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6 Important Lessons From My First 6 Months As A Company Commander
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every lieutenant compiles a list of things that “they’ll totally implement” when they take command. We spend years as platoon leaders, executive officers, and staff officers, just waiting for that moment where finally we can be in charge and turn that company into the perfect company in the Army. Because that’s what lieutenants do, right? Ideally, they soak up everything that’s happening around them: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And they keep that knowledge on standby for the day when they can finally implement it.
And then reality happens. We slap on those captain’s bars, accept the guidon, and all of a sudden we’re the top dog. We blow the dust off the plans, begin typing up policy memos, and formulating initial counseling techniques. We get our checklist of all the things that we said we would do and all the changes we would make. We’re bright-eyed, optimistic, and believe in the innate goodness of our soldiers.
Then, as a few months pass by, the stark reality of the situation sinks in: this isn’t what you expected it would be. Ever.
- One, as a company commander, you really don’t have a significant amount of power to affect the training schedule. When looking at the training plan, you already have a significant portion of it mapped out for you: ranges, mandatory briefings, physical fitness test, health assessments, the works. Then you add in your collective training events, briefings to battalion and brigade, family days, safety stand-downs, and the like and you’re left with just a small bit of time in which to cram leader development, team building, and anything else you thought was important.
- Secondly, you get hit with the knowledge that the Army has boiled down your essence to one thing: a signature. You sign everything. You are merely a walking signature. Your authority to bind and loose is tied directly to how quickly you can enter your PIN for a digital signature on a PDF. And everyone wants a piece of that signature, and they want it right now. Delegate it out as much as you want, there will always be an email in your inbox or a soldier at your door with a clipboard as sure as the sun will rise on a day where one-tenth of the company has to conduct a urinalysis.
- Then there are the soldiers. Now, 90% of the soldiers in your unit are fantastic individuals who are an honor to serve with and who will motivate the hell out of you. The other 10% makes you wonder if there’s something in the water because they will make the stupidest mistakes, get in crazy amounts of trouble, or be some of the most elaborate liars in the entire world. And sometimes, all three at once. If you didn’t have enough time in the day already, these few soldiers will ensure that you have only enough time to occasionally eat and use the bathroom.
- And then there’s higher, which will send down short suspense items and quick changes to the training schedule, which is always sure to happen at the worst opportune moment. A call from the battalion commander can cause your pulse to quicken as you wonder which of your soldiers got in trouble or whether you totally missed a requirement.
- And when you go back to your list of all the things you wanted to do, you find that those were specific to the unit that you were in at the time. This is where you - hopefully - make the incredibly important discovery that not all companies are created equal. They will each have their strong and weak points and you will have to adjust your plans accordingly.
- Add to all that the family readiness group meetings, engineer project planning meetings, equipment breakdowns, the random accident here and there, and the ever-present problem of retaining the best soldiers. Suddenly, a command is a daunting and draining test. It was nothing like you had assumed.
But when you walk out information and stand next to the company guidon, or finally escape out into the training area to watch equipment moving by with soldiers wearing giant grins from getting to do what they love, or get to pin sergeant’s stripes on a deserving specialist, or get to watch that “aha” moment during professional development, well it all pops back into clear relief why you wanted this job for so long. No, a commander is not God on Earth. No, we can’t make all the changes we want. And no, it’s not at all what we thought it would be. But at six months in, it is one of the most challenging, interesting, and rewarding episodes of my life.
Talk to me again in six months and see how I feel.
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."