First 90 Days as an XO (Part 3)
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.
Being a training manager will be the third hat you will find yourself wearing within the first 90 days of being a XO. Proper unit training plan development is something that can have long-term positive effects such as higher retention rates and increased morale because using ADP 7-0’s green, amber, and red time management time cycle provides predictability. Understanding your company’s Mission Essential Task List and all supporting collective tasks can be a lot, but trust the experience you gained as a Platoon Leader when you planned training for your Platoon. The best way to gain a clear idea of your Company’s current training readiness status is to immediately gain access to the Digital Training Management System (DTMS) and Defense Readiness Reporting System-Army (DRRS-A). Once you understand where your unit stands with training, reading the training guidance published by all echelons above your organization and developing a company-level unit training plan that is nested within those, is a good way to earn your Commander’s and Training NCO’s trust as you begin your journey as the training manager. As an XO the resources you will allocate that will fall outside of your Platoon Leader’s responsibilities will be coordinating land, ammo, and other contracted items such as latrines.
-Individual Training: When the average Soldier hears DTMS, they think of individual training requirements such as ACFT, Individual Weapons Qualification, or AR 350-1 training requirements. However, there is way more to the system than each Soldier’s job book, but looking at the current mandatory training statistics is a good start before you start focusing on collective training. If you check DTMS and notice a lot of overdue Soldiers, you should check to see what the tracking mechanisms are. It is important to not just track overdue Soldiers, but also coach the Platoon Leaders to anticipate those that are within 30-60 days of coming due. Tracking individual training is important because this will keep your Commander and First Sergeant off the hot seat when they attend the Battalion-level training meeting.
-Collective Training: The training schedule, yearly training calendar, and Combined Arms Training Strategy (CATS) portion of DTMS is the part of the system you will be learning the most about. Training schedules, at times, will test your patience, but remain patient! From how slow the system runs to the Battalion S-3 returning them for small corrections, it is important to know the pain that goes with creating training schedules so it can help you give realistic suspenses to your Training NCO and also step in to lend a helping hand when necessary. Synchronizing and building good relationships with the Battalion S-3 and Battalion DTMS NCO will help gain a shared understanding of their expectations regarding unit training schedules. Additionally, establish a productive relationship with your battalions Land and Ammo team. They will be able to give you clarity on the process of acquiring these resources. Once you get a good hand on training schedules, leverage all of the tools the Combined Arms Training Strategy (CATS) tab has for planning training such as the training event matrix, training evaluations and outlines, and unit training lists. All of these tools will help you assist your Commander in holding Platoon Leaders accountable in working towards a culminating training event. Lastly, we all heard “if it is not on DTMS, then it didn’t happen”. This is somewhat true and ensuring that all tasks are scheduled and assessed on DTMS will make your life easier when it is time to help your Commander complete the Commander’s Unit Status Report (CUSR) on DRRS-A.
Once you have perused through DTMS, your next stop should be DRRS-A to review past Commander Unit Status Reports (CUSRs). Even though the “C” stands for “Commander”, let’s be real. You will be the one completing the majority of this report. Reviewing the training portion will enable you to see if Mission Essential Tasks have been getting assessed on DTMS and if it has, will allow you to capture the training strategy the organization has executed in the past and if it is working to increase training readiness. Since you are within the first 90 days of being a XO, the reports you review will allow you to develop short-term and long-term training changes you can advise your Commander to make in order to have better and more accurate follow-on CUSRs.
After you have a good understanding of training at the individual and collective level on DTMS and how your Company is communicating their training readiness on the CUSR, the next thing you should start reading is the Yearly and Quarterly training guidance of your Brigade and Battalion. This will ensure that your Company is training towards the execution of the unit’s combat mission. More importantly, understanding the purpose, key tasks, and end state of the training guidance communicated by higher echelon Commanders, allows you to assist the Commander that their current Company-Level Unit Training Plan is nested within their guidance and update it through a fragmentary order (FRAGORD), if necessary.
Liaison to other Organizations
Being an effective XO requires you to be an effective liaison. This is one of the best developmental aspects of the position; it forces you to engage with organizations outside of your own company. This allows you to develop a greater understanding of the larger picture, and how your unit fits in among the pieces. There are an endless amount of organizations to resource from, but here are some best practices to get you started:
-Understand the battalion staff and how you can help each other. When it comes to resourcing training, establishing schedules, and managing tasks the battalion staff is a key resource. The Commander will be interacting with the staff looking at future events, but day-to-day task management will more than likely fall on you. Establish rapport with the staff primaries and their soldiers, they will get you out of tough situations. Understand what the staff will require from you in the weekly battle rhythm, and how you can use their resources effectively.
-Establish relationships with your post’s civilian organizations. Each post has DOD civilian organizations that will help assist you in your operations. Reach out early to these places and develop points of contact. There is a list of these organizations in the toolkit and a brief description of what they do.
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.