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                 we learned to work together overnight because we most certainly did not. We disagreed a lot in the beginning. We had to “close the office door” and have several discussions throughout the day away from the watchful eyes of the platoon. One quality he did have was the ability to communicate and talk things through. Never once did we show a divided front to our Soldiers. I started by training the platoon’s two machine gun teams all day until late at night. We practiced dismounted crew
drills and machine gun theory because they had never practiced it before. This lead to a closed- door conversation on time off. He believed that practicing the drills was consuming more time than needed, and time off was necessary.
I explained that the platoon being able to
engage the enemy was a far greater asset than
time off since one misstep could cost them and
the entire platoon their lives. I then moved on to convoy operations, heavy weapons training, and practicing basic Soldier skills. One such skill was something as simple as using night vision. For this, we needed to use the dark basement of a building. Fort Richardson in Alaska experiences sunlight 24 hours a day during the summer solstice. They had not used the equipment in months and had not realized it. We continued practicing these tasks and many others necessary for us to fight successfully and survive. Having initially thought the reviewing and practice drills were a waste of time, he very quickly observed that his platoon had fallen into a very complacent mindset and definitely could use the training. One week into the deployment, all the hard work was validated. We were moving through a village when our platoon came under enemy
fire. Our machine gun teams instinctively set up and were vital in laying down suppressive fire that allowed the platoon to maneuver and close with the enemy. At that moment, he saw that I had meant
well and wanted everyone to be proficient in their jobs so we could all come home safely. We never argued after that and are still good friends today.
I can summarize my worst experience with a Platoon Leader quickly. He was a five-year First Lieutenant that was getting out of the Army. He was an absent Leader. When training in the field, he would sleep alone, away from the platoon—only making himself available for food and Company level events. This man gave little to no guidance on anything, and I am relieved he never deployed. I have no idea what became of him once he left the military.
Initial Sit Down
Later in my career, I was stationed at West Point as a Master Sergeant. Throughout four years of a rigorous top-level military education, I found it fascinating there was no designated training that prepared future commissioned officers for their initial encounter with their first platoon sergeant. There were no practical exercises on establishing rapport with the senior NCO in the platoon, so vital to creating a mentoring environment that
will help them become effective platoon leaders. Nothing that prepared them to lead someone with vastly more experience. It was a point of concern for many young officers and would lead to missteps during this critical moment in their career. Would their words be an insult? How do they keep from sounding like a tyrant or someone too weak when they took over their first platoon? I took it upon myself to practice their initial meeting and initial counseling of their first Platoon Sergeant. This initiative helped many 2nd lieutenants start one of the essential relationships they would have while in the Army.
We began a program where two Infantry Command Sergeants Major and I would meet
with the senior Cadets that were going to branch Infantry and gave them a brief rundown of our views of the roles and responsibilities within a Platoon. They practiced giving us initial counseling and gained confidence in themselves. They learned that their Platoon Sergeant would be their lifeline to the platoon, and their knowledge would assist them in making correct and timely decisions. Eventually, this program allowed over 100 Cadets to understand what they could expect and how they might handle it.
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