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Company Command: The Bottom Line - Army Leadership Guide

How Commander’s Can Conduct an Initial 1SG Counseling?

Company Command: The Bottom Line - Army Leadership Guide

The following is an extract from the Book Company Command the Bottomline

Day One with Your 1SG—Initial Counseling

The most important meeting with your 1SG is the one that takes place immediately after you assume command. This is the ideal time to perform your initial counseling with the 1SG. There is a high probability that your battalion commander will want to see a draft of your initial counseling prior to you assuming command. This will be for two reasons. The first reason is that it is his or her way of emphasizing the importance of counseling as a developmental tool for organizations and for individuals. In essence, what gets checked, gets done. Your battalion commander will definitely check you in this area even if it occurs after you assume command. If you start having problems in your organization, you can bet there will be a close look at what you have done with counseling. Furthermore, the 1SG oversees the unit counseling program; therefore, you set the standard when you properly counsel the 1SG. Historically, many commanders fail to counsel their 1SGs so you can bet that when a 1SG get a counseling statement from you, they immediately assume (and rightly so) that you are serious. Great first impression.

The second reason for a pre-examination of your initial 1SG counseling will be the fact that it is an excellent way for the battalion commander to peer into your priorities, command philosophy, and to understand the immense responsibilities you are about to assume. The sooner you begin drafting the initial 1SG counseling, even if it is just a mental outline, the better. Ask other company commanders for examples of their initial counseling as well as for advice on how to best conduct the counseling itself. You should also seek out any and all field grade officers willing to mentor you with regard to counseling. Then, there is always the instrumental advice of the CSM. If you do this one thing well, especially before taking the guidon, you will leave an excellent impression in the minds of your command team and, more importantly, with your 1SG.


When it comes to the actual counseling session itself be cautious in using the opportunity to establish that you are the boss. The fact that you are the commander and now have the wherewithal to conduct a professional counseling session, is already proof enough for your 1SG. This session is the formal start of your command relationship and therefore sets a tone for the future. The 1SG will see your agenda when he or she glances through the DA Form 4856. After this, your bullet points should become talking points that result in a professional discussion. In fact, this counseling will probably be one in which you do far more listening than talking. Ultimately, the two of you will establish the plan to command and to run the company. It is also wise to provide the 1SG with a copy of the counseling several days in advance for their review. Also, ask them to bring you a draft of their support form. You should provide them with a draft of your support form and your senior rater’s support form when you provide them with the read ahead counseling. Conducting this session soon after the change of command, sends a powerful signal to the unit on the importance of the commander-1SG relationship

Consider the following items as you plan your meeting with the 1SG:

  • GET the 1SG’s ideas on a command philosophy.
  • DEVELOP and agree on unit goals, standards, and objectives:
  1.  Specify and publish them (e.g., a goal of 270 (90 points per event)) for everyone. If this is the goal, make sure you can achieve it.
  2. Agree on “the forbidden, the catastrophic, and the non-redeemable” (e.g., Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention violations, safety, weapons and ammunition accountability, drugs, DUI, and AWOL). You and your 1SG must be on the same “priority frequency” to ensure fairness and to prevent destructive misunderstandings later on.
  • PROVIDE your 1SG with a copy of your completed OER (Officer Evaluation Report) Support Form. The 1SG wants to know what will make you successful. Your professional destinies are naturally linked. AR 623-3 and DA PAM 623-3 requires that you provide your support and the senior rater’s support form to the rated Soldier.
  • DISCUSS your expectations of a 1SG.
  • SEEK the 1SG’s expectations of you.
  • EMPHASIZE open, two-way communication=(e.g., guarantee the 1SG his “day in court”).
  • DETERMINE: The 1SG’s role in UCMJ and administrative separation procedures. For example, the 1SG:

1.  Advises and recommends.

2. Initiates.

3. Checks to ensure that you have all of the details and supporting documents to make a fair and just decision.

4. Protects Soldier’s rights (this includes assuring that the Soldier has both the time and the opportunity to consult with Trial Defense Services (TDS).

5. Supervises any punishment imposed.

DETERMINE the 1SG’s role with company lieutenants.

  • Advises
  • Trains
  • Assists
  • Listens
  • Does not dictate

For More Information on this subject see the following resource(s):

Company Command the Bottomline

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Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training.

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