I started this blog mainly as an outlet for my utterly dark and twisted humor, hence the first half of the site’s moniker “Dude”. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to write as “Cav” occasionally. My Army career is in its infancy, but I have had the opportunity to experience several different jobs and endured successes and failures in each of them; experiences I would like to impart on anyone willing to read. The humor will still be there, but with a more professional flavor. Mount up and enjoy the ride.
Initially, the Armor Branch does a respectable job inculcating esprit de corps without all the chest thumping that our Infantry brethren seem to enjoy. Following ABOLC graduation at Fort Benning, I felt eager to jump headfirst into the operational Army and take a platoon. Effective and maneuver and planning missions while simultaneously being in phenomenal shape due to the copious amount of free time, I was ready to lead Soldiers in mounted combat. The unfortunate fault of ABOLC lies in its complete disregard of teaching the basics of “garrison life” meaning maintenance, CONOPs, NCOERs, award writing, and a myriad of other tasks encountered daily when not operating in the field.
Upon arriving at my first duty station I fell right into a platoon leader position with zero time on staff. While that seemed like a gift at the time, looking back it would have helped considerably had I spent a month or two on staff. Even had I known the fundamentals of garrison life, it still takes weeks or even longer to learn the systems, structures, and people that form your organization. Arriving two months after my unit had returned from a Kuwait rotation, I was fortunate to have the time to figure all of this out. Had I taken my platoon in the middle of the training cycle, I would have had a significantly reduced period to learn. The mean experience of your Soldiers and NCOs remains the massive X factor here as well.
Unfortunately, I hold a jaded viewpoint of the state of the Army’s NCO Corps and this stems from my initial experience with it. Throughout cadet time and ABOLC, lieutenants are beaten over the head to trust and listen to their NCOs. While I am in no way saying don’t do this, I will say that experiences may vary. My platoon was essentially gutted of all NCO leadership within the first two months. While I began with a phenomenal platoon sergeant, I only had a combined three weeks to work with him before he changed positions. Prior to his departure, both section sergeants either PCS’d or changed positions as well as the rest of my junior NCOs. When the dust cleared, my platoon consisted of a Staff Sergeant and eighteen Soldiers. To put it in a perspective, an armored scout platoon at full strength consists of ten NCOs and twenty-five Soldiers. So as a brand-new second lieutenant, my mentorship comprised of one lone staff sergeant (who would end up getting relieved but that’s another story). This is not a “woe is me” story. The purpose here is simply to highlight a reality that could happen. The bright side here was that I was forced to learn rapidly and take a much more dominant role. Under normal circumstances I would not recommend this; let the NCOs do their thing. But when the situation demands a leader, someone must step up.
Again, I don’t want to sound overly cynical about my platoon leader time; it was the highlight of my career and something I’ll cherish for my entire life. My tenure began with markedly more downs than ups. But because of that, my platoon became very Soldier-centric as my Specialists and Privates First Class were thrust into roles typically reserved for Sergeants. It’s remarkable what Soldiers can accomplish and there are a group of them in my Platoon that I could never thank enough.
This series will continue intermittently but with this first volume my goal was merely to set the stage of my Army career to further shape how these posts will continue. Next volume will be an in-depth walkthrough of the first three months of my platoon leader time as I stumbled around trying to learn the ropes.