How not to Suck as a Company Executive Officer

By David S. Chang

Executive Summary


The Company Commander (CO) focuses on leading the company and setting the unit’s vision. The Executive Officer (XO) and First Sergeant (1SG) focuses on executing that vision.

The XO is not a command position, it is an administrative staff position. The XO must focus on and intimately know the details of company’s readiness. Everything the XO does must be geared towards the Chief of Staff of the Army’s #1 priority: UNIT READINESS. “Readiness is #1, and there is no other #1.” Mark A. Milley, General, Chief of Staff of the Army

The XO’s main roles are to be ready to assume command if necessary, manage the day-to-day activities of the company, and oversee the company’s administrative and support staff.

The three main responsibilities that the XO is accountable for are: Supply, Maintenance, and Administration. The XO must have a strong working relationship with the Company’s Supply Sergeant, Training NCO, Readiness NCO, Motor Sergeant (based on unit MTOE), 1SG, and the higher unit’s XO.


“Know what’s right – you MUST know your profession, it is your solemn obligation.”

The Officer’s Little Instruction Book

This document will help Company Executive Officers (XOs) know their profession. It is a working document and is based on the current mission and priorities of the Army, National Guard Bureau (NGB), and your respective chain-of-command. This document is a collection of the lessons learned, best practices, and Army Doctrine as of February 2019. This document is gender non-specific.

The Company Commander’s (CO) primary job is to lead the Company. The CO is the vision-caster, working with his chain-of-command to focus on strategy and planning the unit’s next move. To do this however, the CO needs a team to execute his vision and manage the company’s day-to-day affairs.

As the company’s second-in-command, the XO’s primary job is to run the company along with the First Sergeant (1SG). They both are responsible for executing the vision of the CO and management of day-to-day activities. One way to look at this is that the CO is Future Operations, while the XO and 1SG are Current Operations. This allows the CO to focus on his responsibilities and the big picture.

The PL has his PSG, the CO has his 1SG, but the XO is one of few officers that doesn’t have a corresponding NCO. This is because the XO doesn’t lead Soldiers, the executive officer is an administrative staff position versus a command position. This is important to delineate. The XO focuses on the behind the scenes issues to keep the company operating smoothly and ensure its readiness.

XO Roles and Responsibilities

There is a difference between roles and responsibilities. A role is the position you assume and the part you play in the unit. Responsibilities are the specific tasks and duties you are expected to fulfill according to your role. You are held accountable to complete the responsibilities based on your role.

This document lists the respective Army publications you can refer to for more information. Start with doctrine, the Army’s regulations, and best practices. Don’t make it up or it can land you in hot water down the line. If you must deviate based on METT-TC, that is ok as long as you can explain why and get the necessary approval if required.

Be humble, motivated to learn, and focus on getting results. Nobody is born with knowledge and experience, it must be developed. The important element is to ask and look up anything you don’t know what to in regard to the roles and responsibilities of the XO.

Here are the primary roles of a Company Executive Officer:

  • Second-in-Command of the Company (must understand the CO’s role and responsibilities and be ready to assume command if need be).
  • Oversee and execute the CO’s vision and manage the day-to-day activities of the Company
  • Oversight of the CO’s administrative and support staff

The CO has a tremendous amount of responsibility. Company commanders own the Army. They are the only ones that sign for and own all the equipment and supplies the Army issues. Platoon-level training, directly overseen by the CO, is key to readiness.

In addition, the company is the first echelon where intel, fires, and other systems integrate. The CO doesn’t need or have time to deal with the nitty-gritty and must delegate and empower his subordinates. As a result, the company XO has some of the most important responsibilities in the Army.

The XO must work closely with the Supply Sergeant, Training NCO, Readiness NCO, Motor Sergeant (based on respective MTOE) and 1SG to take care of these responsibilities. Although the NCOs own training and are delegated most of these tasks, the XO needs to have good situational awareness and be involved. This is the only way the XO can “trust and verify.”

The XO doesn’t have a respective NCO or direct subordinate to hand things off, so he must pay attention to the details. This will give the chain-of-command confidence that the unit is ready to accomplish its mission.

The CAARNG CDR’s primary endstate and intent is fully manned and equipped units, proficient at platoon-level by the end of their ready year, postured to complete company-level proficiency post-mobilization and prepared to meet DSCA requirements. Focus on individual readiness!

