Rules for Successful Platoon Leaders


Warcouncil.org has an interesting list of leadership tips for platoon leaders. I think a lot of these are applicable to Junior Officers of all branches of the armed forces  as well as to leaders in the civilian world as well:

1.   Love your unit and your job.  Love is not always a two way street, sometimes you give more than you get, and love is a choice.  Being an Infantry Platoon Leader is the greatest job in the world.  You have the ability to mold men and make our country stronger 24 hours a day.  Enjoy every minute of it, even the difficult times, and give of yourself freely to your mission and your men.  Hold nothing back and have a solid work ethic.  When your time is up, you need to know in your heart of hearts that you worked as hard as you could and did as much as you could to get your men ready for war

2.     Wake up before 0500 five out of seven days a week

3.     Be the most physically fit person in your unit

4.     Memorize and understand the steps to attack a strong point and engagement area development; know the components of IPB; be able to pitch your scheme of maneuver without referring to notes

5.     Read the news from credible sources which will challenge your view point and your vocabulary (The Economist, Foreign Affairs, PBS, NPR); read about things that have no apparent relation to your profession, you’ll be surprised at what you learn

6.     Set a reasonable number of realistic unit-focused goals and accomplish them

7.     Know how to call for fire

8.     Know how to call in a MEDEVAC

9.     Know the maximum effective range for every weapon system in your arms room

10.  Know what a sustained, rapid, and cyclic rate of fire is for every weapon in your arms room

11.  Be the arms room officer

12.  Have your property layout perfect before your commander gets there

a. Have the right TM

b. Have the shortages already updated on a shortage annex

c.  Have a binder with copies of 2062s signed down to the user level

d. Know what LINs will be inspected during cyclic inventories

e. Know how to read a property book

f. Know the difference between expendable, non-expendable, durable and AAL property items

g. Rehearse the layout with your NCOs

13.   Always maintain your integrity and tell your boss about bad news in a reasonable amount of time

14.  If it’s cold, hot, miserable, or sucks, be there – if it’s dangerous and it makes sense, be first

15.  Know the names of your Soldiers’ wives and kids

16.  Backbrief your platoon sergeant before you talk to your commander

17.  If you are backbriefing your commander, and your platoon sergeant is squared away, bring him

18.  Not every NCO is a 1-1; most PLTs only have 2-3 NCOs in the entire PLT who are a 1-1

19.  Counsel your platoon sergeant and squad leaders after every training event

20.  Counsel your platoon sergeant and squad leaders about your no fail missions prior to every training event

21.  The most important steps of the TLPs and 8 step training model are the WARNO and reconnaissance

22.  Identify risk and mitigate it through additional safeties, tempo, rehearsals, or location of key leaders; don’t be risk averse; ask yourself if you are being aggressive enough in your training events or if you are cutting corners in the name of safety that degrades from combat readiness

23.  Know how to write; proof read NCOERs and awards before they get to the commander; cut and paste your bullets in to Microsoft word – this will eliminate 70% of errors in Army correspondence; be familiar with AR 25-50

24.  Conduct a warno, oporder, and rehearsal prior to every operation; spot check one or two things from one or two Soldiers from each squad prior to execution; conduct a confirmation brief with your commander after he gives you an order; after you’ve come up with a tentative plan and issued a WARNO, backbrief your commander paying particular attention to your timeline and actions on the OBJ

25.  When you have the time available, plan every mission around the forms of contact and the eight points of failure.  At a minimum, plan your AOO and have a timeline for SP, LD, route and time to CPs, ORP, recon, AOO, consolidation, reorganization, and RTB.  There should be a phase line when you reach each form of contact, and that phase line should trigger some type of action by the friendly element; ie, at 800 meters from the OBJ we will cross PL Blue and we will be within the enemy’s crew served weapon range, to mitigate this, we will call smoke on target AB001 and change our movement technique to bounding overwatch and our movement formation to platoon column, squad wedge.  Have fires, HLZs/AXPs planned for each phase.  The eight points of failure are infiltration, exfiltration, fire support (TTLODAC, what assets are available, what is their max range, what is their response time, proficiency of assets in support, targets planned by phase of the operation), ISR (who is watching the enemy watch us), recovery (how are we recovering broken vehicles, mechanic plan, where do we get spare parts), sustainment (how do we resupply  ammo, food, water, medical supplies, FOO officer, batteries for electronics and commo), mission command (what is the PACE for communications, who is my higher headquarters, what is the CCIR, does my higher headquarters have the latest version of my common operating picture, do I have a GRG, do my graphic control measures add to the clarity of all players in the mission, when is my COMMEX, what is my interpreter plan, where is my QRF coming from, what is their composition, disposition, level of proficiency, reaction time, how am I talking to them, what is the trigger for them to launch), and MEDEVAC (plan HLZs/AXPs by phase of the operation, where is the nearest FAS, do I have a medic with each maneuver element).

