Company Command Series Part VII: Policy Memos

CO COC Pic

 This blog post is a continuation of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post discusses company policy memos and recommendations on how to make them effective.

Policy memos tend to be scary commandments that merely collect dust on some ignored unit board outside the commander’s office. Still, these memos are your standing guidance and often influence your unit’s first impression of you as a new commander.

It’s important to make your policies concise, clear, and effective to aid in a successful command. Don’t create policies simply to create policies; you don’t need 16 memos. If your higher headquarters has an adequate policy memo for a specific topic, leave it; you don’t need to re-create the wheel. Army command policy, installation regulations, and unit SOPs will influence what policies you are required to have. This post is not a regurgitation of those requirements. Rather, I am sharing a couple key policies I recommend and how to approach them.

  • Key Commander Programs. It’s imperative that you have policy memos for the critical programs you are responsible for, including SHARP, EO, and safety. I also highly encourage commanders to have an open door policy memo.
  • Physical Readiness Training (PRT). This policy will be the foundation of your company’s PRT program. Make this a robust document and cover your overall PRT intent and guidance, how your program is to be structured, PRT unit goals, and a reward program for achieving those goals. Don’t make the PRT structure guidance so rigid and detailed that subordinate leaders are merely complying; give them room to create their own program nested within your guidance. I also addressed special conditioning (remedial) PRT in my policy, requiring Soldiers (below a 250 APFT) to participate in 1SG’s program.  My PRT policy memo was four pages long, but it covered everything necessary to empower my subordinates to lead successful and challenging fitness programs. Consider the value of getting buy-in from subordinates on your PRT policy and creating a shared vision for it before publishing your policy memo.
  • Driver Certification. In any vehicle accident, investigations always scrutinize the unit’s driver’s training and certification program. Though your battalion has a driver’s training program, I highly recommend you create a company-internal licensing system and outline it in a policy letter. Establish your standards and requirements for signing Soldiers’ driver licenses. Personally, in my policy, I delegated the commander interview responsibility to my company master driver, but required the master driver and the Soldier’s platoon sergeant to personally bring me a license to sign.  I expected them to outline the training and timeline the Soldier followed to become trained with all supporting documentation.
  • Appointments Policy. Soldiers’ nonstop appointments will quickly become the bane of your command. Appointments can quickly turn your 1SG into a taxi service during field training. Create a policy outlining when Soldiers can schedule appointments in accordance with P-weeks. In my policy, I stated that appointments must be primarily scheduled during preparation (P-2) and recovery (P-3) weeks. Any appointments that had to be completed during major training (P-1) weeks required the direct approval from my 1SG or me. This memo can allow you to leverage UCMJ action on “repeat offenders” as needed.

Get your policy memos legally reviewed before you assume command. Send them to your brigade legal advisor to make recommendations of how to reword certain parts, or to completely remove items that can be considered unlawful command influence or gray areas. This prevents potential issues during an investigation or IG complaint.

The next post, part VIII of the Company Command series, addresses the dreaded weekend closeout formation and how to make them valuable, contributing events to your company’s culture.

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