Okay, nearly three weeks into my adventure as a company commander, I can finally come up for air and talk a little bit about it. First, its insanely busy. From the moment I took the guidon, I feel like I’ve been playing catch up and am still about a hundred yards behind the formation. But thankfully, I’ve got a good team of NCOs leading the way. When officers talk about the NCOs being the backbone of the army, I could never fully appreciate it until now. NOTHING would get done without them and the incredible strength of the enlisted soldiers. We as leaders owe it to them to train them and build the team and promote those who qualify not just those who meet the time in grade requirements.
There would be no accurate discussion of command without talking about my problem children. There are limited things that I can/will say but for those who suggest that problem soldiers are signs of problem leadership, I’ll agree but only in part. Since we’ve been at war, the Army has willingly looked aside at problems in soldier’s personal lives, content that if they were doing their job, then everything was fine. That’s not good enough and it hasn’t been for a very long time. Senior leadership is talking about invasive leadership, getting back into soldiers lives and identifying problems before they explode in violence. But its more than that. Our soldiers who have joined the army since 9/11 have maintained an operational tempo higher than any generation of soldiers before them. Many of them have few life skills regarding the basics. An E2 who makes 1400$ a month should not have a $250 phone bill. Hell, I’m an O3E and I make a hell of a lot more than that and I don’t have a $250 phone bill. So one of the things I’m making a focus is life skills, using my FRG to wrap my arms and the vast array of army services to help teach some of these lost young folks how to manage their personal lives. Because contrary to popular belief, your personal life absolutely affects your military life and I’m continually seeing the same soldiers for the same problems. So its time to aggressively engage with those issues.
The great part about being a commander is being able to set conditions and priorities for my unit. Granted there’s always guidance from higher but I believe in bringing the team together and coming up with the way forward. My E5s and E4s are going to get the opportunity to step up in ways they never thought probable before. My XO is going to know how it feels to be a commander and so are my other lieutenants. Because at the end of the day, if I’m not building my bench, if I’m not building the next generation of leaders, then I’m truly not doing my job.
My insomnia is back. With a vengeance. I lie awake at night worrying about a couple of soldiers who are so close to the edge it’s not even funny. I’ve got my arms wrapped so tight around them but I fear what may happen. Other soldiers keep me awake because I can’t get them out of my head. And at the end of it all, the alarm goes off at 0455 and I do it all over again.
This is nothing like I expected. It’s so much easier to sit on the outside and say ‘that’s an easy decision why won’t the commander just do X?’ Let me tell you, it’s a who other ballgame when it comes to being the person who makes that decision and it’s something I never fully appreciated until I took the guidon. Its so easy to cast stones. It’s so easy to say that’s easy. It’s not. And if it is, then maybe you’re not doing it right. Because this responsibility is unbelievable. I can’t believe how differently I see things after only two and a half weeks in the seat.
This is going to change me. Its simply a question of how much and in what direction.