26.  Don’t say that one of your Soldiers is a “good” Soldier; instead say that he scored 300 on his last APFT, got his EIB, shows up to work on time with a good attitude and that you have zero negative counseling statements on him.  On the other hand, if you have a “bad” Soldier, be able to quantify that as well – and make sure it’s documented

27.  Do the things the things that only you can do and delegate everything else

28.  If you don’t have comms with your higher element you are of very little use to anybody; if you haven’t heard any traffic on the net for more than five minutes, check your radios, your comms are probably out; unless you are personally engaging the enemy with direct fire, your commander wants to hear from you and not your RTO

29.  Have the personal courage to disagree with your commander; when you disagree with your commander have an alternate COA; it’s normally best to disagree with your commander behind closed doors unless it’s a matter of integrity or safety

30.  Trust your NCOs but don’t necessarily believe every word they say; NCOs rarely lie to officers, but they are known to stretch the truth on occasion; trust your gut

31.  When you communicate, it’s not enough to be right; you need to communicate in such a way so that those with whom you work see the merit of your point of view; there are many different ways to communicate, influence, and persuade

32.  Nothing good or productive comes from hanging out downtown Columbus on the weekend after 2200

33.  Watching TV is generally a waste of time; time is a precious commodity, use your free time to strengthen your family, increase your professional knowledge, improve your physical fitness, or take better care of your Soldiers; live by the philosophy of God, mission/family, men, self

34.  Bow hunting makes you a better infantry officer; everything you need to know about terrain analysis and pattern analysis, engagement area development, stealth, and patience you can learn by hunting deer with a bow

35.  Don’t ever let a JV product leave your platoon

36.  Attend mandatory fun events; as a lieutenant, you need to take every opportunity you can to learn about your profession and build relationships

37.  Know the task organization, capabilities, and equipment of each company in your battalion

38.  Make a concerted effort to know every lieutenant in your battalion

39.  Know the history of your battalion

40.  Prepare prior to any OPD/LPD you attend by reading and understanding the material to be covered; ask intelligent questions

41.  Take the time to publicly reinforce outstanding performance as close to the event taking place as possible

42.  Read as much as possible; you don’t  have to read every book cover to cover; at a minimum, read the preface, intro, conclusion, and notes page, then read the first and last paragraph of each chapter, write notes in the margin, and skim the body of each chapter; don’t waste of hours of reading time by reading things which you are not interested in or things that are not applicable; find out what your boss reads, he’s probably taking the time to read something for a reason

43.  Cultivate relationships with all of the key leaders in your company; don’t ever let there be daylight between you and your platoon sergeant

44.  If you can’t meet a suspense, don’t hope that your commander forgets about it, ask for an extension; if you have too many things going on, ask your commander for his priorities – what’s important to your commander is important to you

45.  Always seek out the difficult jobs and tough missions and always volunteer for extra responsibility; lieutenants learn by doing and you need to learn as much as possible so that when you’re a commander you delegate more effectively

46.  Spot check your platoon sergeant’s trackers

47.  If you are sitting around at work and you have nothing to do it’s an indicator you are or are becoming irrelevant to your organization

48.  Create a live fire packet with range control

49.  Execute combat focused team building events with your platoon once a month

50.  Get accounts for platoonleader.com, companycommander.com, S1 Net, LIW, PBUSE; be familiar with the HRC website

51.  Lead by example and from the front at all times; every action you take, every word you speak, and every interaction you have will increase or decrease the combat readiness of your unit

52.  Have a copy of the GARSOP and TACSOP and reference these products – make suggestions for how to improve them

53.  Read the attachments on the emails that you receive; you will often find that whoever sent an email with 12 attachments didn’t read each one, and in one of those attachments is a friction point or a valuable piece of information that needs to be disseminated or investigated

