Transitioning from ROTC to Active Duty (1LT Anderson US ARMY MP)

1.      Did ROTC prepare you for being a 2nd Lt./Platoon leader? If not why

I was actually talking about this with one of our new LTs the other day. I felt like my particular ROTC really did. I probably use more skills and lessons learned from ROTC than BOLC as a PL/XO.  For example 8 step training model, TLPs, ROC drills, writing orders for training events etc. My particular ROTC program went out of its way to not cut corners and tried to expose all the cadets to what I think is the "right" way of doing stuff. A lot of units do things very different, and I think there is a lot of value to not cutting corners and building strong habits. For example, running a range is a basic thing all PLs do and  after the first one its pretty standard. I would say a lot of units may not require an OPORD for a training event like this. Ultimately that is a CDRs call but I think its important to do the shitty stuff as a PL because you learn a lot from it. Write an Order for your training event, brief it to your Key leaders/SLs etc, and do rehearsals. If you can do it for the little stuff like a range, then doing it for major stuff like a multinational exercise across a couple different countries, or an actual down range deployment wont seem like a big deal. It will be just routine. You got to set the standard. I think ROTC showed that to me.

2. What is your most memorable moment being a platoon leader?

When I took over my platoon I got diverted last minute. I went to this unit because their PL got relieved and the platoon just had 2 DUIs, one major SHARP incident. It was probably the worst platoon in the BN or brigade because of the negative reputation it developed. My platoon sergeant showed up the same time as me and we totally hit it off. I was lucky this guy was legit. From the very beginning we had the same attitude for the platoon. We wanted to develop a sense of pride, a little swagger, and be good at what is expected out of us. We totally re-branded the platoon got a new logo put it on everything in the office, painted the floor, made platoon poker chips to hand out, plaques etc. I think it got a little out of hand haha. But the Soldiers eventually got into it and bought in, everyone was loving it. Towards the end of our time together after about a year we won the platoon of the quarter for the BN. This was a BN level award saying who the top platoon of the FY quarter was. So it was really cool to see all the Soldiers celebrating it, and it was a good feeling knowing it was one of the worst but now it was the BNs top platoon. After your PL time you wont get to be on the ground with Soldiers as much honestly. That comradery that you build as a PL is hard to get as an officer as you stay in longer.

3.What did you expect going to your first duty assignment? What was the reality of it?

I didn’t really have any expectations, I was just going to kind of roll with it. You're going to have some sort of idea what you think is going to be expected out of you after BOLC, but in reality you wont know anything at all. As a brand new LT, even if you are prior service but with no experience at the squad leader level or higher, you're not ready for what is going to be expected out of you. It probably took me around 90 days to have a decent idea of how to my job and be efficient at it. However, its not going to stop you. You need to be able to learn fast and own the mistakes you make, and learn from them. The learning curve is really steep, you should always be trying to learn more and more.

4. What is your biggest piece of advice for cadets commissioning out of ROTC for when they get to their first duty assignment?

I would just say take it seriously. You are in college or whatever having a good time I get it, and that doesn’t necessarily stop in the army. However, you are going to be in charge of a lot of people and a lot equipment. No one cares about what you did at ROTC or BOLC, like I said you don’t know shit haha. So you need to be able to effectively communicate with the people around you. If you are not a good communicator or people person, you need to figure it out. Build good relationships with everyone, and show them you are reliable. Don’t be that LT that provides no value to your organization. And LISTEN TO YOUR NCOS. Every NCO I meet I assume they know everything about the army, and as I work with them the more I adjust my assessment of them. But if you show that you care about what they are saying they’ll take care of you, they are the ultimate driving force of the army. Don’t be a dick. You may think you are in charge as a LT but you really aren’t so I check your ego. Its LTs like that who fuck the officer corps reputation. Last thing take care of Soldiers, its not about you. You are not important, the Soldiers driving the unit forward are important. 

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