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Achieving Honesty: Improving Subordinate Leader Assessments & Feedback

Thunder Run

Prior to commanding a company, I never gave much thought to evaluations. I am not generally concerned with my own evaluations; I firmly believe that if you take care of your Soldiers and your mission, your evaluation takes care of itself. As a staff officer and platoon leader, I was also never in a position where I was rating or senior rating Soldiers that I didn’t interact with on a daily and professionally intimate basis. Upon assuming command, my pool of subordinates that I rated or senior rated drastically increased. In my 18 months of company command, I rated/senior rated three First Sergeants, three XOs, three Operations Sergeants, nine platoon leaders, nine platoon sergeants, and over a dozen squad leaders. As much as I wanted to and tried, as a company commander, it was not feasible to work with all of these individuals personally, like I could as a platoon leader.

So, how did this impact my Soldiers, NCOs, and Officers?  More broadly, how do leaders ensure they do subordinates justice when it comes time for evaluation reports? This is a conundrum for every commander, from company and beyond. Continue reading → Achieving Honesty: Improving Subordinate Leader Assessments & Feedback

Company Command Series Part XII: My Command Regrets

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This blog post is the conclusion 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 discloses my personal post-command regrets that I’ve reflected on since relinquishing command.

I feel it is appropriate to close out my (admittedly long) Company Command blog series with discussing my personal regrets since relinquishing company command. This post is not so much about the actual regrets themselves as much as it is about the importance to spend time and deliberately reflect, to be honest with yourself, understand you are not (and never will be) a perfect leader, and identify what you wish you were able to accomplish in your formal leadership role. My hope is to first, encourage leaders to be self-aware and willing to admit where they can improve, and second, prevent these below regrets from being on other leaders’ lists of regrets down the road. It’s not weak or unprofessional to assess your post-command regrets; it is a healthy and necessary step to continue your development as a leader. Continue reading → Company Command Series Part XII: My Command Regrets

Company Command Series Part XI: Unit Pride & Recognition Programs

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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 methods to enhance unit pride and ideas for a formal unit recognition program.

It is undeniable that a positive organizational culture is critical to your success as the commander, and the success of your company.  What I’ve found, though, is that little content exists addressing how exactly to advance your unit’s culture with specific, tangible actions. There are necessary methods such as Leadership by Wandering Around, as I wrote about in an earlier blog post. However, what are other influence methods that can build a healthy culture focused on your priorities as the commander? I argue two major components are: being deliberate in establishing a robust sense of unit pride, and creating an extensive recognition program. For both lines of effort, below, I address ways I advanced my company’s pride and a supporting recognition program. Continue reading → Company Command Series Part XI: Unit Pride & Recognition Programs

Company Command Series Part X: Deployment Readiness

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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 how to validate your company’s combat readiness and deployability so it is not a surprise when you are called upon to accomplish your mission.

My brigade commander continuously reminded my fellow company commanders and me that, “commanders generate readiness.” He felt so passionate about readiness that he included my capacity to maintain readiness in his senior rater comments in my OER. Readiness really is that important. I believe that equipment and personnel readiness should always be the top priority of a commander (at any level); without sufficient deployability, what are you bringing to the fight?

I believe company commanders can easily establish methods at their level to test and validate their company’s readiness. I can’t think of many things worse than being called to conduct a deployment readiness exercise (DRE) by a higher headquarters (let alone a real world short-notice deployment) where you boast a 95% combat power deployability, but only 60% of your equipment and personnel can leave the motor pool. Commanders generate readiness and it all starts with the company commander. Below are ideas to create a company-level DRE program. Not every DRE requires extensive time and resources; vary your DRE methods up to support your training calendar.  Continue reading → Company Command Series Part X: Deployment Readiness

Company Command Series Part VIII: Closeout Formations

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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 how to improve your company closeout formations and weekend safety briefs. 

To any military service member, just the mention of a weekend safety brief and closeout formation can stir reactions of dread and loathing. I can think of few things that are less inspiring or effective in the military than a long brief where leaders regurgitate the same speech every Friday listing every “don’t” for the weekend. I argue that these closeout formations with the excessive safety briefs are no longer for the Soldiers, but “check-the-block” requirements to cover leaders when the weekend Serious Incident Report (SIR) event occurs, such as a DUI. These methods are ineffective and waste Soldiers’ and leaders’ time. Weekend closeout formations, like many other events, should be valuable and planned-out events that contribute to your company’s culture.

