Post Platoon Leader Series: Use your Battalion Command Team

a unit brief army
Leader Talking to Soldiers

This post is part of a series that attempts to add something to the “platoon leader advice” category beyond the typical “be good at everything at all times and you’ll be fine” variety. The intent is to provide more specific (and obscure) advice.

A hard thing for young leaders to grasp is that their subordinates don’t really want to hear them talk that much. As inspired as we think our thoughts and ideas are, there is a layer of scar tissue that builds up between people over time as a result of familiarity. For a platoon leader, getting your message across on day one is a lot easier than on day one hundred, before the platoon has learned your norms and idiosyncrasies – what you say you care about and what you actually care about.

One of the ways I found to break through the scar tissue is to use the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major – the Battalion Command Team – to deliver the message. If you’re doing it right, your message should be nested with theirs, so it shouldn’t be a hard sell. I viewed every planned or surprise Battalion Command Team visit as an opportunity to deliver an important message to the platoon straight from the top.

Regardless of what the Battalion Command Team is visiting for, they’re normally going to want to address the platoon. In the moments before this, I tried to speak with the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major (with my Platoon Sergeant, of course), and tell them what our issues were and what message we thought would be helpful to hear.

For this to be effective, you have to be comfortable telling your boss what problems exist, instead of briefing that everything is fine.

When I first started doing this, it felt a little uncomfortable. I felt like I may have been leaning in a bit too far with my Battalion Commander by laying out issues and recommending messages. Over time, I found that the honesty was appreciated. The Battalion Command Team seemed relieved to be asked to inject themselves in a way that might be directly helpful at the platoon level.

There’s a great feeling to be standing behind a platoon, listening to the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major hammer home an important issue that has struggled to sink in. It’s one thing if the Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, or Platoon Leader says it. It hits home completely different when it comes from the mouth of the Commander Sergeant Major.

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Whose Platoon Is It Anyway?

platoon leader and radio operatior vietnam
PL and RTO

Maybe this is all just semantics, but I’m of the mind that words are born of thoughts, and they all mean something.

What does it mean when a platoon leader, a young lieutenant declares “This is my platoon.” Or, “these are my guys.”

Or when someone asks, “Hey, when are you getting your platoon?”

I never thought much of it when I was enlisted. The platoon leader really didn’t factor that much into what I did on a day-to-day basis. I was much more concerned with what my NCOs thought, and keeping my mouth shut when an officer came around.

Back in IBOLC, as the talk of going to “take” a platoon stirred, I started to feel bothered by the idea of declaring a platoon “mine.” Something just seems wrong about it. I think the idea is born from a good place, a patriarchal desire to do good for your guys, but still, something seems wrong. They aren’t and will never be mine. Platoons are made up of individuals, and if anyone owns them, it’s the Army.

The platoon leader, at best, just signs the hand receipt.

Maybe it’s because of the rank/pay/duty disparity – I don’t know.

I do know that in most cases, the platoon leader will come and go, but the soldiers of the platoon will remain long after.

So, who does the platoon really belong to?

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