The Role of the Platoon Leader on the Battlefield

Guest Post by James “Scoat” Wainscoat

The number one reason for the existence of the military is National Security: keeping the bad guys from kicking our butts on our own dung hill. To accomplish this, we find ourselves taking the fight to their dung hill. In the fight (combat) the integrity of the fighting unit is the difference between winning and losing.

A fighting force with the up most integrity can be overwhelmed by a superior force due to poor intelligence, challenging terrain, and other factors. If they fight with honor, demonstrate courage, and have the camaraderie to lay down one’s life if necessary for a brother warrior; then the unit has the highest integrity and will win no matter what.

I believe that the Platoon Leader is the most important position in maintaining this integrity. Anyone who has ever been in close combat knows that the knowledge of what is expected in any given situation come directly from the Platoon Leader (PL). To the degree that the Platoon Leader has instilled this sense of honor and integrity in his men; to that degree they will perform.

When a situation arises (as it almost always does) that is not found in the books; it is not time to just back off.  The PL leads, and the team follows. If honor and integrity are with the unit; no matter what the circumstances or outcome of the situation; Brotherhood, honor and integrity will bring the unit home safely.

We who have fought the good fight with honor and integrity know what it is to carry this with you over forty years later, and will do so to the grave. These were situations that only the Platoon Leader could make the right call, honorably with integrity.  A situation that those who followed, could only do so because of the upstanding warrior that their Platoon Leader was.  Hooah to those who lead with honor and integrity.


This post was authored by James “Scoat” Wainscoat. Response

Great post, Scoat.  I’ve always believed that Officers prove their worth on the battlefield, not in a garrison environment.  While NCOs and Soldiers have a critical role in garrison and in combat, it is the Officer, the tactician that has the biggest impact on the battlefield.

Since Platoons are the units that seal the fate of our Army, I have to agree with you that the Platoon Leader has a very important role on the battlefield.  Of course, I would be foolish to say that he does not need his Soldiers and NCOs to reach his objectives.  Nor is the Platoon Leader the only factor that matters in combat.  Good equipment, proper training, discipline, and sometimes luck can influence what happens on the battlefield.

A tactically proficient officer (PL or any position) can take a bunch of misfits and transform them into warriors that are victorious on the battlefield.  And a bad officer can get a bunch of highly trained warriors killed in a matter of minutes.  And when you combine a tactically proficient Officer with a hard nosed and experienced NCO, beautiful things can happen in combat!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with our community, Scoat.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “The Role of the Platoon Leader on the Battlefield”

  1. Integrity is caring enough for any excellent cause which often requires fighting with honor, demonstrating courage, and sharing the intense camaraderie of be willing to lay down one’s life for a compadre. There is a sense of awe at the depth of this type of dedication and integrity. The Platoon Leader chooses the tactics and if with great integrity, his soldiers will do anything for him and for each other to reach the goal.

  2. Neil O'Donnell

    A Platoon Leader’s presence has a powerful effect on personnel. No doubt NCOs and other platoon members can have a significant impact on the battlefield, but decisions made and actions taken by the Platoon Leader carry a heavy weight. Bad decisions or displaying a look of defeat on the part of a Platoon Leader could lead to the deaths of many. Conversely, a Platoon Leader standing in the thick of a fight and showing defiance and courage against overwhelming odds could lead the platoon to an unexpected victory.

    1. The PL runs the battlefield. That is the true purpose of any officer: to lead troops in combat. Of course, the NCOs are executing the Platoon Leader’s orders, but a good Platoon Leader will make a huge, positive impact in combat situations.

  3. The Platoon Leader has to be ready for all things at all times. I think that is the most challenging part of the position. It is paramount that the P.L shows no sign of being frazzled or overcome.

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