You’ll have some time at the unit level and have some staff time under your belt.  You will have gone through some challenges and learned a lot about leadership (and about yourself).  You’ll probably have a deployment under your belt, you’ll be wiser, and know more about your branch and career field.  Simply put, you will be more prepared and more qualified to take command.

Serving as a Company Commander is a tough job.  Anyone can do it, but few people can do it well.  Think about it.  Leading 100-200 people is a big responsibility.  I don’t know of one private or publicly owned civilian company that would let someone in their early to mid 20’s be in charge of that many folks.

So if you are a Lieutenant, please don’t take this the wrong way.  I’ve been a LT too.  Get some experience under your belt.  Learn what you can about your branch, career field, leadership style and the Army in general.  That way, when you do get command as a mid to senior Captain you can do your job well!

What are your thoughts on the subject?  Do you think Lieutenants should be allowed to be Company Commanders?  Leave a comment and let us know.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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12 thoughts on “Debate: Should Lieutenants Be Allowed to Be Company Commanders?”

  1. I think in peace time it can be okay to make 2LTs Company Commanders if it’s warranted by the lieutenant’s performance. There are many instances where on-the-job training can be a useful tool to develop leaders, and this is just another example of that. In times of conflict, though, there isn’t time for the LT to learn on the fly, and the repercussions of a job NOT well done are too high to take the chance.

  2. Being a 2LT commanding a company, I couldn’t agree with this article more. Lieutenants lack the experience and confidence to effectively perform the duties as a company commander. Company command is a full time job, whether you’re full time or not and requires constant attention. I did not ask for command nor do I think I’m prepared to handle it. But being in a command where units are lucky to have one company-grade officer, we often don’t have much of a choice. We step up to do what we’re asked, but it’s certainly not the most desirable situation for the Soldiers, the LT, or the command.

  3. I am in full agreement with this. As you mentioned about private companies, I have watched as some young “buck” straight from college has been given high level positions in companies I worked for and the “old timers” eat them alive. They are usually looking for a new job just weeks later. I believe it will be the same in the military. It could essentially ruin an LT’s career allowing them to be a Commander so early. They need experience.

  4. Faith A. Coleman

    It makes sense that there isn’t enough experience in the career of a LT commander, and of course there is no room for egos to get in the way, should a Lt commander decide that he or she is qualified and may be resentful about not being eligible for the position even though they are skilled. You have to make rules and consider experience. I’m sure there are many officers, not just this level, who have skills that are exceptional or would be more effective in positions other than the one to which they are assigned.

    1. Individuals always vary. Some are competent and some aren’t. Normally, the Battalion Commander will evaluate their LTs on a case-by-case basis, in the event they consider hiring one as a Company Commander. That is a good thing, but even still, maturity and experience are vital to success.

  5. I don't think most LTs should be trusted with sharp scissors let alone command. There are plenty of captains I feel the same way about.

    1. I guess you could argue the same about many NCOs too. Everyone is different and brings something different to the table. Some are studs, others are duds. That applies to every rank.

  6. Candace Ginestar

    Hi Chuck. I think any LT that is offended by this needs to check their ego. I do think that if you are asked to take command, you generally should not turn it down.

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