Four Things You Will Learn as a Brand New E-5 Sergeant

I remember my date of rank for Sergeant (8 April 08).  It was a huge honor, and I felt a certain weight of responsibility on my shoulders that wasn’t the same as before. I was eager to take the next step in my career, and I knew the adage that to whom a lot is given, much is expected. I wanted to honor my rank and be the best NCO I could be.

My experiences were a little different from that of my line unit brethren, as I was in an aviation unit when I got promoted. We have a different MTOE and our experiences tend to differ from those in a combat brigade. I didn’t get promoted and serve as a Team Leader or Squad Leader. However, there were some things I did learn after I got promoted.

# 1 New Sergeants have the most complex job.  A Sergeant is right next to their Soldiers doing all the same work they are, but they are also responsible for everything they are all doing. They also have to remember that they aren’t ‘just a joe’ doing the work with nothing else to worry about. It’s a transition, and some people take longer to learn that.

# 2 Whether you’re in charge of people or not, other people see your rank and expect a certain level of competency and professionalism.  Even if you aren’t in charge of a team, when you interact with others, they will expect a certain level of behavior from you. You won’t be as easily excused from anything and you are seen as the backbone of the Army – so you need to act like it at all times. You should be technically and tactically proficient, even if it is outside your comfort zone. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t human and don’t ever make mistakes – but you have the basics down, and when you make a mistake, you own up to it and correct it promptly. I’ve always thought that people in general should live their lives this way – none of us are perfect, but it’s all about how we fix our mistakes. As long as we don’t avoid them, don’t place the blame on others, and own up to it – people will always have respect for that.

# 3 Junior enlisted Soldiers are always looking at you.  Not to make it sound creepy, because it’s not intended that way. Junior enlisted Soldiers will always be looking at you, whether you are in their unit or not. This is a huge responsibility – you have a great opportunity to mentor and train the levels below you and mold them into future NCOs. Think about it – when you were a private, you always looked at your SPC and SGTs to see what they were doing – what right looks like. When you’re a SGT, you look to the next levels for mentoring. The same goes for officers, so it should be no shock to hear that you are being watched for how to conduct yourself.

# 4 The stripes don’t make you smarter, but all of a sudden you are expected to know even more. This kind of goes in line with all the previous points. You shouldn’t take your new stripes and think that you somehow know it all, nor should you think you can act clueless and get away with it.  It’s a fine balance. You are still the same person with the same character, knowledge, and abilities – but you have a responsibility to be a better version of yourself than you previously were.

Bottom Line: Being a new SGT has a lot of interesting nuances. However, as long as you are squared away, motivated to learn, and ready to lead, you will do great. What are some of your lessons you learned when you made SGT? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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2 thoughts on “Four Things You Will Learn as a Brand New E-5 Sergeant”

  1. It must be a bit of a transition once you receive rank for you and for your former peers. Drawing the line between friends and now being their superior needs a bit of diplomacy and tact. Like Greg said – as long as the rank doesn’t go to one’s head things tend to work out fine. I had to laugh at a memory that popped up with regard to junior enlisted looking up to the new rank while expected to be smarter overnight because of the promotion. My father, who never said no to a job and refused to let anyone see him sweat would say, “You just put your horns down and charge ahead.”

  2. Great information here Candace.

    It is important that new E5s not allow the rank to “go to their head.” Being still a soldier first and a Sergeant second is very important. The responsibilities are more, but this shows you are trusted to handle those responsibilities. The part where ou said that all eyes are on you is also a good lesson to understand. By always acting accordingly, the new E5 will have success.

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