The Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant Relationship is a beautiful thing when it works right.
A long time ago, the Army realized that all new Platoon Leaders needed a seasoned Platoon Sergeant to learn from.
And that’s how the Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant relationship started.
When a new Army Officer assumes the duties as a Platoon Leader, they have very little experience.
In fact, most new Platoon Leaders have zero military and zero management experience.
Most new Platoon Leaders recently finished their Basic Officer Leadership Course and were just assigned as new Platoon Leaders.
Therefore, they have no clue about what they are supposed to do.
On the other hand, the Platoon Sergeant usually has somewhere between 10-16 years of military experience.
Most Platoon Sergeants even have combat experience.
In the Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant relationship, the Platoon Sergeant is the teacher and the Platoon Leader is the student.
Although they work hand-in-hand as a team, the Platoon Sergeant typically runs the day-to-day activities of the platoon.
They also handle the individual training, Soldier discipline and Soldier issues.
On the other hand, the Platoon Leader is responsible for the collective training of the platoon.
The Platoon Leader writes OPORDs, holds meetings, prepares correspondence, and is the formal leader of the platoon.
The are also responsible for mission planning.
They are ultimately responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen in the platoon.
Technically, the Platoon Leader is in charge.
But anyone that’s served in this capacity before quickly realizes that the Platoon Sergeant is normally the one running the show.
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Most new Second Lieutenants serve as Platoon Leaders for 9-18 months.
During this time they are expected to learn many valuable lessons.
Some of these lessons include:
- Situational Leadership
- Battle Drills
- Mission Planning
- Army Customs, Courtesies and Traditions
- Readiness Indicators
- Leader Development
- Career Planning
- And so much more!
Most importantly, they learn small unit leadership.
They get experience leading NCOs and Soldiers in a tactical environment.
And, that is what the Army is all about.
Some of this experience comes through trial and error.
Platoon Leaders learn from their mistakes.
However, most Platoon Leaders learn by watching their Platoon Sergeants in action.
In fact, a good Platoon Sergeant will train their Platoon Leader without the Platoon Leader even knowing that they are being trained.
Like I said earlier, it’s a beautiful thing when it works right.
If you are a new Platoon Leader, I can give you some helpful advice for working with your Platoon Sergeant.
These are some of my best tips I learned through trial and error.
1. Show Your Platoon Sergeant Proper Respect: Your Platoon Sergeant is an enlisted Soldier and you are an officer.
You must at all times give your Platoon Sergeant the respect that they are due.
Don’t go by a first name basis.
And, don’t become best friends.
Instead, form a proper professional relationship that is based upon trust and mutual respect.
2. Listen: You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
You should do twice as much listening as you do talking.
Process what your Platoon Sergeant says.
Even if you disagree, listen!
Ask for their input whenever you can.
3. Be Humble: That’s right.
This was my biggest challenge as a new Platoon Leader.
Remember, you don’t know it all.
And, you’re not supposed too!
Admit to your Platoon Sergeant that you are not a know it all.
Tell them that you want to learn.
They will respect you for that.
4. Be Confident and Be Decisive!
Walk with your head up.
Work on your posture.
Look people in the eye when you talk to them.
When you shake hands, have a firm grip.
When time permits, seek input from your Platoon Sergeant before you make a major decision.
5. Work as a Team: Your mission and your Soldiers must be your top priority.
You must put those two things first.
To make life simple, use formal counseling to clearly identify each others’ roles within the platoon.
That way, you can work smart.
6. Put Your Personality Differences Aside: Personality differences are irrelevant.
What’s most important is your mission and your Soldiers.
Agree to disagree when you need to.
Even if you are both a “Type A” personality you can make things work.
7. Lead By Example: Always lead by example.
Realize your Platoon Sergeant and your subordinates are always watching you.
Live by the Army values and don’t try to become buddy-buddy with your NCOs or Soldiers.
You are their leader, not their friend.
8. Don’t Blindly Follow Your Platoon Sergeant: That’s right.
Don’t blindly follow anyone.
Assess their capabilities and performance.
Test their knowledge.
When possible, seek your Platoon Sergeant’s input, but make your own decisions.
That’s why you are the Platoon Leader.
9. Encourage Two Way Communication: The Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant must be able to be openly honest with each other without fear of punishment.
If you do something wrong as the Platoon Leader, your Platoon Sergeant should be able to pull you behind closed doors and talk to you openly.
And, if your Platoon Sergeant does something wrong, you should do the same thing for them.
10. Always Support Each Other in Front of Your Troops: Never undermine each other in front of your troops.
Always support each others’ decisions.
If you have differences, work them out behind closed doors.
In summary, the impact a good Platoon Sergeant can have on their Platoon Leader will last a lifetime.
The Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant relationship is the foundation for an officer’s future military success.
In my nearly 16 years of military service, I’ve yet to meet another officer (at any rank) who couldn’t tell you the names of their first Platoon Sergeant.
I’ll never forget my Platoon Sergeants, SSG Drain, SSG Shin and SFC Luna.
Thank you for teaching me what right looks like.
How about you?
What tips can you offer for an effective Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant relationship?
We would like to hear from you if you were in either position.
Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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