Four Jobs to Have Before You Become a First Sergeant

In today’s post, I want to share four jobs you should have before you become an Army First Sergeant.  If you’re thinking about serving as a First Sergeant one day, you need a game plan.  You need a way to separate yourself from your peers and stand out in the crowd.  Simply put, you have to become the best of the best to get selected to serve as a 1SG.

In order to do that, you need certain jobs (duty positions).  These jobs will give you the experience and leadership you need to be successful as a 1SG.  Even though these jobs might vary a little bit by MOS, they’re all still important.

# 1 Squad Leader – The Squad Leader might just be the hardest working NCO in the Army (my opinion anyway).  Working as a Squad Leader will give you exposure to leading “two levels” of Soldiers: your Team Leaders and their Soldiers.  This is a basic, yet very important leadership position in the Army.  As a Squad Leader, you will hone your leadership style and improve your skills.  You will get experience leading eight to twelve Soldiers in garrison or in combat.  You will get a lot of experience with training, counseling, and discipline. If this opportunity isn’t available for you, I would suggest you look for a job as a Section Sergeant or equivalent.

# 2 Platoon Sergeant – All First Sergeants should spend some time as a Platoon Sergeant first (at least a year).   The Platoon Sergeant is where the rubber meets the road.  The Platoon Sergeant normally supervises three to five Squad Leaders, supervises 20 to 40 Soldiers,  and handles training at the platoon level.  This is a prestigious job with a huge amount of responsibility.  This position will really test your leadership abilities and develop you for future leadership positions.  If you can’t get experience as a Platoon Sergeant, look for a job as an NCOIC somewhere.

# 3 Specialty NCO – One way to round out your experience as an NCO is to spend some time as a Specialty NCO.  Several examples include recruiter, instructor, Drill Sergeant, or Retention NCO.   These jobs teach you a new set of skills and will also allow you to meet new people and expand your network.  I believe that it’s a good idea to spend some time away from the line, and traditional leadership positions, even if just for a year or two.  Serving in any of these positions will round of your experience as an NCO and give you a greater appreciation for the “line units.”  These positions aren’t mandatory, but I think they are very beneficial.

# 4 Battalion Staff NCO – The major benefit of working as a Battalion Staff NCO is that you can learn the “big picture.” You can learn how a company operates within a battalion and how a battalion operates within a brigade.  You will learn the different functions of the staff, the Military Decision Making Process and how the staffs interact with each other.  This will really help you out as a First Sergeant.  If you can’t find a staff position at the battalion level, look for one at the brigade level.

Final Thoughts

In summary, these are the four jobs I believe all NCOs should have if they want to achieve the rank of First Sergeant one day.  These jobs will develop your leadership skills, strengthen your technical and tactical expertise, and make you a trained, competent leader ready to lead a company of Soldiers.

What are your thoughts?  What jobs do you think NCOs should have before they make it to 1SG?  If you are/were a 1SG, what jobs did you have before you pinned on your diamond?  Just leave a comment below to share your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “Four Jobs to Have Before You Become a First Sergeant”

  1. I can see all of these being good experiences in leadership.

    I can’t speak from experience but I am sure you hone your skills as a squad leader and a platoon leader.

    At some point, you have learn to deal with the pressure of a situation and take care of your men.

  2. Candace Ginestar

    Hi Chuck,
    I agree that broadening experiences are important for NCOs as well as officers (we hear more of broadening for officers, but doesn’t seem to come up as much for NCOs).
    I think there’s a real lack of true line leaders in some units, which is why some of the NCOs don’t get off the line – they like to hold onto them where it counts. Maybe that is just the perception I have.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        I agree, it isn’t, and fortunately there are methods in place to remove the people that aren’t cut out for it – just because they aren’t good on the line (for whatever reason), doesn’t mean they can’t be a good Soldier and make a valuable contribution somewhere else. They need to be the most critical of the Soldiers becoming NCOs on the line.

  3. Great post and helpful information for anyone trying to craft a superior resume to become a First Sergeant. Got any tips or advice about how to ensure you get these positions like Battalion Staff NCO or Platoon Sergeant? Assuming this is a long term goal what traits are you absolutely going to need?

    1. Candace Ginestar

      Does your battalion CSM do any NCODP? Or your 1SG? If you have the opportunity to express your desires to them, do so. Or, pass the information about broadening experiences to your FLL.

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