Top 7 Tips for New Platoon Sergeants

I can still remember how excited I was to make E-7 and become a platoon sergeant. (Well, I had already been doing the job for a bit before I got the promotion, but that’s not exactly rare.) I’d like to think I did a decent job; I know my guys were sad to see me go when I left to take a first sergeant billet—at least that’s what they said. So with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, here are some tips for those about to start rendering the salute when the First Sergeant orders “Platoon Sergeants, take charge of your platoons.”

# 1 Learn to Let Go a Little

I know; it’s hard. As an E-6, I was a Bradley Fighting Vehicle Commander, a Mech Platoon Section Leader, and for plenty of missions in Iraq in 2005, a Patrol Leader. A Squad Leader in a light infantry unit is the one who drives the action—in combat operations the Squad Leaders work for the Platoon Leader, executing his OPORD. Now it’s time to step back, let your E-5s and E-6s run their teams and squads, and do a lot of observing. Take note of the areas in which your NCOs need guidance and offer advice and instruction as necessary. But watch and listen more than you talk. Let your subordinate leaders learn their jobs and do their jobs.

tips for psg

Top 7 Tips for New Platoon Sergeants

# 2 Learn to Love Logistics

It used to be that preparing for a training exercise or mission meant committing the OPORD to heart, burning the map and overlay into your brain, and inspecting your squad to ensure your Team Leaders have them ready. Suddenly that turns into drawing equipment and signing hand receipts, then turning around and issuing most of that equipment down to your NCOs. You’ve also got to forecast your platoon’s needs, coordinate with supply, and make sure you didn’t forget anything. When I was an enlisted Soldier, I never really knew why the NCOs got up earlier than we did. I learned.

# 3 Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Sure, as a Squad Leader you delegate to your two Team Leaders. But dealing with eight Soldiers is very different from dealing with 35. You absolutely must delegate effectively if you’re going to succeed—you’ll be too busy with your other responsibilities to deal with everything. Set clear expectations up front about who handles what in your platoon to reduce the amount of time you spend giving direction.

# 4 Meet the New Lieutenant

Get ready for one of the odder relationships in the Army. This brand-spanking-new young officer is in charge of “your” platoon. He or she also has less than a tenth of the experience you do in most cases. You’ve got a responsibility to develop your lieutenant and guide him or her as necessary. You’ve also got to make sure his or her authority as Platoon Leader is unquestioned. Done right, the result is mutual respect, a well-trained and smoothly-running platoon, and a lieutenant who departs for the next assignment with solid experience under his or her belt.

# 5 Teach your NCOs the Hard Stuff

In my experience, junior NCOs tend to have the most trouble with counseling and award recommendations. I think that blank sheet of paper and the requirement to fill it with words is a bit intimidating and takes people back to high school English. Work with your subordinate leaders in these areas. Give them examples to work from and guide them through the first few. The Soldiers in their care deserve it.

# 6 Set the Standard

Sure, you’ve been an example to Soldiers since you pinned on that first set of rockers. That hasn’t changed. But the higher you go, the more scrutinized your actions, words, appearance, and bearing will be. When you’re out in front of that platoon, three dozen Soldiers have nothing better to do than stare at you. Always remember that.

# 7 Watch the First Sergeant

I imagine one day you’d like that extra rocker and the diamond. The time to start learning that job is now. Watch what your First Sergeant does day-to-day and how he or she handles matters. (Remember that much command team business will take place out of your sight, however.) You can ask questions, too—most First Sergeants don’t bite. Listen to Soldiers and see how the First Sergeant’s actions are perceived. And once you’re the senior Platoon Sergeant, opportunities will come to be the acting First Sergeant now and then. Learn from those, too.

Every new assignment is a learning experience. When you can, always benefit from the knowledge of those who’ve gone before. Hopefully, these tips will smooth the path for new Platoon Sergeants just a bit.

Final Thoughts

I hope these tips help you. If you have any added tips or questions, just ask below.

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Daniel Slone is a 16-year infantry veteran and currently the First Sergeant of a light reconnaissance unit of the Louisiana Army National Guard. In civilian life he has earned a BA in political science and an MBA and is the controller for a holding company engaged in multiple lines of business.

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14 thoughts on “Top 7 Tips for New Platoon Sergeants”

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  4. As a new Platoon Sergeant you need to make sure that you don’t micro-manage your squad leaders. Empower them as much as possible and only manage 2 levels down. And don’t forget to train your PL in the process either.

  5. My husband said that after he became a PSG, he realized how different it was compared to all the jobs he had before. He got an even greater appreciation for the entire picture when his PL was at BOLC, which left him doing platoon OPORD briefs and essentially standing in for his job on top of his own duties. Being a PSG is such a valuable experience that prepares you for the rigors of being a 1SG. I am very thankful for my PSG and I know that if the other LTs are smart, they will feel the same thing!

    1. From my first day as a new Army Officer my Platoon Sergeants showed me what right looks like. Even though I was slow to catch on they stayed the course and helped me build a strong leadership foundation. NCOs really are the backbone of the Army. And the Platoon Sergeant position is quite perhaps the toughest job in the Army! Thanks for the comment.

      Chuck

      1. My advice to new Platoon Sergeants would be to “not forget where you came from.” Don’t let your new found power go to your head and get on some type of power trip.

        1. I think this is true at every level of leadership. It’s easy to forget that we all started somewhere, and it wasn’t as an NCO. I think that remembering where we started is essential.

    2. Here are some of my tips for new Platoon Sergeants.

      1. Stay calm, cool and collected
      2. Get on the same sheet of paper with your PL and 1SG
      3. Don’t micromanage your Squad Leaders and Team Leaders
      4. Don’t try to do everything yourself
      5. Remember that your primary job is the “beans and bullets,” resourcing training the PL schedules and making sure your SL’s and TL’s have what they need to succeed

      Good luck!

      1. These are great tips, especially #4. A lot of times we get carried away doing stuff, and need to remember that delegation is important. A good PSG will make the platoon run smoother, and the PL will have time to focus on their job.

  6. Learn to Love Logistics? Ha…sign me up to be a Platoon Sergeant then. I’m the kind of person that makes lists for everything. Going on a vacation? There will be five lists, one for each suitcase’s contents and one “general checklist” for all the tasks I’ve got to accomplish before I leave. While that’s definitely not as involved and important as a Platoon Sergeant (obviously…) It kind of gives me an idea of the mind set that platoon sergeants have to be in 24/7. Sounds exhausting!

  7. Great tips, Daniel.

    The only other tip that I would add in for new Platoon Sergeants is to be unified with your Platoon Leader, especially when you are in front of the troops.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Chuck

    1. I agree with this completely. You must be on the same page, especially publicly. Praise in public, always. Never set yourself apart from the PL in front of your troops – whether you like them or not.

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