Within the XO’s role, here are the main responsibilities the XO is held accountable for:

  1. Supply
  2. Maintenance
  3. Unit administration

XO’s Three Primary Responsibilities

Supply.

Unit Supply is a critical activity in any unit. Soldiers need their “beans and bullets” to accomplish their mission. Army readiness cannot happen without materiel readiness. In fact, history shows that materiel readiness is the foundation and sets the stage upon which to build readiness.

The Supply Sergeant can make or break a unit. A good XO with a strong working relationship with the Supply Sergeant can make the unit even better. The XO must ensure that the required equipment and supplies are readily available, operational and responsive.

Here are key tasks an XO needs to oversee when it comes to supply:

a) Command Supply Discipline Program (CSDP) – Have an active role in the unit’s CSDP and ensure it is executed properly. Ensure the unit is fiscally responsible and supply issues are dealt with quickly. If you need help or can’t deal with an issue on your level, tell your chain-of-command immediately. Don’t wait to address it, time does not make supply issues get better.

b) Inventories – Ensure they are done on time and to standard. They way you manage your company’s inventory and supply chain from end to end can make the difference between mission success and failure. Smaller budgets facing the Army underpins the significance of maintaining accountability. Keep the supply room organized and orderly. It enhances productivity and greatly reduces the chance of losing/misplacing anything (and stress!). Account for and maintain all equipment to standard.

c) Financial Liability Investigation of Property Loss (FLIPL) – FLIPLs are how the Army investigates the loss, damage or destruction (LDD) of Government property. A FLIPL begins once the loss is discovered and the time limit is 30 days. Be on top of your company FLIPLs.

d) Supply SOP – Ensure that the SOP is up-to-date and enforced. The SOP should be published for the company to access, eliminate waste, time and unnecessary steps. Use AARs, research best practices, and cross-reference Army regulations to continue improving on it. This should be a working document. Steps that don’t make sense shouldn’t be done just because it has always been done that way.

e) Important References

  • AR 735-5 Policies & Procedures for Property Accountability
  • AR 740-26 Physical Inventory Control
  • DA 710-2-1 Using Unit Supply System (Manual Procedures)
  • DA 710-2-2 Supply Support Activity Supply System (Manual Procedures)
  • Call Handbook No. 10-19 The Command Supply Discipline Program

Maintenance.

Maintenance is a beast. This can be a full-time job in and of itself, especially if your unit’s MTOE has a lot of equipment assigned to it. A good XO needs to work closely with the Motor Sergeant and Maintenance Control Officer. In many cases the XO is the Maintenance Control Officer and the Supply Sergeant acts also as the Motor Sergeant.

Here are key tasks an XO needs to oversee when it comes to maintenance:

a) Comprehensive Maintenance Program – Work with the CO to establish a comprehensive maintenance program IAW AR 750-1, DA PAM 750-1 and NGR 750-52.

b) Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) – Ensure PMCS is conducted and incorporated into your training schedule 25% of each IDT.

c) Equipment Status Report (ESR) – Regularly review the ESR report to verify that the Field Maintenance Shop (FMS) / Combined Support

Maintenance Shop (CSMS) is doing the following:

  1. Parts are being ordered in a timely manner
  2. Equipment isn’t stagnating in any stage of the work order process (status condition)
  3. Pacing items (ERC P) are being prioritized. Ensure that supply sergeants do their part in opening and closing work orders in a timely manner.

d) Training – Ensure that equipment operators are properly trained. This will ensure that a proper PMCS is done. Be familiar with the FMS and CSMS and the Surface Maintenance Office at G4 SOPs. Request maintenance support from HHD for equipment issues beyond operator level.

e) Important References (The following links require a government computer to access.)

  • NGR 750-52 Army National Guard Command Maintenance Discipline Program
  • AR 750-1 Army Materiel Maintenance Policy
  • AR 700-138, Army Logistics Readiness and Sustainability
  • AR 700-4, Logistics Assistance
  • DA Pam 750-1 Commanders Maintenance Handbook
  • DA PAM 750-3, Soldiers Guide for Field Maintenance Operations
  • DA PAM 750-8, The Army Maintenance Management System (TAMMS)
  • Surface Maintenance Office website: https://ngcasp16.ng.army.mil/sites/G4/SMO/SitePages/Home.aspx
  • COMET website: https://ngcasp16.ng.army.mil/sites/G4/SMO/SitePages/Maintenance%20Programs%20-%20COMET.aspx

Administration.

