Tips to Prepare for Command

Before you take the guidon, you need to mentally prepare for command. Company Command is a huge responsibility. It requires a mentally tough person, capable of leading Soldiers in a high stress environment; potentially in combat.

Most military officer timelines include a season on brigade or battalion staff before command; that is the ideal time to initiate your preparation. Starting to think about and prepare for command during your change of command inventories is too late; by then, you will be quickly overwhelmed with property accountability, learning the company’s systems, meeting your troops, and the daily demands of a commander. ~ 3×5 Leadership

Tips to prepare for command

Here are a few things you can do to prepare for command success:

Prepare For Command Tip 1: Know What to Expect

Please understand that your new leadership position will require a great deal of personal sacrifice. This includes your personal time and even some family time. Be prepared to put your personal agenda on hold for 18-36 months. This will help you prepare for command. In addition, be prepared for some stress, tough decisions, and time commitments.

Prepare For Command Tip 2: Develop a Game Plan

Also known as your command philosophy, your game plan is your vision for the organization. What are your long-term and short-term goals for your unit? What are your priorities? What will be your leadership style? These are all things you should think about before you take charge. Most effective Company Commanders, prepare for command before they take the guidon.

Prepare For Command Tip 3: Reflect on Previous Failures and Successes

By this point in your military career, you should have four to seven years of experience if not more. Spend some time reflecting on previous jobs. What worked well for you in the past? What didn’t? Evaluate your past experiences. Reflect on your experiences. Strive to find ways to turn your past experiences (whether good or bad) into future successes.

Prepare For Command Tip 4: Be Prepared to Start Strong

When you first take the guidon, it’s much easier to start strong and tone down a bit later on (after 9-18 months) than it is to start easy and then switch to hardcore.

Prepare For Command Tip 5: Talk with Former Company Commanders

Take a former Company Commander out to lunch. Make a list of questions you have beforehand, and ask your questions during lunch. Also, you should take the current Company Commander out to lunch and pick his or her brain for a couple hours.

Tips to prepare for command

Prepare For Command Tip 6: Read

Prior to taking command, you should read several Company Command themed books. Some of my favorites include: “Taking the Guidon,” “Small Unit Leadership” and “Company Command: The Bottom Line.”These books will give you great tips and insight on how to succeed as a company commander.

You should now have a very good feel for your unit. The next major step is to determine where you want to go. Your commander will have some ideas (philosophically as well as via the QTB) on what you should accomplish. There are two approaches: no changes for the first thirty days (sit back and watch approach) and changes within the first hour. This is totally up to you. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. My view is that this is your unit, and your company directly reflects you. You are responsible for everything, good, bad, right, or wrong from the moment that you take command. If you are uncomfortable with a policy or procedure, then change it. ~ Military Intelligence

In summary, all incoming commanders need to prepare for command. The secret to success is preparation. If you fail to plan you are planning to fail. You can position yourself for success by following the steps outlined in this article. Whatever you do, prepare for command!

Do you have any questions? Any comments? Please post them below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “Tips to Prepare for Command”

  1. Definitely pick the brains of current and past commanders if you have access to them. Even if you only get a few tips it could save you weeks or months it would have taken you to learn these skills.

    Goals, goals, goals. Have goals. Short term, long term, personal and unit goals. You can't measure success if you don't even know what your trying to do.

  2. Great tips Chuck! I believe a person getting ready to take a command position does need to be prepared. I believe that talking with past commanders is super important. Find one that will mentor you and share his/her knowledge with you. As you know Chuck, I am in huge agreement with reading. Find books and manuals to read, and devout some time each day to read several chapters. Reading is a great way to learn!

  3. Katelyn Hensel

    I can believe that preparing for command has to be a pretty daunting experience, and one not for the weak of heart or mind. I would expect the potential officer to have done their research extensively before they even thought to start making the attempt. I especially love your step number 3. If a soldier is at the point in their life when they are considering leadership, they should have a wealth of experience under their belts, both good and bad. If they are able to learn from the bad experiences then I can bet they will be an excellent candidate for leadership.

    1. Most Company Commanders don’t do a very good job preparing for Company Command. Instead, they wing it. I truly believe you should put in some time to draft up your command philosophy and determine what you want to accomplish personally and professionally. You should read some books, talk to other current and former Company Commanders, interview the current commander, make a list of questions and do whatever else you can to prepare for command. All of these things will pay huge dividends when you take the guidon.


  4. People can learn to become good leaders and take on leadership positions and you have some great tips here. Reflecting on past successes and failures is critical for leadership growth. Networking and learning from others, such as Company Commanders is also great advice. Having a network to bounce ideas and situations off of is invaluable for an excellent leader.

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