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Show Respect To Your Fellow Officers And Your Will Get Theirs

Aug 17, 2007
As a commissioned officer, you outrank all warrant officers and all enlisted Soldiers including Noncommissioned Officers. That said, if you go around as a second lieutenant acting like you own the show, and order your experienced NCOs to do stupid stuff just because you outrank them, you deserve what you get.

Most second lieutenants' act cocky to make up for the fact they don't know much, and are at best nervous, and often scared to death to suddenly be in charge. If you act cocky, you will be sorely treated by your NCOs, and other unit experts. They will give you plenty of rope, and let you hang yourself. If you ask your NCOs' advice during private planning sessions, and then discuss the decision you plan to make, so you learn from them, but you make the final decision, then you will do better.

Everyone's leadership style varies, but a team building and consensus style during planning, can go a long way to getting the respect of your experienced NCOs. If you get their respect, you will be in charge. But you have to earn it; you cannot demand it, just because you outrank them. They will respect your rank, but not you. Under those circumstances the only thing you will learn is failure.

An NCO cannot "order" a commissioned officer around. If the officer allows that, he has abdicated his authority. Does a captain ask his senior NCOs for advice? You better believe it! NCOs are your experts on Soldier training and welfare; warrant officers are your experts on technical issues. You must learn who you can trust, and who may need more guidance, but you must use them for guidance and execution. You cannot do it all yourself.

About your first year, as a new second lieutenant, you will attend the basic officer's course for your specialty. That can take anywhere from 3 months to a year depending on how technical it is. That is why you are "not in charge of anything" for a year. The OBC trainers are usually senior NCOs in your field, and they are "in charge" during OBC. If you listen to them with respect, they will treat you with respect and help you learn how to be a good junior officer. If you are arrogant, expect to be ignored, and therefore learn very little.

My experience as a second lieutenant was a great OBC with terrific professional NCOs that helped me learn my Branch (Chemical) and how to be a good officer and handle being in charge. My first job was as a platoon leader and I had high responsibility immediately. I had to prepare my unit to deploy to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. I planned with my NCOs and asked the 1st Sergeant for advice, but in the end the load and movement orders were mine. And the unit executed them. I had responsibility for 147 Soldiers and $3 Million worth of vehicles and equipment on that move.

Please don't believe the negative rumors you hear. Try to keep your ego in line, then listen and learn. Use your team in the problem solving and planning stages. Then make decisions when they need to be made, and don't vacillate. Treat all your Soldiers with respect, even the goof-offs. But punish the goof-offs appropriately. If you do, you will earn well deserved respect, and you and your unit will go far.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for http://www.WarGear.info/. WarGear.info carries the best selection of military clothing, war gear, and combat accessories on the market.
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