In today’s post, I will share what I believe are the most common Army Platoon Leader duties and responsibilities. I will also provide a sample Platoon Leader job description.
Serving as a Platoon leader is one of the best jobs in the Army. I had the pleasure of being a Platoon Leader two times. I’m not sure of anywhere else in the world, other than in the military, where someone in their early 20’s, right out of college, has the opportunity to supervise 20 to 50 people and be responsible for equipment valued at millions of dollars.
It is a fun job. It is a challenging job. It is a developmental job. Platoon leaders have a lot to learn. In most cases, new Platoon Leaders don’t have any real-world leadership experience, or life experience. That’s why they are teamed up with an experienced senior NCO, normally a Sergeant First Class. They teach, guide, mold, support, and work closely with the Platoon Leader to ensure the platoon succeeds (and to make sure the PL doesn’t do anything stupid).
As a new Platoon Leader, you will learn so much about yourself during your time in the job. You will develop your leadership skills, learn Army tactics, learn how to resolve conflicts, learn how to handle discipline issues, conflict management, how a platoon operates within a company, how the Army functions, and hundreds of other important things.
If you’ve been blessed with the opportunity to serve as a Platoon Leader, consider yourself lucky. Don’t take your position for granted. Learn everything you can, keep an open mind, and work closely with your Platoon Sergeant. What you will learn as a Platoon Leader will ultimately shape your leadership style and your military career.
Top 10 Army Platoon Leader Duties and Responsibilities
With that being said, here are the most common Army Platoon Leader duties and responsibilities, in no particular order.
# 1: Mission Accomplishment
The first and most important mission of an Army Platoon Leader is to accomplish the mission. Whatever their mission might be, they need to make sure it gets done on time and to standard. If your mission to make sure your platoon cleans the latrines, that is your job. If your mission is to lead a convoy into battle, that is your top priority.
Your mission includes any tasks you are personally assigned to complete AND any tasks the platoon is tasked with. The Army is all about the mission. Accomplishing the mission will always be your top priority, no matter what. In most cases, your job will be to plan the mission and supervise. That’s what officers do. Your NCOs and Soldiers perform the actual work and are the tip of the spear.
My Advice: Put the mission first and get the job done. No excuses!
# 2: Take Care of their Soldiers
The second thing Army Platoon Leaders are responsible for is taking care of their Soldiers. This is their second most important task, right behind accomplishing the mission. And guess what? If you take care of your Soldiers, they will take care of you AND accomplish the mission!!! Boom!
Platoon Leaders are responsible for the health, morale, and welfare of their Soldiers. While the Platoon Sergeant will be actively involved with most of these things, working with their subordinate NCOs, it’s ultimately the Platoon Leader’s responsibility to ensure everyone is taken care of.
You should frequently ask your Platoon Sergeant is there are any issues you need to know about or anything they need help with. When they bring issues to you, address them and help them get resolved ASAP. However, don’t make the mistake of getting too involved in NCO business. Let your NCOs do their job, and you make sure they have the resources they need to succeed. And whatever you do, take good care of your Platoon Sergeant. The two of you are a team!
My Advice: You are NOT your Soldiers’ friend. You are their leader. You don’t need to be buddy-buddy. You shouldn’t be buddy-buddy. Maintain the professional boundaries. Support your NCOs, let them do their job, and resolve issues when they are brought to your attention!
# 3: Tactician
A good Platoon Leader is worth their weight in gold in the field, if they are technically and tactically proficient. In fact, officers make their money in the field (or in tactical situations). They plan and supervise tactical operations, FTXs, Battle Drills, and much more. Any officer can survive in a garrison environment, but it takes an exceptional Platoon Leader to thrive in the field, or in combat.
As a Platoon Leader, your job is to maneuver your Soldiers in combat to get the mission done. Even though you aren’t the most experienced person in the platoon, you are the senior tactician and you have to be tactically proficient.
My Advice: Study Army tactics whenever you can and do everything you can to be technically and tactically proficient. Read regulations, talk with mentors, and be a sponge.
# 4: Training
Platoon Leaders plan, resource, execute, and assess training at the platoon level. They write operation orders, request training resources, conduct mission briefs, and assess training.
The Platoon Sergeant focuses on individual training and the Platoon Leader focuses on collective training. I like to think of the officer as future operations and the NCOs as current operations. The officer focuses on the big picture while the NCOs handle the day-to-day operations.
The NCOs train the individual Soldiers. As the Platoon Leader, you ensure your teams, squads, and platoon are trained on their collective tasks.
My Advice: Make sure your Soldiers are mentally and physically prepared to accomplish their wartime mission. It’s your job to ensure your Soldiers are trained so they can fight, win, and return home safely.
