2 years in review…a shout out to my friends from WP and BOLC. From left to right, Branch Night when Shon and I found out we both branched Air Defense, our BOLC Socratea philosophy discussion group, some friends from class, and finally BOLC graduation!
“It’s so hard…to say good bye…to what we had. The good times that made us glad outweigh bad.”
If you didn’t recognize the lyrics, take a stroll down memory lane with me to the 90s when R&B was great and Boyz 2 Men were the vocal crushes of the day. Well…they were my crushes at least.
Kind of an unfitting song for what I want to express, but I tend to cope with my sadness with a bit of [weird] humor. A week ago, I made my way from Korea, Japan, Seattle, Dallas and FINALLY to Richmond, Virginia. That’s right, Lost LT family, my chapter in Korea closed when I tearfully hugged my platoon sergeant good bye. By June, I will say “Guten tag” to Germany!
Welcome to the Army. Ever since my childhood as a wee Army Brat, I grew accustomed to waving good bye to friends. These constant farewells caused me to become oddly detached, well rounded, and healthily resilient. Saying good bye to my first Soldiers, Warrant Officers, NCOs, and friends however, is like saying to good bye to my closest family. The weird uncles…the doting mother…the emotional dad who bottles up his feelings…the brothers you bully around…your sister who has a constant existential crisis…it’s all there. We grow a bond. We power through difficult times together and then we must let go and move on. A bitter sweet feeling swells up in the pit of my stomach when I reflect on my time in Korea. I felt purposeful. I changed and grew so much in this short but exhausting year. Even when tired, angry, or upset, my Soldiers kept me going. And now I’m moving on to the next LT marker of my life…becoming an XO.
**Cue internal screaming**
Since this blog became inspired by long days of reflection about the ways I could improve myself and help others, in honor of my year and 4 months in Korea, I will leave you with my top lessons learned as a platoon leader. Some friends of mine also offered up much clearer and specific lessons learned that are far more helpful than mine. Seriously…read their stuff. It’s good.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Don’t sweat the big stuff.
- Don’t sweat. Glisten.
- Make time for yourself. For the love of God, don’t sacrifice a meal to finish a power point.
- Foster good relationships with the other Lieutenants.
- Use apd.army.mil for EVERYTHING from TMs, DA Forms, DD Forms, etc.
- Go to your supply sergeant and learn how to fill out a shortage and 2062s for sub-hand receipts. Make an effort to learn about command supply discipline. Create a LOGSA account, type TMs when searching for one of the many LOGSA apps to download TMs for your equipment.
- Fight for what you believe in…even if it means getting into respectful, measured arguments with your commanders (behind closed doors).
- Do not EVER compromise your integrity and your authentic self.
- Shield your Soldiers from poop.
- Correct sub-standard performance immediately and humbly
- Make your corrections a learning point.
- Support your chain of command in front of your Soldiers…even when you don’t want to.
- Empower and develop your NCOs. Sometimes that means allowing them to fail.
- Let yourself fail and learn from your mistakes.
- Do your best to conduct a good left-seat, right-seat
- Seek a mentor. If your chain of command doesn’t do it for you, don’t be afraid to seek counsel from the S-3 team or other Officers or First Sergeants in your Battalion.
- Create your own opportunities.
CPT Aristotle Alviso
- Don’t be the single point of failure for your organization. All knowledge and lines of communication should not only rest with you. Some try to adopt the expert mentality and forget that one day, you will leave the platoon so make sure the platoon can still operate once you leave.2. Prioritize developing your NCOs. For some, you may be the only one that cares about where they are and where they can be 5, 10 years down the road.
- Network like crazy. Good leaders and ambassadors of their organization don’t say they are the only ones that can get the job done. They know who knows what and can leverage their relationships to benefit their soldiers, other units in need and themselves.
2LT Dante DiGiansante
- Don’t be afraid to be right. Even though you’re brand-new and this is your first unit, that doesn’t actually take away from your foundational knowledge. Don’t be afraid to correct an NCO if you see something wrong. Even if you get criticism, don’t be afraid to back your position.
- Be resilient. If you’re resilient, people will notice it. Things will go wrong very often. Your job will sometimes feel like putting out fire after fire. Don’t let that change you.
- Don’t become risk adverse. Learn to become a better problem solver instead of simply avoiding the risk.
1LT Alejandra Pinheiro
Always sub hand receipt everything down, make sure the 1750s are 99% accurate before you leave to a training, and label your equipment if it’s an equipment that several platoons have.
1LT Oren Rosen
- Ruthlessly pursue information. Don’t ever settle for “We can take care of that tomorrow…” or “It shouldn’t be done”. Find out the answer and 100% pursue getting a concrete answer that satisfies your boss’s intent.
- You are probably never going to have one single “Ah ha!” moment when everything clicks. However, you will look back on a series of events or experiences and see how you learned from all of them. So stay patient and hungry to learn and develop!
