Top 10 Career Advice and Tips for Army Captains

In today’s post, I would like to share some career advice and tips for Army Captains.  These are things you can do to get the jobs you want, have a successful career and develop your leadership skills.  Please keep in mind that this advice is geared toward USAR and ARNG Captains, but can also help Active Duty Army Captains.

1.  Stay at the Battalion Level

As I see it, Army Captains should do everything in their willpower to always be at the battalion level or lower.  There’s really no need to go to a job at Brigade, Division or at the state level.  You can do that later on in your career.  Ideally, you want to spend some time on battalion staff while you wait for a command position to open up.

2. Choose the Right Jobs

What are the right jobs for an Army Captain?  If I had to choose an order, it would be this: Primary Battalion Staff Officer, Company Commander, and then either a TAC Officer, Instructor or Aide de Camp.  As I see it, not all jobs are created equal.  Ideally, you want to work in MTOE units and you want to follow the sequence I just shared with you.

3. Complete Your Captains’ Career Course and Pre-Command Course ASAP

Finish your Captain’s Career Course and Pre Command Course NLT 12 months time in grade as a Captain.  The sooner you can finish the schools the more opportunities you will have presented to you. Don’t miss out on Company Command or promotion to Major because you didn’t get the schools you need.

4.  Read a Book a Month

I think it’s important to read on a regular basis.  Leaders are readers and readers are leaders.  Read MINIMUM one book a month on military history, leadership, communication, tactics, problem solving or conflict resolution.  Reading will sharpen your skills and help prepare you for success.

5. Subscribe to Professional Publications and Join Associations

As a Captain, you should subscribe to a few professional publications such as the Army Times, your Officer Branch Association, the Military Officer Association, the ARNG or USAR Association, and your Division’s Association.  Joining these associations and reading these publications will give you insider knowledge and also show your SUPERIORS that you are serious about your career.  I think it’s money well spent.

6. Start Networking Outside of Your Unit

As a Captain, you really need to build your network outside of your unit.  Now is a great time to connect with Field Grade Officers and NCOs outside of your unit.  You can do this through formal events and associations.  Don’t be scared to stick out your hand and introduce yourself to others.  Focus on meeting people with influence within your organization.  Connect with senior leaders and with the up and coming movers and shakers.

7. Know When to Take Company Command

I’ve always believed that you should know which unit, or which type of unit you want to command.  Have a game-plan.  I think it’s best to take command after you’ve finished 12 to 18 months as a primary Battalion Staff Officer.  I also think it’s best to command a MTOE unit.  Whatever you do, put some thought into.  Research companies in your state, find out when they will open up, and come up with a game plan to get the command you want.  Don’t be a slacker and just accept any command.

8. Know Your Timeline and Minimum Time in Grade

As of 2013, the minimum time in grade for Captains is four years, before you are eligible for promotion to Major.  During those four years you need to finish your Captain’s Career Course and have a successful 12-24 month Company Command.  Those are the big things you have to do.  Make sure you finish your time in Company Command BEFORE you hit the four year mark as a Captain, so you can get promoted at minimum time in grade.

9.  Educate Yourself on Vacancy Promotions

In the ARNG we have vacancy promotions.  These are a wonderful thing, once you understand how they work.  You have the chance to get promoted 1-2 years ahead of your USAR and Active Duty Captain counterparts.  Sit down with your S1 or Rater and find out how they work, so you can position yourself for success.

10. Make Your Career Decision!

Usually, at the rank of Captain is when people decide they will make a career of the Army or get out.  Have some conversations with your trusted peers, mentors, and your family and make a decision about what is best for you.  I don’t suggest you get out until you’ve at least been a Company Commander, but that is just my recommendation.  There’s nothing wrong with staying in and nothing wrong with getting out. Decide what’s best for you and your family.

BONUS TIP: As a special bonus tip I would recommend that you find a mentor outside of your unit.  Find someone you respect and trust, who has accomplished what you want to accomplish in the Army, and ask them to be your mentor.  If necessary, pay them. Come up with a schedule of when the two of you can meet (every 90 days is recommended) and ask them questions and get advice.  I believe that having a mentor outside of your chain of command is vital for your career success.

Final Thoughts

In summary, these are my top 10 best career tips and advice for Army Captains serving in the USAR and ARNG.  If you want a successful career, and you want to get promoted to Major and beyond, you need a game-plan.  Following these tips is a great starting point.   What are your thoughts?  What are your best career tips and career advice for Army Captains?  Leave a comment and let us know.

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9 thoughts on “Top 10 Career Advice and Tips for Army Captains”

  1. All of this advice is very good. The point you make is that even though you may want to remain at the battalion level, you are not just treading water, being complacent. Take the time to educate and develop yourself, and form the inner circle that you will rely upon later on in your career (and life). Don’t take big steps until you are truly ready to.

    I agree with Greg’s comments: you should write another book. You clearly have a lot to offer, given all of the great advice in this blog.

  2. Chuck,
    I think #1 and #7 are my favorites. Nobody should want to leave battalion level, before they are a field grade officer! I have zero desire to do that, I would rather walk across coals. That was a little dramatic, but I really don’t want to leave where I am until I need to.
    With #7, a lot of people want to jump into company command too soon. I don’t know of a lot of people that wait too long (unless they just aren’t selected for something). I don’t know what the big rush is, I would rather be more mature and developed before I take command, so I can be better for my Soldiers.

    1. Waiting to take command, and getting some experience under your belt is quit perhaps the best thing you can do as a CPT.

      As far as company grade officers working at echelons above Battalion, I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy.

      1. I agree with you completely! Just the thought makes me start to itch…My operational days are done for the near future, but I am looking forward to more professional development in these other areas.

  3. I agree that when reaching the rank of Captain, it’s put up or shut up time. There is nothing wrong with wanting to go in a different direction and leave the service, if it’s time. It’s better to leave with your record and integrity in tact and use the skills you’ve acquired throughout the years to build a successful civilian career, than to become stagnant and complacent. Losing drive and motivation. Having a friend and mentor outside of your unit is an excellent idea. It’s about perspective and sometimes those on the outside have it when you may be losing it!

  4. Great advice Chuck.

    I really do not have much to add to all the information you passed along here. I will say the part about reading is very important. Early on in life, I found that reading, reading and reading built wisdom, character, and an ability to articulate when conversing with others. Reading about your passion will give you ideas you can use.

    I also want to mention Chuck that in my opinion, with all the great advice you give within this blog, I believe you should publish a book for advice for military commanders. I believe it could be a top seller.

  5. I will say get a secondary area (MOS) asap, do not wait to get to major. The early bird gets the worm!

    1. The early bird does get the worm. The sooner the better, but I wouldn’t do it before I hit Captain. I always tell people to get a different Captain’s Career Course than they had for BOLC. That is probably the easiest way to get a second branch.

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