“Oh! And Sergeant!”
“Yes Ma’am?” My first Platoon Sergeant never paused between the two words. He always said “yes ma’am” like he was calling me to attention.
A little too excitedly, I said, “We still need to do our initial counseling!”
My platoon sergeant smirked a little as he left the office. “Yes. Roger, Ma’am.”
I had to build myself up to this. My first big girl initial counseling with my first Platoon Sergeant. I waited four years for this one moment. I would finally assert myself as a leader with my fearless PSG by my side.
The day finally arrived. I wrung my hands together…was that sweat?
“So…this is the initial counseling.”
I smiled nervously as I usually do, trying to counter balance friendly anxiety with my deeper and more serious Platoon Leader voice. You might know the kind. The one where you don’t want to sound too feminine, but you also don’t want to sound like you’re compensating for the estrogen running through your voice box. Just me? Ok. I digress.
I read through it, sounding a bit robotic.
“Duties and Responsibilities of an NCO. Check.”
“SHARP and EO. Check.”
I finally tired of hearing the sound of my voice and just set the counseling aside.
I look up at my Platoon Sergeant. “I know you can read this. I just want to let you know that I want us to be a team. I want us to be able to work together. “This is what I’ve noticed so far in the platoon…” I continued on to explain my observations over the last month and we discussed possible improvements.
Although at first, my first Platoon Sergeant and I did not share many commonalities, we did possess these mutual traits: we had a kind of weird, sarcastic sense of humor; we were both rather open-minded people; most importantly, we cared about our Soldiers. Despite any differences between us, the initial counseling established a foundation for our relationship and a reference point during some minor disagreements. Sure, my counseling probably did not reflect the poignance or eloquence of Colin Powell’s first initial counseling, but I attempted to create a culture of open dialogue, team work, and mutual respect within the platoon through the ever mysterious 4856.
During your first initial counseling, you might feel a little silly or redundant. Your platoon sergeant likely endured many counselings with many different characters. Put your hesitation aside! These counselings show that you maintain the proper standard. They allow you to set your expectations so no confusion remains about how you want operations run within your platoon.
Now, without further ado, below are a few stellar initial counseling forms** from friends of mine who were kind enough to donate to the cause! Mine are not here because…they’re on the share drive at my old unit. Sorry, guys.
**Personal Identifiers and organizations were removed from some forms
Also, for the record, I have never read any of Colin Powell’s initial counselings.
1LT Michael Zuniga
Michael’s MFR and 4856 serve as XO counseling examples. Although different from a Platoon Sergeant initial counseling, it follows a similar format for you to use for any LT Senior Rater counseling.
1LT Hannah Brueck
1LT Xavier Davis
Notice how these counselings state some form of Army Regulation, communicate an expectation, and designate a way forward. The counseling is not a one way street. Not only should you establish yourself as the senior leader, you must act as such. Follow up, make a plan for quarterly counselings and exemplify standards you want your subordinates to follow. Most of all, be yourself! Authenticity and approachability are keys to any great counseling! You’re not knife handing your NCOs and telling them how to act. This an opportunity to discuss how to make each other better!
So don’t be lazy! Observe your unit for 30 days, and get to counseling, LT!