# 5: Enforcing Standards
There is only one standard in the Army: the Army standard. As a commissioned officer, your job is to enforce the Army standards to everyone under your authority. When you see something wrong, fix it. Address the issue immediately. Don’t play favorites or let things slide. Be predictable, treat everyone fairly and with respect, and hold everyone accountable. Most importantly, lead from the front and set the example for everyone you lead.
My Advice: Always lead by example and inspire people to do the right thing, by following your own personal example. Stay in shape, maintain a good military bearing, and be a good Soldier, officer, and leader.
# 6: Leader Development
One of the important Army Platoon Leader duties includes Soldier and leader development. It’s your job to help grow and develop future Army leaders. You need to ensure your Soldiers are mentored and developed properly, so they are prepared for increased responsibility in the Army. You do this through counseling, coaching, training, and one-on-one mentorship. You don’t do a lot of the mentoring yourself (because you don’t have much experience) but you do have a supervisory role to ensure your NCOs are developing their Soldiers.
You also need to ensure your Soldiers get the required NCOES and professional development schools they need. Spot check the Platoon Sergeant from time to time and have them keep you updated on the status of each Soldier. If you’re in the loop, you will know about any potential issues that need to be resolved.
My Advice: Work closely with your Platoon Sergeant to ensure each Soldier in your platoon is being mentored and developed for positions of increased responsibility. You don’t have to do it all yourself, but you do need to make sure it gets done.
# 7: Property Accountability
Most Platoon Leaders are responsible for several million dollars worth of Army equipment, and sometimes much more than that. This includes vehicles, sensitive items, radios, and office equipment.
They typically “sign” for this equipment and must maintain accountability for it at all times. This means they conduct inventories, reconcile inventory reports, do inspections, and are held accountable for missing and damaged equipment.
My Advice: Educate yourself about Army inventories. Talk with the Supply Sergeant, Battalion S4, and Property Book Officer to seek knowledge. Learn everything you can. Never sign for anything unless you have physically touched it and inspected it.
# 8: Unit Maintenance
Platoon Leaders are responsible for the operational readiness of their platoon’s equipment. They must adequately maintain their equipment to ensure it is ready to deploy at moment’s notice.
This includes PMCS, scheduled maintenance, unscheduled maintenance, and services. Maintenance must be done on vehicles, radio equipment, weapons, and much more, on an ongoing basis. The Platoon Leader oversees the platoon’s maintenance program. They work closely with the Shop Officer and Motor Sergeant.
My Advice: Educate yourself about Army maintenance. Read your Unit’s Maintenance SOP. Develop a good relationship with the Battalion Maintenance Officer and Shop Officer. They are a valuable resource you can leverage and learn a lot from.
# 9: Soldier Readiness
Platoon Leaders ensure their Soldiers are ready to deploy at moment’s notice. This includes physical fitness, medical readiness, weapons qualification, profiles, etc.
Platoon Leaders work closely with their Platoon Sergeant to manage their Soldiers on an individual basis and know the strengths, weaknesses, and shortcomings of each Soldier. They ensure their Soldiers are physically and mentally prepared for combat.
The only way to make this happen is to work closely with the NCOs in your platoon. They should be managing most of this. Your job is to supervise and spot check and fix any issues that are brought to your attention.
My Advice: Keep your leader’s book updated and always know the status and issues of all of your Soldiers on an individual basis.
# 9: Administration
As a Platoon Leader, you will handle lots of paperwork. It isn’t fun, but it’s an important part of the job. You will type up reports, operational orders, awards, evaluation reports, disciplinary items, and countless other things. Handle your paperwork promptly. Do it right the first time. Be organized and never keep one of your subordinates waiting on you for a signature.
My Advice: Pay attention to the details. Verify everything you sign. Be prompt and punctual with paperwork.
# 10: Mission Planning
One of the biggest responsibilities of the Army Platoon Leader is to conduct mission planning. Whenever given a mission order from their higher headquarters (the Company Commander), the Platoon Leaders conduct mission analysis and use the Troop Leading Procedures to come up with a game-plan for their platoon.
They take their game-plan and finalize it in an operations order, which they then disseminate to their platoon. This is a LARGE part of their job, planning for upcoming missions. Their role is similar to that of the Captain of a ship. They pick the destination, make a plan, and map out the route, but the crew does the rowing.
My Advice: Put serious time and effort into coming up with solid mission plans for your platoon. No plan will ever be perfect. Utilize the 1/3-2/3 rule whenever possible, to give your subordinates enough time to execute the plan.
Sample Platoon Leader Job Description
Here is a sample Platoon Leader Job Description, from one of my old OERs:
Serves as the Ground Support Equipment (GSE) Platoon Leader in a Direct Support (DS) Maintenance Company assigned to a Forward Support Battalion part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Responsible for providing DS repair for Land Combat Systems, Electronic Maintenance Systems and Engineer Support Systems. Responsible for the health, welfare, morale and training for 60 Soldiers. Also responsible for MTOE equipment valued in excess of $6 million. Additional duty areas are AER Officer and Supply Officer.
