Life Before Company Command

There is life before Company Command.

In fact, the different leadership positions such as Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer and Battalion Staff Officer are designed to shape, mold and develop “seasoned” Captains who become effective Company Commanders.

Life Before Company Command

One of the biggest mistakes Company Grade Officers make is being in a rush to take command.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a Company Commander.

Good leaders are always learning. But legacy only happens when good leaders also take the time to share those lessons with the profession. Lieutenant Colonel Scott Shaw is a great leader, and has selflessly compiled this substantial collection of tips, templates, warnings, and insights to help other leaders succeed in their own leadership opportunities, command or otherwise. He deserves much credit for authoring this incredibly helpful post, but (as he states) the Cottonbaler leaders and Soldiers deserve the real acclaim for creating the experience that led to it. ~ The Military Leader

In fact, any company grade officer who doesn’t want to lead troops shouldn’t be an Army Officer in the first place.

That being said, wanting to command and being ready to command are two completely different things.

Every Company Grade Officer I have ever met thought they were ready to command, but, most weren’t.

It doesn’t mean these Company Grade Officers wouldn’t do their best if they were selected to serve as a Company Commander.

I’m sure they would do their best.

However, most young Company Grade Officers with 2-4 years of military experience don’t have the required skill-set or experience to succeed as a Company Commander.

As you already know, Company Command is a tough job.

To succeed, you need maturity, time and experience as an Army Officer, leader and person.

As a Second Lieutenant or First Lieutenant, you do not have that experience yet.

You gain experience with time.

In reality, you need at least 4-5 years of Company Grade Officer experience to prepare you for Company Command.

You need experience as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and Battalion Staff Officer.

Combat Experience is a big benefit, too.

You should also realize that 3 years of military experience in the Army National Guard is about the same as one year experience on Active Duty.

Therefore, an Active Duty Captain with four years experience has the same experience as an Army National Guard Captain with 8-12 years experience.

You can already see the “disadvantage” National Guard Officers face.

So, how does a National Guard Company Grade Officer successfully prepare him/herself for Company Command?

It’s simple.

First of all, don’t be in a rush.

Pay your dues as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer and Battalion Staff Officer first.

Spend at least one year in each of those three jobs.

That way, you will have some military experience with a good understanding about how a platoon operates, how a company operates, and how a battalion operates.

More importantly, you will gain military experience about how a platoon operates within a company and how a company operates within a battalion.

This will teach you basics about leadership, management and ‘big picture’ thinking.

Next, you should complete your military education requirements.

experience before company command

At a minimum, you should complete the Basic Officer Leader’s Course, Captain’s Career Course and Pre-Command Course.

If possible, try to take some additional “branch specific” courses.

Don’t wait till the last minute to complete your military education.

Be proactive.

Complete your military education as fast as possible.

That way you separate yourself from your peers and position yourself to win.

Once you have completed your military education and have served in several different leadership positions, you should start looking for a Company Command vacancy.

Do you agree with my assessment?

What are your experiences growing to a company command?

All comments and questions are welcome, please post them below.

Thank you.

Command is the best experience that the Army has to offer. The workload can be tremendous, but then, so can the satisfaction. Remember, the bottom line of command is taking care of soldiers. Set them up for success by ensuring that they can fight, win and survive on the battlefield. Do your part, do it well, do it with the interests of your soldiers first and foremost, and you will be successful. ~ Military Intelligence

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. Army Life After Basic Training: What Every Recruit Should Know
  2. 5 Life Lessons I Learned in Army Boot Camp
  3. Advice for Retired Army Officers: What to Do When You Miss Military Life
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Life Before Company Command”

  1. You point out a very important fact that some Guard/Reserve don't like to acknowledge. There is a difference in the training and experience on active duty and Guard. As a member of the National Guard you need to realize and acknowledge this and do your best to close the gap when you can. This includes attending every drill, every class (mandatory and voluntary) and training when you can.

    Also realize if you are deployed and are now mixed with active duty that there will be a little adjustment, but far less if you've done the aforementioned things.

  2. All Army Officers should get as much experience as possible before they become Company Commanders. You need to know how to lead people, how to plan, how to get things done, how to know your branch, and so much more. You can’t master those things if you take command to early. I think it’s much better to spend a couple years as a Captain in staff positions first. This will ensure you are wiser, more experienced and more mature.

  3. I like the practical advice you are giving in this post. It is natural to want to advance as quickly as possible by it is also important to go through the steps and learn the lead up jobs thoroughly. So much of the military experience is building upon learned skills. Additionally, by “paying your dues” as a Platoon Leader or other position you will be better able to relate to those you will be leading in the future as a Company Commander.

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