“Sign for this.” A common phrase throughout one’s Army career, usually associated with a gut drenching feeling of hesitance. So, what does this phrase actually mean, entail, and most importantly, why are Soldiers, of all grades, so hesitant to sign for property? The purpose of this article, is not only to answer these questions, but to provide Soldiers a better understanding of property discipline, and to identify common mistakes leaders tend to make when dealing with property.
Property, probably one of the most important terms in the Army, yet due to time constraints, it is overlooked. Two terms associated with property leaders should understand are responsibility and accountability. Army Regulation 735–5 section II paragraph 2–7, defines accountability as the obligation of a person to keep records of property, documents, or funds. Whereas, paragraph 2–8 defines “responsibility as the obligation of an individual to ensure Government property and funds entrusted to his or her possession, command, or supervision are properly used and cared for”. So, which one of these concepts causes the most hesitation? The answer is simple, both. The lack of understanding of accountability and responsibility and what these concepts entail, cause individuals an unsettling feeling. How do we mitigate this feeling?
As leaders it is imperative to foster an environment of property discipline. What does this environment look like? First, and most importantly, all equipment needs to be signed down to the user level. Secondly, the platoon leader must ensure proper property management happens.
Having equipment signed down to the user level creates a sense of ownership. If a Soldier is signed for a piece of equipment, he or she is more willing to take care of said equipment. For example, if an operator is signed for a M978A4, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT), that Soldier is more likely to take care of the vehicle. As a leader you just enabled the operator to have the autonomy over his or her equipment. Now the Soldier is more likely to take discipline initiative to ensure the maintenance and services on the HEMTT are up to date and proper Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) are conducted. Having Soldiers at the user level sign for their equipment, encourages the Soldiers to learn the capabilities of the equipment, where eventually they become the subject matter experts on their own equipment.
Additionally, in order to foster an environment of property discipline, it is the platoon leader’s responsibility to make sure his or her Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Soldiers understand their roles and responsibilities in regards to property accountability. The platoon leader assumes inherent responsibility to supervise the custodial care of all the property assigned to the platoon. An excerpt from the Applied Logistics Studies Department, Logistics Leader College, Army Logistics University titled — The Fundamentals of Property Accountability Combat Leaders Logistics Management, “in order to execute supervisory responsibility, the platoon leader must ensure all Soldiers are educated and counseled in regards to property accountability and discipline, keep records of all hand receipts, sub-hand receipts and shortage annexes, know the physical location of all equipment, and conduct proper inventories of all equipment.”
Now that we understand the concept of property a little better, let us look into a real life example…
On 12 January 2018, eight days after arriving to my first duty station, I was notified I was slotted to take over my first platoon as the Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricant (POL) Platoon Leader in Alpha Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. Excited and nervous, as a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant, I started to think about all the things I needed to do and learn. Fortunately, I landed in a great position, where the Platoon Leader I was replacing and the leadership within the Troop, took me under their wings, making sure I conducted proper inventories before I signed for anything. That being said, within the first few days, the Platoon Leader I was replacing, brought up those infamous words, “[Y]ou’re going to need to sign for you sub-hand receipt.” Before that gut drenching feeling settled in, I quickly recalled my previous experiences with property, where I trusted the knowledge I learned from both my commissioning source and Basic Leadership Officer Course (BOLC).
While attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, I learned to trust your NCOs, and to always get guidance on anything that requires a standard of procedure. Whereas, at BOLC, I learned the fundamentals of property accountability, and that trust needs to be ALWAYS confirmed when in comes to property. Using these two concepts I created a Property 101 list to help mitigate any property traps leaders may fall into, especially if you find yourself in a position where the person your replacing does not allot the time to assist you in property management.
Property 101 List:
1. Do not sign for anything until you have reviewed these steps.
2. Have a meeting with your commander, ask him or her what his or her expectations are in regards to property.
3. Have a meeting with your supply sergeant. A good supply sergeant will tell you what right looks like. My supply sergeant sat me down and made sure I understood the proper way to conduct an inventory, and how to complete both a sub-hand receipt and shortage annex. If this is not a possibility, reference DA PAM 710–2–1, AR 735–5, and AR 710–2. These sources will provide you the tools to understand property accountability.
4. Review your sub-hand receipt with whoever you are replacing in order to understand the equipment you need to sign for. If this is not an option, link up with your executive officer or platoon sergeant, he or she should know the ins and outs of all equipment assigned to your platoon.
5. Make sure you have access to all the technical manuals for each piece of equipment you are assigned for. Electronic technical manual access can be found through the Logistics Information Warehouse- https://oampro.logsa.army.mil/oamcustomlogin/, under the ETM publication.
6. Create a template for your property book. Meet with your squad leaders and platoon sergeant to establish your property book standard. You should have a property book for your entire platoon, while your squad leaders should have one for their entire squad. The property book should encompass your hand receipt, sub-hand receipt, a technical manual for each piece and quantity of equipment you are assigned, followed by the shortage annex of each piece of equipment.
7. Know if the equipment is an end item or if it has basic issued items associated with it. You can find this list in the back of the technical manual. Note, this is one of the most common mistakes lieutenants make, where, most pieces of equipment contain multiple components.
8.Allot enough time to conduct proper inventories. Make sure all items with the same national stock number (NSN) are laid out at the same time. This will prevent cross loading.
9. While conducting your inventory, make sure each end user, and squad leader is present with their own technical manuals. This way you do not have to lay out the equipment again.
10. Annotate all property shortages using a shortage annex form, DA Form 2062.
11. Ensure all Soldiers, and squad leaders are counseled on property accountability, where all Soldiers understand what they are responsible for.
12. Sub-hand receipt all equipment down to user level.
13. Keep accountability of your property and maintain your property book with updated hand receipts.
This list should help mitigate any property traps you may find yourself, and help ease that gut drenching feeling of hesitance the next time someone says, “Sign for this.”
Edited by LTC Angel Estrada
AR 735–5, Section II, Para 2–7 and 2–8.
“Fundamentals of Property Accountability.” Combat Leaders Logistics Management (CLLM). Applied Logistics Studies Department, Logistics Leader College, Army Logistics University
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