So you wanna be a company commander?
Company command is a phenomenal opportunity and one of the greatest privileges in any officer’s career. If done right, it’s the most rewarding , satisfying, frustrating, infuriating job you’ll ever have. You’ll love it. But there are some things that you should do before you think about taking that guidon that will set you up for success.
1- Learn about property. You are going to be responsible for everything on your property book- learn how to manage it. Get a PBUSE account and learn to understand everything in every field. You will hear a lot of people tell you that you don’t have to be a subject matter expert in everything- but you absolutely need to be an expert in your property, as it impacts your wallet.
2- Learn your unit. You may be the most technically and tactically proficient Captain in your branch, but that won’t guarantee success in your particular battalion. You need to learn what the culture is from the top down. Make sure you get an office call in with your future battalion commander. While he interviews you, you are also learning about him (or her- I don’t discriminate). Pay attention to what he emphasizes during those first conversations. Ask questions, especially about his priorities. Also, look around at the staff and the companies. You can get a fairly accurate assessment of a unit’s command climate by sitting through some meetings or in an office somewhere and just listening.
3- Read. Read a lot. You need to read books on military leadership. You need to read books on corporate leadership and efficiencies. You need to read field manuals and training circulars. Read current events. Read everything you can. You owe it to your boss and your Soldiers to educate yourself on your profession.
4- Take care of your administrative needs well ahead of taking the guidon. Once you assume command, you will lose about eight hours out of your day. You won’t have time to focus on closing on a house, getting that surgery, finishing your Master’s degree, or anything other than your troops and your family.
5- Set your personal priorities ahead of time. This is vital. As a soldier who loves his job, it's really easy to make choices once you're at work that are Army-centric and career-centric, as opposed to Family-centric. It all comes down to how you define yourself. If you define yourself as a Soldier who has a family, then you make your choices in that order- Army first, at the expense (sometimes) of your Family. If you define yourself as a family guy who is a Soldier, then your choices reflect that you value your Family life over your job. I am absolutely not saying that you should stint on your job- not at all. But after 20 years or however long you stay in, guess what? The Army doesn’t care about you not one single bit. How sad would it be if your family didn’t care about you either because you didn't let them know through your actions and choices you made in your career that they matter and were more important than some alcoholic trooper who married a stripper and so NEEDS YOUR HELP, despite the fact that your son is struggling in fractions or started his first basketball game or whatever? So make those priorities known at the outset, and be an example of a successful balance between marriage and a military career.
6- Learn to manage expectations. Start with your family. You need to let them know that you are ALWAYS ON CALL and that you might have to miss things. You also need to let them know that you will do your absolute best not to miss family events. You also have to be able to do this with your commander- if something isn’t going to get done, let him know why not and what your plan is to accomplish the mission. Commanders everywhere are results-oriented, and they HATE surprises. If you can’t give them a heads up, you’re going to have a difficult life.
This should do for a start. More to follow, especially about balancing your Family and career. Stay tuned…