Common Mistakes Platoon Leaders Make
What you will see below are the “most common” mistakes Platoon Leaders make. These are things I did wrong when I was a Platoon Leader, plus things I’ve learned throughout my career by watching others and talking with other Platoon Leaders.
It starts with poor delegation of duties. A lot of green “butter-bars” do not understand the importance of delegation or they think because they are in charge they can tell people what to do, but that is not delegation. Delegation is an important aspect of the job as a Platoon Leader and you must understand what needs delegated, when, and to whom you should delegate to. As Andrew Carnegie once said, “No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”
Negligent Oversight of Team Members
Along with poor delegation of duties, new PLs often fail to oversee the execution of those duties. Letting everything slide. You can delegate authority and tasks, but you can never delegate responsibility for delegating a task to someone else. If you picked the right Soldier, fine, but if you picked the wrong Soldier, the responsibility is yours, not his for the success and failure of your Platoon. Just because you have delegated a task, doesn’t mean you wash your hands of it. You must provide the required oversight and control to ensure that things are accomplished to standard and within your intent.
Failure to Inform Leaders of Shortcomings
Many PLs remain absolutely clueless right up to the end which is reflective of their own leadership shortcomings. Why struggle that long? Shortcomings are not like wine, they do not get better with time. If you don’t know something…ask! Suck up your ego and realize that as a 2LT, yes, you are a Commissioned Officer, but you are still learning the ropes. Take advantage of that, because later in your career there will not be much leeway for not knowing.
Fostering of a Negative Environment
Some PLs sour the atmosphere for everyone in the Platoon. This is a little difficult to explain without possibly offending anyone, but…some people were just not born to be a Platoon Leader. Sure, you graduated college and earned your Commission, but perhaps you’d be better off preparing slideshows and writing memos. Soldiers will pick up on this very quickly and will begin to assess whether you belong or not. My tip…from day one, act like you belong there!
Leaving things to the last minute is never a good idea, and most PL’s fail to use the time available to them now to ensure that things get done. I see this time and time again. Whether it be from ignorance (not really knowing what your job is) or pure laziness, PLs with bad reps are the ones who are not proactive and getting things done. For example, you may have some Platoons who hand in their NCOERs weeks before they are due…and you have those who struggle to get them in even after they’re due.
Assuming Unrealistic Responsibilities
Most accept the promotion knowing that they have no experience or qualifications, and really no right to be a Leader of Soldiers. Oftentimes they accept responsibility for the things that they don’t know first thing about! Understanding your realistic expectations is always a good idea as a new PL. Spend a good amount of time truly understanding what your job is as a Platoon Leader before you walk into your first drill weekend thinking you know what it is all about…
Letting Soldiers Dictate Your Actions
Some PLs have no idea what to do when things don’t go right, and come up with a bad plan because of pressure and irresponsible behavior on the part of his Soldiers. A strong Leader would realize that even if your Soldiers think it’s a good idea, doesn’t mean it is. In fact, some Soldiers want to see you fail. While it is always a good idea to consult with your Platoon Sergeant, never let your other Soldiers start calling the shots. You are the Platoon Leader.
Poorly Executing Bad Ideas
If all you have is a bad plan, you better execute it well. Reality most times is that PLs have some bad plans and this becomes even worse when they execute poorly. I don’t know if it is a lack of confidence or overthinking what you are doing, but PL’s often “make simple sh*t hard”. To me, there is not remedy for this other than to know that as a new PL you will be susceptible to this and you need to learn as much as your can as to be confident and develop good plans.
Trying to Be Buddy Buddy with Their Soldiers
You are not your Soldiers’ friend! You are their leader. Maintain the barrier and do not try to become friends with the people you lead. It always backfires. Do not go out drinking with your NCOs and Soldiers. Spend your free time alone, with your family, or hang out with the other Lieutenants.
Blaming Other People for Leadership Failings
In the end PL, you have no one else to blame but yourself, and trying to put the blame on others in front of everyone only makes it worse! A leader must accept responsibility for the failings of their team. After all, with every failure (which is going to happen) comes the opportunity to learn and grow. Take it for what it is worth and move on. Blaming others will only make your life more difficult.
This is not a complete, ends-all list for the Army Platoon Leader duties and job description, but this gives you a fairly good idea about what to expect as a new Army Platoon Leader. The type of unit you are assigned to, and your boss, will influence what you do on a daily basis.
Simply put, serving as an Army Platoon Leader is a great job. You will learn so much about yourself, your strengths, your natural talents and abilities, and your own military leadership style.
If you would like to read about my own Platoon Leader experience, read my post about my Ground Support Equipment Platoon Leader experience or my Supply Support Activity Platoon Leader experience. I think you will enjoy these two posts.
What are your thoughts? What do you think are the most important Army Platoon Leader duties and responsibilities? Leave a comment below and let us know. I look forward to hearing from you.
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