Every successful Platoon Leader knows that while he may be “in charge” his Platoon Sergeant is the one running the show. The Platoon Leader-Platoon Sergeant relationship can be likened to an arranged marriage. We may not get to choose the relationship, but we sure do have to make it work not only for the sake of our Soldiers but for the Company as well. This relationship is more of a mentorship than anything, as a relatively inexperienced Commissioned Officer is leading with a seasoned Noncommissioned Officer which oftentimes creates bumps and challenges along the way. However, smart PLs know that the best way to lead is through your NCOs.
Recently I had the undesirable experience of losing my Platoon Sergeant, SFC Feagley. Transitioning from an ADOS position to an AGR job, he was forced to leave our unit. We worked well together and immediately created a close, effective working relationship which was evident through the success of our MGS (Mobile Gun System) crews across the Brigade. As the reality of his leaving set in, I began to reflect on the things that he taught me in our short time together. I would like to share them with you to shed light on the diversity and significance of the Platoon Leader-Platoon Sergeant relationship.
1. Trusting my subordinates. I am a very hands-on type of person. Regretfully, I always feel that the best way to get something done is to do it myself. My Platoon Sergeant changed that bad quality in me. Through his leadership as an NCO and our working relationship, I was able to see that our Soldiers were very capable of completing any task given they were provided a clear task and purpose.
2. How to talk to other leaders, Soldiers and make suggestions. The personality differences between myself and my Platoon Sergeant were like night and day. I am a very outspoken, abrasive type of person. I often speak well before I think and wear my true emotions on my sleeve. My Platoon Sergeant was a very calm, relaxed person. He had a much softer approach with other Soldiers and NCOs. While I often argued and put my foot down, he was behind the scenes smoothing over what I ripped up. After a while, I began to see that his approach was much more effective and I began to mirror his approach. He truly had an influence on how I handle Soldiers now as a seasoned Lieutenant.
3. Training and taking care of Soldiers. One thing that my Platoon Sergeant could agree on was the importance of training. The only other priority that superseded our training was our commitment to our Soldiers. While this was a trait that I believe I already had going into my new position, it was something that was strongly reinforced through my Platoon Sergeant. Having the mutual focus, understanding and support in this aspect truly helped shape me a leader.
4. That people are always watching always! My Platoon Sergeant’s ADOS position was serving at the Division level where he rubbed shoulders with some high brass daily. These Senior Officers knew exactly what unit he belonged to, what his MOS was and more importantly, who his Platoon Leader was! During our last gunnery, my Platoon Sergeant and I were tasked as the Battalion NCOIC and OIC. At the conclusion of gunnery, the crew scores from our Battalion were far superior to those of the other Battalions. The next week, he was questioned extensively about this. They wanted to know how and why our crews were so successful versus the others in the Brigade. When my Platoon Sergeant informed me of this I began to realize that there is someone always watching and interested in what you are doing…always. Realizing this made me want to continue to strive for excellence.
FINAL THOUGHTS: For better or worse, a Platoon Leader’s experience with their Platoon Sergeants (and vice versa) affect their Platoons and shape their attitudes towards other NCOs, Officers and the Army as a whole. A base understanding of the duties and responsibilities of each person will set the stage for a successful working relationship. It is important to understand that even though you are the boss, your Platoon Sergeant is in charge and there is much you can learn from them. Do my thoughts ring true to your experience?
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. Thank you.