As an XO you will inevitably work with and coordinate maintenance efforts with your Battalion’s FMS/CRT Maintenance team. These are the folks who are tasked with keeping your vehicles and equipment mission capable through their skilled mechanics and technicians.
While your Soldiers are the first line of defense for ensuring that your vehicles are running smoothly, when things break or mechanical issues cross that -10 Level skill set, it’s time to call in the experts. It is critical that, as XO, you develop and promote a good working relationship with the FMS/CRT folks, especially the shop Chief (Warrant Officer) to ensure success in your job of keeping your vehicles and equipment at the ready.
Here are some tips on how to develop and the finer points of the XO and FMS/CRT Relationship.
I have to say up front that our FMS/CRT Soldiers do a great job servicing our Battalion. They have a difficult job and many vehicles and people to keep happy. That being said, they also have their own objectives and orders that they must follow. Oftentimes, their objectives and priorities won’t align with yours.
My first tip is to see things from their perspective… within reason of course. When budget cuts come or other units have training that supersedes yours, other vehicles will become more important than yours. Sometimes directives from their chain of command limit the work hours they can provide and you aren’t able to give them all of the 20 vehicles you need for services.
Whatever the situation might be, always try to understand their perspective before getting upset with them and possibly tarnishing your relationship with them…this is a lesson learned from experience. Don’t make that mistake.
On the flip side of that coin, work with your Battalion XO in conjunction with the FMS/CRT. Most CRT/FMS sections are headed up by a CW2 or CW3 who may or may not be easy to work with due to the WO and Officer dynamic (especially as a young 1LT). Thankfully your BTN XO is a Major with a lot more leverage. Not saying that you should use him/her to fight your battles, but work on developing a close, unified relationship with your BTN XO so that issues can be worked collectively with the CRT/FMS Warrant Officers. There will always be variances in opinions across the board, but chances are if all three leaders are working together, the best possible outcome will be reached.
I cannot stress this enough but talk with your FMS/CRT and FTUS personnel at least once a week. Most of the time, your FMS/CRT personnel are AGR or fulltime technicians who are working around the clock on the maintenance of the Battalion. A lot happens while you are at your M-Day job; vehicles are moved, equipment is delivered, etc. and without that situational awareness it is hard to do your end of the job.
Personally, I email our CRT Chief at least every other day (HHC has a lot of vehicles and equipment so you may not have to touch base nearly as much in a regular line Company). This open communication also builds a relationship. Just talking with Chief B. weekly I learn how he does business and understand what I need to do to make sure my vehicles are taken care of.
Lastly, as important as it is at the Troop level to get out in the motorpool and get your hands dirty, it is equally importantly to be actively involved in maintenance activities with CRT/FMS. Biggest reason behind this tip is you will learn things that will help you as XO. Little inside tips and technical insight can go a long way in maintaining your vehicles. I know that everytime I crawl under a vehicle with a CRT mechanic I am going to learn something new.
Secondly, being involved will earn you some credibility with these folks. There is something about seeing an Officer being involved and doing “Soldier work” that instantly makes Soldiers want to do all they can for you. Trust me, this credibility is important…earn it.
I hope you enjoyed my tips for building a good relationship with your FMS/CRT. There are plenty of other tips out there from XOs and other maintenance experts, but personally these have helped me thus far. What about you? How did you build a relationship with your maintenance personnel and leaders? Feel free to share!