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What “Right” Looks Like

Soldiers learn procedures by watching and imitating their leaders.
Therefore, leaders should ensure they are setting a good example
by following correct procedures and focusing on doing things right.

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 accurately.

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.

Licensing Procedures
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.

Unit Formations
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 shop operations.

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 manual.

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 manner.

Duty Rosters
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.

Major General Larry J. Lust, USA (Ret.), is an associate professor at the Army Command and
General Staff College. His previous duty positions include Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation
Management, Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA ); Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4,
HQDA ; J–4/7, Headquarters, U.S. European Command; Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, Headquarters,
U.S. Army Europe; and Commanding General, 3d Corps Support Command, V Corps. He has a master’s degree in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology.

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