First 90 Days as an XO (Part 1)
Photo by SPC Georgan Tyquiengco, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
The majority of time developing a new Officer is directed at preparing that individual to be an effective Platoon Leader. After all, this is your first real test as an Officer and what you have aspired to be up until this point right? But what happens after your time as a PL is over? More often than not you might find yourself serving as a Company Executive Officer. Being an Executive Officer or “XO” is a job that the commissioning sources do not place much emphasis on, and if you find yourself in that position you will most likely have to learn most of your duties while on the job. The purpose of this article is to help you understand the responsibilities as an XO, as well as actions you can take within the first 90 days in position for continued success.
If you serve as an Executive Officer you will have a multitude of responsibilities. One of the more difficult aspects of this position is how wide-ranging these duties can be. In this multi-part article, we have broken these duties into the following categories: Second in Command, Command Supply Discipline Manager, Command Maintenance Manager, Unit Liaison, and Junior Officer Mentor. Each one of these categories has an associated folder in the CJO Executive Officer’s Toolkit with specific resources and guides for each topic.
Second In Command
If you have been selected to be an XO are most likely the senior Lieutenant in your company and have been identified for future command potential. The second portion of this is extremely to your duties as an XO, command potential. As an XO, you are the second in command of the company meaning that when the Company Commander is not around you have the responsibility of running the company along with the First Sergeant.
Let’s highlight some actions you can take within the first 90 days to help prepare you to be Second in Command:
–Establish clear expectations of your relationship with your Company Commander during your initial counseling. As the XO, you are a member of the command team and should act as both a partner and advisor to your commander. While you are still junior to your commander, a good commander will lean on you for advice. During your initial counseling advocate that you want to be active in command team discussions and decisions in order to learn more about the command decision-making process. This will show your commander that you care about the success of the company as a whole and are seeking opportunities to develop your future command skills.
–Understand your Commander’s battle rhythm in addition to your own. One of the toughest aspects of being an XO is managing all of the different battle rhythms from different parts of your organization. You will have your own schedule with the Battalion XO, different parts of the Battalion Staff, and your own company. Of these different schedules, understanding your Commander’s schedule is perhaps the most important. The reason for this is that as the XO if your commander is not available, you are responsible for fulfilling their requirements. For example, if the Commander is adjudicating a UCMJ punishment during the afternoon you may have to sit and brief in their place during the weekly training meeting with the Battalion Commander. The best practice here is to sync in with the Commander daily to increase your awareness of what is happening both inside and outside your company.
-Set a clear understanding with your fellow Lieutenants on your expectations. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of being the XO is peer leadership. As the XO, your decisions have more effect on the company as a whole than the other officers. Remember that as the XO you are a part of the command team first, and a fellow Lieutenant second. What makes this relationship difficult is that you are of similar rank and do not legally possess command authority. This means that you cannot punish a PL for not sending you maintenance updates or not compiling with other company standards. Being the XO is primarily a position of influence. A best practice here is to bring in your fellow officers and explain to them that you are an extension of the Commander, that what you ask of them should be treated in the same regard. Having your Commander stress this expectation with your peers will also help solidify this expectation.
As discussed in the Second in Command section earlier, you will have to be a peer leader in your company. While it is imperative to establish that your orders are an extension of the commander, do not forget that you are also a fellow lieutenant. A best practice is to envision yourself as the primary mentor of your fellow lieutenants. By this point, you should have acquired a lot of experience at the company level, and you will have been in their position. Take the time to help out your fellow LTs, and also plan to receive feedback on how the company can improve. A fellow lieutenant will feel more comfortable giving honest feedback to someone of the same rank. Use this knowledge to act as a bridge between the junior officers and the command team. Take a look here at another article from CJO for additional thoughts on this topic.
Being a XO is a thankless job but taking advantage of every challenge and opportunity that comes your way will naturally groom you to be a better Company Commander. Take advantage of the bad things that come your way and use those as free “sets and reps” and ensure you celebrate the good things that come your way. Remember to never bad-mouth your predecessor even if you feel like you were handed over a bad situation, but instead, use it as an opportunity to help implement positive change and impact the Soldiers you have the honor of leading.
CPT Hugh Kennedy is currently attending Field Artillery Captain Career Course (FACCC) and recently served as an S-4 for the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment and as a Battery XO for a M777A2 Firing Battery.
CPT Lorenzo Llorente II is currently serving in Kaiserslautern, Germany with the 7th Mission Support Command. He has served as a Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, and Company Commander. He is also a CJO Leadership Fellow.
CPT Andrew Bordelon is currently a Rifle Company Commander in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). As an Infantry officer, he has served as a platoon leader during Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan and a company executive officer in an IBCT. He previously served as an instructor and assistant operations officer at the 6th Ranger Training Battalion.”
CPT Terry Lee is the outgoing executive officer for Bravo Company, 40th BEB, 2ABCT, 1AD at Fort Bliss, TX. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2017, where he commissioned as an Engineer Officer. His military education includes the Basic Officer Leader Course, Air Assault School, and the Route Clearance and Reconnaissance Course (R2C2-L). He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a 2020 Army Center for Junior Officers (CJO) 30 under 30 leader developer.