This post will cover the HHC Company Commander duties, responsibilities, and job description.
If you are about to take command of a headquarters and headquarters company, I want to share some helpful information with you. The role of the HHC Company Commander is much different than Company Commanders in a line company.
Unless you are assigned to an infantry battalion, your primary role as an HHC Company Commander will be more administrative based, whereas the line Company Commanders have more of an operational role. This means that you will spend most of your time supporting the staff and battalion (or brigade, division, etc). In essence, that is your mission. While this isn’t a bad thing, it can be extremely challenging.
The Headquarters element consists of the Battalion Commander, the Executive Officer, the Command Sergeant Major and supporting staff. The Headquarters Company element will be commanded by a company commander (usually a captain) who is supported by a company executive officer (usually a first lieutenant) and a company first sergeant.
All personnel in the HHC fall under the administrative command of the HHC company commander, but in practice, the primary and special staff officers and noncommissioned officers operationally report to the battalion commander, and while the battalion commander is administratively assigned to the HHC, he or she is the HHC company commander’s higher command and thus the HHC company commander operationally answers directly to the battalion commander.
The mission of the HHC company commander is to run the administrative and soldier training aspects of the HHC, and to support the battalion primary staff by facilitating the environment in which they operate and in turn support the battalion commander in commanding the battalion. While the Headquarters Company Commander has administrative authority over the battalion commander’s staff officers and NCOs, the Headquarters Company Commander’s operational authority is limited to requirements derived from exercising the HHC’s mission essential task list (METL) through related collective training requirements that facilitate the battalion commander’s command post, in addition to achieving required individual training: “…ensuring that both Soldiers and equipment are in the proper state of readiness at all times. ~ Wikipedia
In a line company, the Company Commander is the senior person. She is a big fish in a small pond. However, in a Headquarters Company the Company Commander might have two to four people who outrank him, plus another 5-10 Captains.
And if you command a HHC at the Brigade or Division level, you might have 20 to 100+ people that outrank you (in your own company!). While you are still in charge of your company, you have to be careful with your approach and leadership style (I’ll share some tips later on).
Most HHC Company Commanders I’ve ever met were extremely frustrated and unhappy with their limited power. They wanted to be in charge, but they realized that their command time would be an ongoing uphill battle.
On the other hand, I’ve met a select few HHC Company Commanders who absolutely loved their job, despite the challenges. It boils down to your attitude, your personality, and your willingness to be humble. Landing the job as the HHC Company Commander could be a blessing or a curse. You choose!
Sample HHC Company Commander Job Descriptions
I wanted to take a moment and share two example job descriptions with you for the HHC Company Commander, just to give you some ideas.
Serves as Company Commander of a HHC Company in a Mechanized Infantry Battalion. Overall responsible for the health, welfare, training, and morale of 180 Soldiers. Plans, resources, and assesses collective training for unit. Maintains accountability and operational readiness for 120 different types of MTOE property valued at $6 million. Manages an annual training budget valued at .2 million.
Serves as Company Commander of a HHC in a Light Infantry Brigade. Responsible for the health, welfare, training, and morale of 228 soldiers. Personally supervises 7 soldiers. Plans, resources, and assesses collective training for the unit. Handles mission planning, risk assessment, and operational leadership of the company. Primary hand receipt holder for 452 pieces of MTOE equipment valued at million.
Two Types of HHC Units
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve noticed two different types of headquarters and headquarters companies during my 15-years in the military. They are administrative and operational. I will explain more below (these are not doctrinal terms).
These are often the HHC and HHD commanders assigned to battalions outside of the combat arms world, or HHC companies assigned to echelons at the brigade level and higher. In most cases, these companies have more of an administrative role than an operational role. These units are comprised of the staff sections for their higher unit along with a few other Soldiers. Sometimes these commands are considered “inferior” to that of a line company in the same unit. I’m not saying the commander isn’t as good of a leader as a line Company Commander, I just believe that commanding a line company is 100x better on paper (and for career advancement).
In most cases, these are the HHC Commanders in the combat arms battalions (infantry or armor). These commanders often have a mortar section, medics, scouts, and/or mechanics, in addition to the Soldiers assigned to the staff sections. These are normally reserved for previous Company Commanders who already completed a successful line Company Command. These commands were much more prestigious BEFORE the invention of the Forward Support Companies. They were also much larger.
Tips for Success for HHC Company Commanders
If you are in command or about to take command of a HHC, I can share a few tips for success that will make your job easier.
# 1: Don’t consider yourself inferior to your line Company Commanders.
What you do with your command is totally in your hands. Even if you are unhappy with the command you were chosen for, make the most of it. It might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. You are only inferior to your peers if you choose to be.
# 2: Work with your peers (line commanders) to help them succeed.
Be a team player with your peers. Form friendships with them and do what you can to help them succeed in their job. The Army is a team sport. And remember, the real purpose of the staff and HHC sections are to support the line companies. Put the warfighter first!
# 3: Work with the primary staff officers to get things done.
Try to form strong relationships with the staff sections. Be supportive and encouraging and be a team player. Realize that most of them will outrank you and will give you orders from time to time. That’s just the way it goes.
# 4: Don’t be a dictator.
While you might be the commander, there are many people at your same rank (and higher rank) in your own company that will ignore you or put you in check. Be confident, firm, and fair, but realize you really aren’t the one in charge.
# 5: Understand that the Soldiers are under “your command authority” but they work for one of your peers.
While you might have the UCMJ authority over your subordinates, it makes sense to work with your officer counterparts in staff positions, when there are certain soldier issues. Following this strategy will actually make your life easier.
# 6: Realize that you will clash with the staff officers from time-to-time.
Folks, this just happens. We’re all human. Stay calm, cool, and collected and pick your battles wisely. Put your ego aside and always place the needs of your unit and Soldiers above your personal needs and desires.
# 7: Have a game plan, but be flexible.
As the HHC Company Commander, things will rarely go as planned. There are too many competing forces working against you. Learn how to go with the flow and be flexible.
# 8: Understand that your senior commander (Battalion or Brigade Commander) and his/her staff members are more concerned about their mission than they are about your company.
This one might be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the truth. Your priority is your company, but most of the officers in your unit have different priorities.
# 9: Pick your battles wisely!
In most cases you will lose your battles with the primary staff officers, especially if they outrank you. Enough said. Know when to hold them and when to fold them. You can lose the battle, but still win the war.
# 10: Keep in mind your job is more “administrative based” than operational based.
You will spend more time pushing paper than your line Company Commanders. Get good at it! When you do have an operation role, go the extra mile so you can stand out.
In summary, the HHC Company Commander has an important, but challenging job. It takes a unique set of skills, a good attitude, a special personality, and lots of flexibility to succeed as a HHC Company Commander. It definitely isn’t for everyone. It will be one of those jobs in your career that you either love or hate!
What do you think about the HHC Company Commander duties, responsibilities, and job description? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.