The commander of a company, troop, or battery
has many responsibilities, but none is more
important than ensuring that the members of his
unit know what “right” looks like. If you are preparing
to assume the duties and responsibilities of command,
or if you have recently assumed command, you may be
wondering if you really know what right looks like.
The answer to this question will depend a great deal
on the battalion and company commanders you have
served under or observed before you took command. If
your own commanders set the right example, you probably
do know. This article outlines several actions to
assist you in making sure that your own Soldiers (both
officers and enlisted) know what right looks like.
Chain of Command
First, never miss an opportunity to reinforce the chain
of command. Your unit’s chain of command will be no
stronger in combat than you make it in garrison and
during training events. Does your first sergeant stand in
front of the formation and pass out information directly
to the Soldiers, or does he rely on the platoon sergeants
and squad leaders to relay information?
If your first sergeant uses platoon sergeants to inform
squad leaders and squad leaders to keep the unit’s
Soldiers informed, he is strengthening the unit’s chain
of command. This does not mean the first sergeant and
the platoon sergeant cannot or should not address the
company or platoon. But when they do, it should be on
matters of considerable importance to the successful
operation of the company or platoon.
No doubt, folks will tell you that passing information
through the platoon sergeant and making the squad
leaders the focal point runs the risk of information not
being passed exactly as the first sergeant conveyed it
to the platoon sergeant. This viewpoint is valid; however,
requiring subordinate leaders to take notes when
the first sergeant and platoon sergeant are putting out
information will help ensure that information is passed
Noncommissioned officers who cannot pass information
accurately in garrison or during training events
may have difficulty passing orders and information
accurately on the battlefield. In tight spots on the
battlefield, Soldiers will look to their squad leaders for
guidance and direction. Those Soldiers need to have
confidence that their leaders are providing accurate
guidance and orders.
The Arms Room
Second, learn how your arms room operates. The
unit armorer should not be the individual charged to
determine if weapons are clean. That responsibility
belongs to your platoon sergeants. The unit armorer
should receive weapons into the arms room when the
platoon sergeant says they are ready. The unit armorer
should inspect weapons for cleanliness after they are
in the arms room and report unsatisfactory weapons
to the first sergeant and executive officer. One or both
of these individuals should then inspect the weapons
identified by the unit armorer.
When weapons are inspected by the first sergeant or
executive officer and found to be unsatisfactory, the
appropriate platoon sergeant and squad leader should
personally bring the deficient weapons to standard.
The platoon sergeant and squad leader, not the Soldiers,
should clean the deficient weapons to standard.
Experience tells me you will need to do this only once
before weapons not being cleaned to standard ceases
to be an issue. To set the conditions for success, ensure
sufficient weapon cleaning supplies are on hand and
available to the Soldiers.
Third, inspect licensing procedures in your unit. Specifically,
who says a Soldier can operate the equipment
you have entrusted to the platoon’s leaders? Whether
operator training and licensing are performed within
your unit or centralized at another level, the platoon
leader and platoon sergeant are the individuals you
should hold accountable for ensuring that the unit’s
equipment is operated correctly and safely. This being
the case, these two individuals should also be the approving
authority for who operates equipment.
Who should operate equipment is different than who
should be licensed. Licensing is an administrative requirement to ensure that a Soldier receives appropriate
operator training and demonstrates appropriate equipment
operating skills in front of an individual who is
authorized to issue operator licenses. The platoon’s
leaders should determine who will operate the platoon’s
equipment and ensure that all Soldiers are knowledgeable
and skilled in operating that equipment.
Fourth, conduct all unit formations according to Field
Manual (FM) 3–21.5, Drill and Ceremony. Junior ranking
Soldiers (both enlisted and officer) will learn what
is right by watching how you and your first sergeant
execute formations. If you operate your formation according
to FM 3–21.5, you will ensure your Soldiers
know what right looks like in the eyes of professionals.
Fifth, pay attention to maintenance. A great number
of areas can and should be checked to determine if
your unit knows what right looks like when it comes
to maintenance. Start by learning what your vehicle
operators know about their vehicles and maintenance
If your unit operates high-mobility multipurpose
wheeled vehicles, ask if checking for water in the fuel
is a “before” or “after” preventive maintenance check.
Does each vehicle have a rubber hose attached to the
fuel drain valve? Has the unit provided operators with
transparent containers for fuel samples? Where do they
dispose of samples containing water?
If an operator does not say that checking for water in
the fuel is an after-operations check, ask for the reference
in the operator’s manual. This action will do two
things for you: It will let you know if the operator has
an operator’s manual, and you will be able to show the
operator where to find the correct information in the
If the operator says he has a rubber hose attached to
the fuel drain valve, have the operator show it to you so
you can judge whether or not the hose is of sufficient
length to allow fuel to be drained without spillage. If
an operator lacks this item, have the operator show you
how he drains fuel to check for water without spillage.
The unit should have issued the operator a transparent
container to collect the draining fuel. If the unit has not
issued such containers, have the operator show what he
uses to collect a fuel sample and how he inspects it for
water at the bottom of the container.
The unit is responsible for providing a location for
operators to deposit contaminated fuel samples. If
these contaminated fuel sample collection stations are
not convenient, some operators will dispose of their
contaminated samples in an environmentally unfriendly
Finally, pay attention to duty rosters. Are they posted
a minimum of 10 days before the date the duty will be
performed? I suggest 10 days since this will generally
give Soldiers sufficient time to cancel prepaid activities
and receive refunds. Does your unit maintain a
weekend duty roster for unscheduled tasks, or are the
personnel who happen to be in the barracks tasked? If
such a duty roster exists, does it include all unit personnel
or just those in the barracks?
Unscheduled weekend tasks are assigned to the unit,
not just to the personnel who happen to be in the barracks.
The weekend roster for unscheduled tasks should
include all nonexempt personnel within the unit, and
these individuals should be required to meet a recall
time standard to perform the duty.
These six actions provide a starting point for evaluating
your unit’s understanding of what right looks like.
As you execute the duties and responsibilities of command,
remember that the junior Soldiers in your unit,
both officer and enlisted, will depart your unit thinking
they have seen what right looks like. Your responsibility
is to ensure that they have.