- Bend over backwards to help your battle buddies out (especially fellow LTs). They will save you.
1LT Kieran James
- Don’t come into a new unit swinging your rank around. Take the time to learn the rhythm and leadership styles within your unit before you decide to make major changes. Your commissioning source didn’t prepare you for 90% of the issues you’ll face in your job. Understanding who to talk to and how to talk to them is the hardest thing you will learn how to do, and it will take time to do it.2. Caring for Soldiers means being tough but fair. Your Soldiers don’t need more friends; they need competent leadership that is both flexible when extenuating circumstances (emergencies, family issues, AER and financial help) arise, and is able to give tough love (training 10-30 level tasks to standard, APFT, height-weight) when Soldiers forget how to prioritize their own welfare. And incentivizing success is just (if not more) important than reprimanding failure.3. Being involved daily is the key to gaining the trust of your Soldiers and establishing yourself as a credible leader. Know how to do a full PMCS and be able to demonstrate to your Soldiers. You’d be surprised how receptive they are when you’re the one busting track or crawling under your track to remove belly plates.4. Property, property, property. Can’t stress it enough. Knowing the equipment you are assigned for, understanding what equipment you need but aren’t, and having everything logged efficiently will make or break you as a new LT.5. Learn about Soldier education opportunities and make sure your Soldiers have all the information and resources to access it. Most get out after 4-ish years…. it’s your responsibility to help them think about that transition and what they need to be doing for themselves and their families on the back end of their time in service. Same goes for financial readiness and savings plan.6. Finally– don’t underwrite counseling statements: initial, periodical, event based (positive and negative). Articulating exactly what you want done and following up regular makes it infinitely easier to enforce over your 9+ months leading a section.
1LT Zoe Kreitenberg
- No one uses email at the platoon level like they likely do at your commissioning source. Most of my Soldiers didn’t even know how to check their military email. You have to figure out how to communicate effectively with your voice and ensure that your message properly reaches the lowest level.2. You probably aren’t going to shoot the terrorists or create master war plans on the daily, but you will manage the hell out of your equipment and your personnel. Keep track of things. Spreadsheets on spreadsheets.
1LT Lashondra Maddox-Phung
- Jump on the LOGSA train early, which fortunately, I had an awesome sponsor who got me started on it as soon as I got to my unit. Inventories will be slightly easier when you learn to navigate it for TMs and FEDLOG. I second the comment on sub-hand receipting. In the event that you do have to pay for property as the result of someone else’s failure, at least you’re not alone. Ensure you counsel that individual on their responsibilities of being signed for that piece of equipment.2. NCOs are not exactly what they tell you in BOLC. You DO NOT always get stellar NCOs who can mentor new, naive, and clueless LTs. Trust but verify. Seek answers and don’t settle when you’re not receiving results.3. When you’re good, you’ll end up getting more tasks than others who honestly don’t care or are simply lazy. It’s okay to say you can’t do something. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will step on the breaks for you. Being in a new position, you really have to take the reigns on your career and move it in the direction you want it to go in.
1LT Eric Schneider-Cuevas
Everyone always makes it out to be like if you, as an Officer, can’t smoke everyone in your platoon then you’re a failure. From what I’ve seen soldiers don’t necessarily care about your physical ability but more about how much effort you put in. It’s not about being the best, it’s about trying to be better.
1LT Matthew McCormack
- Rank only loosely correlates with skill, experience, or work ethic. I have had E-7s not know what they’re doing and not help and at all, and E-4s that are incredibly professional and hard working. Get to know peoples’ individual talents, who needs their hand held through a task, and who the go-getters are.2. Usually any clerical task/paperwork can be done in about 5 minutes, so knock those out first. Then move on to your “thinking” tasks (counseling, figuring out what training needs to get done, going through and prioritizing other tasks, etc), which usually take about 30 minutes to an hour, before finally moving on to “physical” tasks (executing training or classes, moving equipment, searching through multiple regs to see what you have to do, etc). This prevents you from getting piled under a bunch of little tasks you might forget.
2LT Kunal Jha
Jha loves to tell stories before diving into the moral, so first, I simply received this golden nugget of wisdom:
“Don’t be petty.”
Then, he finally, after typing a three-paragraph long story about a guy he really didn’t like, he went into more detail:
“You will find some peers you like and some you can’t stand, but the biggest thing is to keep a clear head and respectful demeanor with everyone. The Army is a small place and you can’t be throwing verbal knives around because just as easy as you throw them at others they will be thrown at you.”
Hopefully some of this advice helps you on your journey towards success. Your first year will be tumultuous, stressful, and incredibly rewarding. You will so much about yourself and others as you enter the large psychological Inside Out movie that is the Army.
Below are links to some of the sites that will help you on your journey:
LOGSA (for TMs): https://www.logsa.army.mil/
APD (for DA, DD, TCs, FMs, etc): https://www.apd.army.mil/