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The Rules For Successful Platoon Sergeants...

A good read for the weekend as we watch events in Russia unfold. 

This is my own take on how the next guy down in the platoon can help the next guy up be better, and maybe make the next guy down better for it as well....

I have much to say about the Bear going over the Mountain (again), but that will come later.

Offered without apology....

As a Platoon Sergeant, regardless of MOS, you have the best job in the entire US Military, aside from possibly Jet Pilot or SF warrant officer.  If you are in a Combat MOS, you do have the best job in the world.

Your boss, the fresh faced kid 24 year old kid from Michigan, doesn't know shit, but he is not to be treated like shit.  You are likely the first "employee" that this fresh faced kid with a new buckskin from the Academy has ever had.  He is going to form 90 percent of his opinions about the unit, the C/O, the staff, the BC and the post based upon what you tell him, how you guide him, and how you act.

You are also likely the first real "boss" that the fresh faced steely eyed killers bequeathed to you by the US Government have ever had as well.  Stories will be told about you many years from now, make sure they are good ones.

If you ever find yourself wondering why PL's are so dumb, remember how old yours is, and then count backwards from that age using a number between 8 and 12.  He was likely in Junior High School when your named was etched on The Wall of Badassery.  You are already that far ahead of them.

It is not your job to get the PL reassigned elsewhere.  If he is failing, it is going to be seen as your fault.

If the PL shows up anywhere (a jump, a REFORGER, a formal ball) and looks like a soup sandwich, usher him away from there and help him fix it before others see.  If your soldiers show up anywhere looking like soup sandwiches, you didn't work hard enough to make sure they didn't.

Help the PL to maintain a healthy distance from the Joes.  He will likely share much in common with them (age-wise, taste wise and such) and it will be natural to want to bond with them.  Help him do it just enough.

Help the Joes understand that even though the PL is only two years older than they are, his job and responsibilities are much greater.

Make sure that if the PL is leading from a place of danger and that if the mission does not dictate otherwise, you are within earshot.

Instruct your PL on what a 5 point contingency plan is.  Make him use it.

Make sure the NCOs in your platoon know where you are, at all times.  They will need your help more than they will need air on some days.

Counsel the PL against common errors, but let him make his own mistakes.

When he does make mistakes, allow him to say "you were right Sergeant" first before pointing them out.

Guard carefully your ramblings about your feelings on the PL.  There are many that will take your random observations and turn them into negative bullet points on an OER.

Ensure that in your haste to correct your soldiers misdeeds, you temper justice with the mercy of knowing that at some point not that long ago, you were on the other side of that equation.

Make sure that the PL never, under any circumstances, ever has to do any of your work.

Properly instruct him on exactly where his "lane" is and yours is in regards to "NCO Business."  Help him with the most essential function of any unit leader; delegation.

Ensure that your PL knows not to ask questions he may not want to know the answers to.

Make sure you are more technically and tactically proficient than the PL and your soldiers believe you to be.

The iron law of weekend passes says that nothing good, productive or lawful comes from hanging out in downtown Columbus/Atlanta/Tacoma on the weekend after 2200, but it makes for great stories on the ride from lockup, and barring it being a capital crime, it likely will look better in the light of day.

Ensure that every troop under your command has your home phone number, cell phone number, wife's cell phone number and tell them that they are to call it BEFORE they call the PL; ALWAYS...

Explain (patiently) to the Joes why it is necessary for the platoon to suffer the inequities of always doing things first because the PL volunteered us for it.  Leading the Battalion PT run, leaving first for the training area or being the first unit to do anything pays off.  When the time comes to be the first American Soldiers to touch down on the DZ at 2:30 a.m., step out onto an LZ 130 miles behind enemy lines, or lead the Thunder Run into Baghdad, it will just be natural that your platoon is in the lead, because that is how it always is right? 

Ensure that you are networked with the other PSGs, and the First Sergeant.  Great minds often think alike.

Be present and available during any command function, especially maintenance.

Ensure soldiers have work that complements their strengths and talents.  Work for the sake of busy-ness dulls the edge of these honed weapons.


Spend time with your platoon outside of duty time.  Have at least two functions a year that soldiers can bring their families to.

Allow your sergeant to have "sergeants time"  because what can get accomplished may at some point move you to tears.

Yelling is fun and theraputic, but sometimes speaking softly has a greater impact.

No matter what, in any situation, do what makes sense.

Remember, your job is two fold; you are molding educated young men to take other young men into combat and you are molding all of them into being leaders.  At some point in your career, the young man who was your first PL, could end up being your BC (and you his Sergeant Major), and that mealy mouthed specialist from back in the day could be Alpha Company's new First Sergeant.

And that unsure private who you had in your platoon only 4 months before PCS'ing about six years ago is now over in 1st Platoon, teaching a fresh faced kid 24 year old kid from Michigan who doesn't know shit how things really work.