54.  Don’t eat fast food

55.  Maintain a good relationship with the guy you replace or the guy who replaces you

56.  Be on the same page as your fellow platoon leaders

57.  Be aggressive

58.  Ask yourself what a great leader would do when you encounter difficult situations

59.  Seek counsel from your company XO; he has more insight and experience than you do; support him and do what he asks in a timely manner

60.  Be present for command maintenance, bring additional work to do in the motor pool while your guys are on their tracks; spot check your M240s after a live fire exercise – weapons get cleaned before Soldiers eat or sleep

61.  Figure things out on your own but make sure you have your commander’s intent; when you ask a commander for his intent, you are not bugging him; often commander’s overlooked a detail or are not tracking the same reality that you are; therefore, prior to undertaking any significant project, make sure you have your commander’s intent

62.  Don’t ever take credit for any positive event; don’t ever shirk responsibility for any negative event

63.  Don’t get flustered and don’t undertake any significant action when your temper is running high; if you need to chew someone out, do it when you’re calm and tailor your comments to achieve the endstate that you want

64.  Spend at least 15 minutes a day with the door shut with just you and your platoon sergeant

65.  70% now is better than 100% an hour from now; be aware of the details you have left out

66.  Make your Soldiers stand at the position of attention when they speak to you until you put them at ease; make your Soldiers stand at the position of parade rest for your NCOs

67.  If you have the opportunity to do something to take care of one of your Soldiers, do it.  For example, it’s easy to give a guy a couple days of leave to take care of a family situation and that Soldier will remember that you helped him when he needed it and Soldiers are more productive when they aren’t distracted

68.  Use the battalion Chaplain generously – he has a lot of resources and can make your life easier – not all Chaplains are created equally

69.  When someone tells you “no” find a way to get them to “yes”; an experienced NCO can make just about any administrative action happen by talking to the right person in the right manner

Given the vast experience I’d be interested to know what the readership thinks.

 

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Rules for Successful Platoon Leaders

  1. xx. Before your first day always make sure you know your Chief’s favorite beverage, bring him/her some for your first meeting. Then let him/her know you expect perfection, tolerate error that is known and corrected and always need to hear his/her opinion because s/he’s got infinitely more wisdom than you ever will, and you need to always remember there will always be another LT . . .. you want to be the BEST one they’ve ever told what to do . . .

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  2. Pave Low John

    This one may sound kind of weird, but it really helped me when I was acting as an LNO between some SOF units in Djibouti back in 2002:

    If you ever have the chance and/or the money, go to a qualified gym/dojo and learn either BJJ (with the jacket) or submission grappling (no jacket.) MACP/MCMAP is okay for what it is designed for, but it you want to actually learn how to fight, go to the professionals. You don’t need to compete (although a trip or two to Grapplers Quest or NAGA will really accelerate the learning curve) but if you can train two or three times a week, do it. It’s fun, it’s a good workout and it never hurts as a leader of a bunch of tough guys if you are at least in the top 3 or 4 when it comes to unarmed combat.

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  3. Esli

    Well, between my two companies, I had 17 platoon leaders, and probably 35 more in my current job. I would debate a couple minor points on this list, but if all 17 platoons in my Bn had PLs like this list, they would be the best collection in the army. I have some great young LTs but they do have their various strengths and weaknesses.

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  4. SFC (R) Blizzard

    The most importan relationship you will have in the Army will be between your PSG and yourself. You might as well be married. The PL is Dad and he drives that car, makes the final desision, ect… The PSG is Mom, he gets the kids up, makes sure their dressed, fed, educated, and “takes care of their boo boos”. Remember, if Mom ain’t happy, no one is happy. Work together, hold him accountable for his piece of the pie and have him hold you accountable for yours. Soldiers need to know that speaking to one is like speaking to the other. Like parents, you always speak an act as one.

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  5. SFC Dunlap 173d RVN

    I believe this entire list trumps #33 which is precisely the kunundrum of all points written in that to do all of them damages family and sleep time (REM sleep). All of the points are truly valid but no time and movement study can truly make the 24/7 nature of the business perfectly efficient. If we have an armed force wherein the lowest of the low never ask why they can’t drink or go off base like the “fill in the blank” Army, Navy, Air Force of another country then you have consummate military efficiency top down, bottom up. Just sayin’ I could be majorly FU’d.

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