Early in my command, I read two blog posts (From the Green Notebook and The Military Leader) regarding this topic of improving unit closeout formations and safety briefs. They served as the catalyst to end my company’s current safety brief ways and update them with new focuses and methods. I cannot take credit for conceiving these ideas; I encourage readers to check out those posts for further ideas and inspiration.

Continue reading → Company Command Series Part VIII: Closeout Formations

Company Command Series Part V: Unit Training Management Concluded

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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 wraps up Unit Training Management focusing on METL and collective task training tracking.

With the Army’s introduction of Objective-T for Mission Essential Task List (METL) proficiency reporting, it is more critical than ever to codify and be objective in your company’s own METL tracking.

Before the implementation of Objective-T, I created a matrix to record MET and collective task training conducted. The matrix columns were my formations, one for the company and one for each platoon. The rows were our assigned METs and the designated supporting collective tasks. For each applicable collective task, platoon leaders updated training conducted on that specific task. The PLs include all necessary information regarding the training of that collective task needed for an Objective-T rating to include date(s) last trained, if training was conducted day and night, live fire exercise incorporated or not, and the number of participating personnel from the platoon compared to authorized. Continue reading → Company Command Series Part V: Unit Training Management Concluded

Company Command Series Part IV: Unit Training Management Continued

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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 Unit Training Management focused on company-level planning and training week management.

FM 7-0 states that companies must maintain training calendars and plan five months in advance. I personally preferred to plan six to seven months out to secure training area land before other units on the installation. So how do you determine what to plan five to seven months in advance? Every unit has their means of training planning, I acknowledge that. I leveraged company-level quarterly planning conferences (QPC). Continue reading → Company Command Series Part IV: Unit Training Management Continued

Company Command Series Part III: Unit Training Management

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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 Unit Training Management focused on battle rhythms.

Unit Training Management (UTM) is the systematic foundation of any military tactical-level unit. The quality of your UTM can make or break your command time. Maximizing your UTM systems is critical to your company’s overall effectiveness and efficiency. It also prevents wasting your leaders’ time with inefficient meetings (or too many meetings). Ultimately, it establishes predictability for your subordinates.

To build an effective UTM, start with a battle rhythm. Brainstorm with your leaders (I recommend 1SG, Operations Sergeant, XO, and PLT leadership teams) and identify what topics need to be reviewed in a meeting and how often. With those topics, put topic to calendar and assign a date-time group that works best for your company and is nested within battalion and brigade schedules. Minimize the number of meetings. Be critical in determining if certain topics actually require meeting. If so, look to group similar topics having minimal organizational impact in one meeting. I grouped my company supply meeting with our maintenance meeting; the bi-weekly supply meeting would immediately follow the company maintenance meeting on selected weeks to prevent an additional time my Platoon Leaders and XO needed to meet me in the conference room. Continue reading → Company Command Series Part III: Unit Training Management

Company Command Series Part II: Preparing for Command

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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 a method to successfully prepare for command and how to map out your first 90 days.

Successfully preparing for command does not start with your change of command inventories. I argue it must start months before that with deliberate research, reflection, and goal development. Most military officer timelines include a season on brigade or battalion staff before command; that is the ideal time to initiate your preparation. Starting to think about and prepare for command during your change of command inventories is too late; by then, you will be quickly overwhelmed with property accountability, learning the company’s systems, meeting your troops, and the daily demands of a commander. I actually started my command preparation at the career course with specific research. Then, two months from starting my inventories, I began writing my command philosophy and policy memos. Based on my experience and on the ideas from other respected leaders prior to my command, I provide some recommendations on how to prepare for command to make your command assumption deliberate (not reactionary) and well-controlled.

Continue reading → Company Command Series Part II: Preparing for Command

Company Command Series Part I: Introduction

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This blog post is the beginning 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 introduces the blog series and what I hope to achieve through it.

Company command was the greatest professional honor of my career thus far. That season of my life was the most professionally fun and rewarding, as well as demanding and frustrating. Every ambitious Captain about to assume command is overflowing with enthusiasm, passion, and great ideas for what he or she wants to accomplish after taking the guidon. At the end though, no matter how successful your command was, most generally leave command burnt out and crawling on all fours; after 18 months, I certainly was.

Prior to taking command, I watched to a YouTube vlog by COL Ross Coffman where he challenged commanders to daily reflect on the question: “did I happen to command today, or did command happen to me?” With every conceivable responsibility in the military seemingly identified as a commander’s program, it can often feel like forcing 50 pounds of “stuff” into a 10-pound capacity bag. If you’re not deliberate in taking charge of your command, it will quickly overpower you.

Continue reading → Company Command Series Part I: Introduction