Our unit Readiness NCO is an E-7 with a lot of time and grade in his boots. He has served Active Duty, National Guard, is a Ranger, rocks lots of chest candy and is one of the best NCOs in our Brigade. Ever since I have joined our unit, he has been a mentor to me and I strive to achieve his level of expertise and leadership. Now, as an Officer, I feel a different mentorship relationship with him as he is not a fan of “OCCIFERS”, as he likes to call them.
Being a prior NCO myself, I totally feel his pain. Many NCOs feel this way. There is something about Officers that really strike a cord with many NCOs and irritates them and makes them shake their heads in disgust. The day I Commissioned, I gathered up my own personal perspective from when I was an NCO and some tips from SFC Wicks on how to be a good Officer and not one that NCOs despise. Here are my Top 5 Tips for Army Officers:
1. Don’t Be a Douchebag. Ok, now I know I have your attention and you’re probably like, “There is no way that is me…” but I assure you, you might be! What I mean by don’t be a douchebag is, do not treat people like their job is to serve you, amuse you or accelerate your career. Don’t come rolling into a Platoon or assume Command and act like a hard-ass just for the sake of projecting some hard-ass ego.
The very first thing I learned about leadership from the NCO corps is that the foundation of leadership is integrity and a love for your Soldiers. Everyone has their own “leadership style” but at the end of the day, it has to be founded on doing the best for your Soldiers, not yourself. We’re all going to be civilians someday, no matter how much you love the military or how long you serve. Years from now, the fact that you made Colonel or Sergeant Major won’t erase the fact that you threw some unsuspecting subordinate under the bus to avoid punishment, and it certainly won’t remove a stupid decision you made based on pressure from above that got someone killed or injured. Every leader I’ve ever respected has been willing to stand in the line of fire when it mattered. If you’re not willing to do this for your people, be honest with yourself and quit. Join corporate America – you’ll just annoy people, not get them killed, and you’ll make more money. Everyone wins.
2. Be Good at Your Job: Every day you should be working your butt off to be technically and tactically skilled… not just proficient – you need to be better than that! You should be asking questions, reading, practicing, and training. You can be a super-nice guy who loves your Soldiers, but if you don’t know how to train them, lead them, and they aren’t ready for combat, you are a colossal failure. If you look deep inside, you’ll know the truth of where you are in this regard. I can’t tell you how many times an E-5 has sat in silence shaking his head during a PL’s OPORD briefing in shear amazement in his leader’s incompetence and frustration that “this dude actually gets paid more than me…”
3. You’re NOT the Smartest Guy in the Unit: Look, you are an Officer, but you are not the best and the brightest dude standing around just because you have some brass. You’re not in charge because you’re the smartest or most talented or anything else – you’re in charge because you signed up to be an Officer. Don’t act superior, because you aren’t – just do your job. This tip goes back to Point #1: DON’T BE A DOUCHEBAG under the pretense that you are better than everyone else…especially your NCOs. Those NCOs have years and years of practical experience that, in some cases, trump all the doctrine and shit you think you know. I still see it in the Officer Corps as well… CPTs who outrank me refuse to listen to things I have to say because…well, what do I know? I am just an LT, not a CPT.
4. It is Not YOUR Unit…But, it Kinda is…: You may be a new PL or a new Company Commander, it really doesn’t matter, but one thing you don’t do as an Officer is act like the unit you are in charge of is “yours”. What do I mean by that? Well, if you have been a PL you know that while you are the “boss” your PSG is really the one running the show. Your job is to learn from him and ensure that you are there in moments where the Platoon needs your judgment and guidance. I know, only the Army could create such a situation, but it is the nature of the Army. The quicker you understand that you are “in charge” but you aren’t “in charge” the better off you will be and the more successful you will be. Many will disagree with this tip, but I assure you that I only write this based on experience. The best thing you can do is show up, day #1 and say to your senior NCOs, “Hey, I am CPT Soandso, and I am pleased to be the Commander of YOUR Unit for the next year or so. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you guys and do what I can for you.”
5. Never Quit….EVER! Look, your Soldiers will watch every single thing you do. They are extremely aware of you and what you do. They are constantly watching. But, this doesn’t mean that they expect perfection…some may, but for the most part they don’t. You don’t have to be the fastest runner or do the most push-ups or whatever…but you better not ever, ever, EVER! Let them see you quit or give up under pressure. The second you do this, you might as well hang it up. Seriously. I had a Commander who was smart, quick witted and everything on the exterior seemed like he was a squared away dude. We took a PT test and on his run, he quit, walked the last lap or so. Then, the NCOIC wrote on his PT card that he had “PASSED” and wrote a bogus time. It was that second that I lost every ounce of respect for that Officer. No integrity or guts. Your Soldiers depend on you to be that example of never quit and to push them beyond their own perceived limits. Can’t do that if you can’t even do it yourself!
These are my top 5 tips for Army Officers. Follow this advice and you should have a very successful career. Break these rules and you will fail as a leader! What are your thoughts? What are your best tips for Army Officers? Leave a comment and let us know.