Today, I want to share four valuable lessons I learned as an Army Major. Before I share the lessons, you should know upfront that I spent a little over a year as an Army Major in the ARNG before I resigned my commission. In my last duty assignment I served as the Regimental S3.
I should also be quite frank with you and tell you that I did not enjoy being a Major all that much. I didn’t HATE it, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as serving at the company level. Of course, I was excited about getting promoted to MAJOR, and I had plenty of experience, but had I known what I know now, I never would have taken the promotion.
That being said, here are four valuable lessons I learned as an Army Major. Hopefully, you can learn a few things from this post and be a better Major yourself.
# 1 Your Days of Working with Soldiers Are OVER, Forever!
Admit it or not, but once you enter the field grade ranks, your days of working closely with Soldiers are pretty much done. Yes, you will still have a NCO, and perhaps a small staff working for you, but you will never again have the same close interaction with Soldiers as you did at the company/unit level. Even when you become a BN Commander or BDE Commander, you won’t get to work all that closely with Soldiers. This is something I had a hard time accepting and is one of the reasons I resigned.
# 2 Good Leaders Aren’t Always Good Staff Officers and Good Staff Officers Aren’t Always Good Leaders
Some people are naturally good leaders and others are naturally good administrators (staff officers). Few people are good at both. I am a decent administrator, but I am naturally a leader. I knew that most of my career would be in a staff position and that I would never get the fulfillment that I would if I was in a leadership position. This was a tough pill for me to swallow.
# 3 Working on Operational and Strategic Level Tasks Isn’t the Same as Tactical Level Tasks
As a Company Grade Officer, you get tons of exposure at the tactical level. To me, this is what the Army is all about. It’s where the rubber meets the road. As you enter the field grade ranks you get your first exposure to the operational and strategic levels. This is the “big picture” Army that most enlisted Soldiers never get to experience. While I did well in my job, I never enjoyed writing policies, working on PowerPoint, and doing endless meetings that felt like a waste of time.
# 4 A Good Officer is Worth Their Weight in Gold
NCOs are the backbone of the Army. Everyone says that and knows that. I agree. I would like to add in to that and tell you that a good officer is worth their weight in gold, ESPECIALLY in a combat environment. Good officers can make the life of the NCO a lot easier. A good officer can create a good game plan, get the required resources, and provide vision and guidance to an organization. A good officer can take the Bad News Bears and turn them into a winning team.
In summary, I learned several valuable lessons while I served as a Major in the ARNG. I hope you have enjoyed the lessons I shared today. In addition, I would love to hear from you. If you’ve served as a Major (currently, or in the past) please leave a comment below and share some of the lessons that you learned while you were a Major.
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6 thoughts on “Four Lessons I Learned as an Army Major”
I think you made the right choice in resigning… there’s no point in putting everything on the line if you’re not going to enjoy it, and I guess being a Major in ARNG simply wasn’t for you. Like you said, you’re a natural leader, and that position didn’t give you the opportunity to do that.
Yes there is a difference between operation and strategy, but BOTH are vital to combat. I mean, you wouldn’t play a football game without a game plan. Without a strategy in place. A good Officer acts as a liaison, a bridge between those in the field and the higher ups. A good Officer can get things done for them. Advocating for all those under his command. Plays the politics necessary to insure that his soldiers have everything they need on the battlefield.
It is good that you wrote this. I am sure many are so concerned about promotion, they just do not realize what they are facing after.
For the leader who loves working directly with soldiers, I believe it would be a tough pill to swallow not being directly involved with the lives of those soldiers.
Everyone should really consider what the outcome will be before accepting a promotion. Sure, there may be more money and benefits involved, but if you dislike the position, is it really worth it?
I hope that anyone who is considering jumping up to Major reads this post. It doesn’t help anyone when a person is in a position they dislike.
It wasn’t easy for me to write this post, but I figured if it would help even one person it was worth it. I’m glad I got to be a Field Grade Officer before I got out, but I sure did miss serving at the troop level. Getting promoted is a good thing, but I’ve also found that if you love something, the money doesn’t matter as much. I knew some people that were Captain’s nearly twice as long as I was. Knowing what I know now, I’m a bit jealous of them!
One thing is for sure, having this website/blog will help others who may be in the same position. After all, that is what life is all about in my opinion. Helping others learn from our mistakes. Even if you just help one or two, I believe in the long run, you will look back and say it was all worth it. Also, look at all the other education and experience you received.
Chuck, I agree with the spirit of what you are saying, but I really don’t want to be a 1LT for that long…I wouldn’t mind being a CPT for awhile, though. That part doesn’t bother me.