Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Hook's Leadership Profiles

My long time readers know all about Dadmanly Profiles, but I want to alert readers to the start of another fine, and related series, under development by one fine Command Sergeant Major (CSM).

As SGT Hook explains in his original post, he recently undertook what has been the most challenging mission of his career, standing up a new Battalion from scratch as the senior noncommissioned officer (NCO) for the unit, the CSM. I’m flattered that, in the course of his reflections on leadership, SGT Hook had found inspiration in my Profiles:
Then, while reading the ever eloquent Dadmanly today, I found his collection of Profiles of key leaders, and was quite impressed. Add my recent reflections on past duty assignments, and I was suddenly inspired to put my own thoughts to paper (read blog) on defining just who/what a squad leader, platoon sergeant, etc. is in the Army.
Hook’s a lot kinder than my own CSM. Eloquent would not have been the word he used, rather a less polite synonym for “verbose.” Who, when he (often) reached a point where I had said too much, used to say I made his brain hurt. I think it was more often exposure – to the elements for sure, preferring the Mohatma Ghandi hairstyle, but possibly also to unpleasant news… Listen, if you want more on him, read it here.

CSMs, I suppose come in all shapes and sizes, but almost all with a max decibel voice and what seems like a 10 foot standard issue frame (at least when he’s in your face). For those who don’t quite understand how the Army is organized, if the NCO Corps is the backbone of the Army, then CSMs are the spinal cord within the backbone of the Army.

I’m pleased to announce that SGT Hook has indeed commenced his profiles, with the first two installments. In the first, The Army Organized, Hook helpfully offer a primer on Army organization. I want to excerpt it in its entirety, if only because I am finding myself explaining these structures to the uninitiated – or listening to Little Manly do so, I think he’s got it down pat now!

Anyway, here’s Hook’s Army Organization 101:
The smallest unit in the Army is the squad, usually consisting of 8 to 12 Soldiers, but could be as small as 4 or 5. The squad is led by a squad leader, ordinarily a sergeant (E5), sometimes a staff sergeant (E6), and often a corporal (E4). For the purpose of our discussion, I will focus my views on the sergeant, aka: buck sergeant, as a squad leader.

Next up from squad is the platoon (note: there is something called a section, but for ease of explanation we’ll just go from squad to platoon). A platoon is normally made up of several squads and depending upon the type of unit, a platoon could consist of anywhere from 40 to 80 Soldiers. The platoon is ordinarily led by a platoon leader and a platoon sergeant. The platoon leader is most often a Lieutenant (O1 or O2), but I’ve seen at times Captains (O3) leading some of the larger platoons. The platoon leader is not alone however, as there is a platoon sergeant assigned, usually at the rank of Sergeant First Class (E7), though sometimes a Staff Sergeant (E6) has the reigns.

A company is made up of several platoons; anywhere from 4 to 7 platoons. The company commander is usually a Captain (O3), though there are some companies who require Majors (O4) to be in command, and some companies that just don’t have a Captain available, so they stick a Lieutenant in command. Each company also has a First Sergeant (E8) assigned as the senior enlisted Soldier of the unit. The First Sergeant is one of the most important positions in the Army. Companies are formed by capability and most companies have unique missions.

The battalion consists of several companies, usually 5, but sometimes is made up of 4 to 7 companies (my battalion has just 4 companies). Leading the battalion is a Lieutenant Colonel (O5), aka: “light colonel,” and a Command Sergeant Major (E9), aka: “pain in the ass.” The battalion has a large staff of officers and senior noncommissioned officers who do a lot of mission analysis, planning, and resourcing in support of the companies within the battalion.

A brigade is comprised of several battalions. Since the Army’s transformation, the brigade has become the focal point of how we do business. Most brigades are led by a “full-bird” Colonel (O6) and a Command Sergeant Major (E9) and are comprised of several battalions. Today’s brigade is 99% self sufficient and capable of conducting operations anywhere in the world.

Last, but not least, is the division. The Army has 11 10 active divisions, made up of multiple brigades each. The commanding general of an Army division is usually a two-star, Major General, and he has a Command Sergeant Major assigned. The division plans for and assigns missions to its subordinate brigades.
Outstanding, Sergeant Major!

Hook also posted the first of his duty position profiles, a Part One for the Squad Leader. Here’s his introduction to what, in many ways, is the most important leadership position in the entire Army:
As mentioned previously, the smallest unit in the Army is the squad, usually consisting of 8 to 12 Soldiers, but could be as small as 4 or 5. The squad is led by; you guessed it, a squad leader, ordinarily in the rank of sergeant (E5), sometimes a staff sergeant (E6), and often a corporal (E4). For the purpose of this discussion, I will focus my views primarily on the sergeant, aka: buck sergeant, as the squad leader.

The squad leader is the only position that is in both a Soldier’s chain of command, and NCO support channel. He is the first line leader and supervisor of our young Soldiers. There is nothing that happens at the squad level that he is not directly involved in, or aware of; nothing. A good squad leader knows each member of his team inside and out. He knows his Soldiers, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, and what makes them tick. He reads the signs that indicate when a Soldier is on the verge of his breaking point, and when he can go further.

The squad leader works right along side her Soldiers, demonstrating what right looks like, then evaluating to ensure her squad members know what right looks like. She’s the first one in to work at oh dark thirty, and the last one to leave in the evening. She stops by the barracks more nights than not, just to check on her Soldiers, knowing she’ll be late for dinner with her family, yet again.

The squad leader has a huge amount of responsibilities, though it may not seem so compared to leaders of larger units. He is responsible for making sure that each member of his squad is trained to proficiency, both tactically and technically. The squad leader is also accountable for all equipment assigned to the squad, and for ensuring his Soldiers have in their possession, maintained in a serviceable condition, all uniforms and equipment issued to them. His greatest responsibility, however, is in knowing where each member of the squad is at all times, always ready to respond when asked, “Where’s Jo?”
And in many ways, good leadership at every level of Command harkens back to these core responsibilities, the best example of which is first established by the Squad Leader.

Hook, we look forward to more.

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