Tips and Career Advice for Army Lieutenant Colonels

Today, I want to share some tips and career advice for Army Lieutenant Colonels.  These are some things you should do once you reach the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  Although I was only a Major before I resigned, I have lots of friends who are Lieutenant Colonels and higher. The information below came from their responses when I asked them for career advice for other Lieutenant Colonels.  Enjoy!

# 1 Update/Finish Your Career Plan

The first thing you should do when you reach the rank of Lieutenant Colonel is to update and finish your career plan.  Many officers retire at this rank, so that might be an option.  You really want to spend some time and decide whether you plan on staying in, retiring, transitioning to a contractor, etc.  It would be a good time to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse or significant other.  If you plan on retiring, it would be a good time to determine a date, or approximate date, and then start doing your backwards planning.   If you plan on staying in and continuing your military service, the tips below will help you!

# 2 Map Out Your Time as a LTC

If you plan on staying in the Army, now would be a good time to map out your time as a LTC.  In most cases, you are going to spend five or six years as a Lieutenant Colonel before you get promoted to the rank of Colonel.  During those five to six years, you need to complete the Army War College and Battalion Command.  Those are the two big things you need to do.  You want to come up with some type of game plan to do that.  You also want to identify what other jobs you want and need so you can add that to your game plan.  I suggest you take out a piece of paper and draw five columns on it.  Put a year one in the first column, year two in the second column and so forth.  After you do that, write down the things you need and want to accomplish each year.  This will be your road map.

# 3 Get a Brigade XO Job Before Battalion Command

If you plan on continuing your service, I would highly recommend you try to get a job as a Brigade XO before you apply for a Battalion Command position.  This will give you some great insight on how a battalion operates within a brigade.  It will also teach you how a brigade operates within a division.  You’ll also get to network with other Battalion and Brigade Commanders.  I personally believe this is a very important job to have before Battalion Command.  Ideally, you want to spend 9-18 months in this job until the battalion you want to command opens up.

# 4 Don’t Just Take Any Battalion Command

Some people will disagree or argue with this advice.  I don’t care.  I don’t believe you should just take any battalion you are given.  You should know which battalion you want to command, or which type of battalion you want to command and seek it out!  Be proactive.  Look at the different opportunities you could have and pick the one that you are most passionate about and best qualified for.

# 5 Complete the Army War College as Soon as Possible

You don’t have to complete the Army War College as a Lieutenant Colonel, but it definitely helps if you do!  This will give you a slight edge over your peers who haven’t done it yet.  I would suggest doing this BEFORE you apply for Battalion Command.  Spend the first 12-24 months as a Lieutenant Colonel completing the Army War College.  Reserve and National Guard Lieutenant Colonels can do this via distance learning.

# 6 Start Networking with Some Senior Colonels and Generals

Another smart thing to do as a Lieutenant Colonel is to EXPAND your network.  You really want to spend some quality time with the key leaders in your organization and state.  Seek out the movers and shakers, the Colonels and Generals who are influential and know people.  Get to know them.  Show them what you have to offer and show them that you are technically and tactically proficient (assuming you are) and worthy of Battalion Command and future promotions.  These relationships will help you later on down the road if you are trying to get promoted to Colonel or Brigadier General.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  This is my best career advice and tips for Army Lieutenant Colonels.  I would love to know what you think. If you are/were a Lieutenant Colonel please share any tips you might have.  Just leave a comment below to do so.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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6 thoughts on “Tips and Career Advice for Army Lieutenant Colonels”

  1. I am in firm agreement with getting the Army War College finished at this level of your career. It will give you a jump ahead of many other officers. Having the Army War College under your belt can also be a huge factor even if you decide to retire.

    Great post Chuck!

  2. Although I was never an Army Lieutenant Colonel I will agree with the points in the blog. When you reach a rank, or preferably before you do, you should have a plan for schools you need to attend, goals you want to accomplish and where you want this current assignment to lead to.
    Regardless of rank you should always know what you need to do to complete your job and be prepared for advancement.

    1. I agree, Jeff. Both Officers and Enlisted should have a game plan and know what they need to do to reach the next rank. They should also put some thought into their career goals.

  3. This is all very good advice. A lot of it boils down to the basics: you need have goals and a plan, and put it in writing. This way, you are holding yourself accountable and (hopefully) on target, whether someone else is or not. And network: build those relationships that you need to get ahead (or at least keep afloat) in any career. Be generous with your time and attention, and others will do the same for you.

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