First 90 Days as an XO (Part 2)
This is Part 2 of a 3 Part Series, click here for part 1.
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.
Command Supply Discipline Manager
One of the more technical aspects of the XO position is to run the Command Supply Discipline Program (CDSP) for your company. Put simply, CDSP deals with all aspects of property and supply for your organization. This includes everything from scheduling sensitive items inventories, editing sub-hand receipts, and tracking supply statuses’. The Center for Army Lessons Learned has a great handbook entitled, “Small Unit Leader’s Guide to The Command Supply Discipline Program”, that is a must-read for new XO’s. Also, CJO has recently published an article on this topic, see here for some additional thoughts on the CSDP program.
To master the CDSP program, here are actions you can take within the first 90 days:
-Establish a GCSS-A account through your unit Property Book Officer. Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-A) is the Army’s system of ordering supplies, accounting for property, and tracking maintenance. For the non-logistician, it can be a very overwhelming system. Before taking over as XO, link in with your Property Book Officer (PBO) at the Brigade Level who is most likely a Warrant Officer. This Warrant will be able to set up your account, and will likely have some guides to assist in learning the system. However, self-study of the system will be paramount to your success.
-Develop a relationship with your company supply team. At the company level, there are likely two to three soldiers working in your supply room. The supply team will be rolled up under the company’s HQ section, meaning they will be working directly for the command team. Counsel your supply team early on general expectations, but also use this time to learn from them on their technical knowledge and experience. If your supply clerks are inexperienced, develop a relationship with your battalion level S4 NCOIC. This NCO will be the most senior and experienced supply soldier in your unit; lean on them for developing and checking on your supply team’s work.
-Identify and understand all property on the Primary and Sub-Hand Receipts for your unit. One of the first things you should do as a XO is to identify all of the property your unit is signed for. The Primary Hand Receipt (PHR) is everything that is on your company’s books and is signed by the Commander. The Sub-Hand Receipt (SHR) is the PHR but broken down into pieces, most likely being at the squad level. Sit down with your supply team and the SHR’s in a huddle to discuss their property, and schedule a time to see each section’s items. That way when the Commander has a question about a certain item, you know exactly what he is talking about.
-Establish a concrete inspection schedule in accordance with S4 guidelines. As an XO one task that you will have to manage without fail is monthly property inspections. Every month a different officer or E7 will have to account for all Sensitive Items on the PHR, examples of these items are all weapons, night vision devices, etc. The SI list should remain the same each month. Another mandatory inventory that occurs is the Cyclic inventory. The Cyclic inventory covers percentages of items listed on the PHR each month (usually 10-15%) so that by the end of the fiscal year all of the property on the PHR is accounted for. Finally, there is the most important type of inventory an XO can be responsible for: Change of Command. We will cover that separately in the XO’s toolkit. When you take over the seat, sit down with your battalion S4 team to identify the schedule of inventories. Once you have this information create an inventory schedule for the officers within your company, as an XO you are not allowed to conduct the inventories yourself!
Command Maintenance Discipline Manager
Maintenance, one of the XO’s most important and oftentimes most frustrating responsibilities. While maintaining the equipment of your unit is every soldier’s responsibility, developing solutions for recurring maintenance issues will be your responsibility. Here are some tips to help manage things easier:
-GCSS-A Maintenance Access. Once you have access to GCSS-A you will be able to access your company’s maintenance records and systems. Included in the Toolkit is a guide on how to manage all these systems. A best practice is to link in with your maintenance Warrant Officer or NCOIC for your battalion to help with your training.
-Develop positive relationships with your company’s mechanics and other maintenance personnel. One of the best things to do early on is to sit down with your battalion’s maintenance team and understand their role and responsibilities. Each company should have its own assigned mechanics that deal with specific pieces of equipment (i.e wheeled vehicles, generators, weapons, etc). It is important to develop a positive relationship with the leaders of your maintenance team, but you should also strive to know the troopers who turn wrenches. Additionally, within your maintenance team will be soldiers who assist with maintaining other assets such as weapons and calibrated items. Ensure that you develop a positive relationship with them as well.
-Understand your unit’s weekly maintenance battle rhythm. Across the force, Mondays are often used to address maintenance issues within the organization. However, the likelihood that your Monday will be dedicated to just maintenance priorities is unrealistic. Competing priorities and tasks will inevitably creep in, so having established systems is crucial. The toolkit provides much more detail in this regard, however here are some best practices:
-Have a class on how to properly fill out 5988’s to your junior enlisted soldiers. While many different soldiers can teach this block of instruction, you should teach your soldiers your expectations for a completed 5988. This will enable you and your NCOs to set the standard for the unit, and help reduce the number of corrections needed during the verification process.
–Establish weekly priorities with your platoon leadership and maintenance team. Most units have a long list of items that need repair and services, however, prioritizing the mission essential items is crucial to yourself and the commander. This prioritization will occur during the weekly maintenance meeting ran by the battalion XO.
-Hold all leaders accountable for maintenance. Too often, a unit’s maintenance issues get pushed solely on the XO to handle. If you try to assume all the responsibility for getting things fixed, you will be straining yourself too far. Ensure that Platoon Leaders, Platoon Sergeants, and Squad Leaders understand the different aspects of the maintenance battle rhythm. This will save you time and energy and generates buy-in to the maintenance fight.
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.
Photo by SGT James Geelen, 4th ID SUS BDE