In addition to the “beans and bullets”, getting the pay, training, evaluations, and other admin issues taken care is critical to the management of the day-to-day affairs of the company. As the XO you want to work closely with the Training and Readiness NCO to ensure that unit administration is squared away.

They will be the ones that execute the tasks, but like supply and maintenance, you want to identify the top priorities based on the commander’s intent and verify that they get done.

Here are key tasks an XO needs to oversee when it comes to unit administration:

a) Unit Administration

  • Check the Readiness Management Tool (RMT) unit website to see your current company numbers. Determine where are your unit is at and where you want your unit to be. Set milestones and follow-up regularly to make sure the unit is improving your RMT stats. Remember “No let up on follow-up.”
  • Schedule and manage company meetings
  • Work with the Readiness and/or Training NCO to:
    • Ensure pay is processed on time
    • Ensure training is verified in DTMS
    • Ensure Soldiers complete their respective vouchers in DTS
  • Ensure OERs and NCOERs are completed to standard and on time
  • Oversee the company’s awards program
  • Other company administrative tasks and suspenses are met.

b) Name-Tape Management

  • Track the medical readiness of the Soldiers and ensure Soldiers are fully ready (PHA, MND, APFT and height/weight failures, etc.)
  • Track Soldier primary military education (PME) and ensure Soldiers get submitted for the schools they need to be MOSQ

c) Important References

  • AR 600-8-101 Personnel Readiness Processing
  • AR 40-501, Standards of Medical Fitness
  • AR 220-1 Army Unit Status Reporting and Force Registration
  • DA Pam 220-1 Defense Readiness Reporting System
  • AR 600-20 Army Command Policy
  • DA Pam 600-8-101 Personnel Readiness Procedures
  • AR 600-8-2 Enlisted Promotions and Reductions

These three are the primary responsibilities for the XO. The countless hours slaving away in the supply room, on maintenance, and on administration will pay huge dividends in the readiness of the unit and over the long-run.


Communication

The critical component is working with and establish a strong working relationship with the staff and command team. Based on the unit METL, The Army’s Sustainable Readiness Model (SRM), and the chain-of-command’s end-state, these responsibilities may differ.

It is important to stay in constant communication with them. This will also help determine the exact responsibilities and expectations of the staff and command team.

Keep the chain-of-command promptly informed of any of these issues and be proactive in pushing information vertically and horizontally. Don’t wait for the information to be pulled, the commander shouldn’t have to ask for this.

All of this is tedious and seem to be in the weeds, but that is what the XO is responsible for. The XO needs to have a good grasp on the big picture and know the details of the unit’s readiness.


Bottom Line Up Front

One of my mentor’s summed up the XO’s job with this illustration: Being an XO is like riding a bike…except the bike’s on fire, you’re on fire, everything’s on fire, and you’re in hell.” There is a lot on the shoulders of an XO, but due to the role’s importance, the results are visible and can be very rewarding. The knowledge you gain will make you a better leader and Soldier. More importantly, this will prepare you for company command.

When proper supplies, maintenance and sustainment are in place, our forces can face an adversary with confidence and conviction. We need ready Soldiers equipped with the best available equipment, maintained at its highest level of performance, and backed by a responsive supply chain. You the XO, are responsible for this.

References
a. AR 735-5 Policies & Procedures for Property Accountability
b. AR 740-26 Physical Inventory Control
c. DA 710-2-1 Using Unit Supply System (Manual Procedures)
d. DA 710-2-2 Supply Support Activity Supply System (Manual Procedures)
e. Call Handbook No. 10-19 The Command Supply Discipline Program
f. NGR 750-52 Army National Guard Command Maintenance Discipline Program
g. AR 750-1 Army Materiel Maintenance Policy
h. AR 700-138, Army Logistics Readiness and Sustainability
i. AR 700-4, Logistics Assistance
j. DA Pam 750-1 Commanders Maintenance Handbook
k. DA PAM 750-3, Soldiers Guide for Field Maintenance Operations
l. DA PAM 750-8, The Army Maintenance Management System (TAMMS)
m. AR 600-8-101 Personnel Readiness Processing
n. AR 40-501, Standards of Medical Fitness
o. AR 220-1 Army Unit Status Reporting and Force Registration
p. DA Pam 220-1 Defense Readiness Reporting System
q. AR 600-20 Army Command Policy
r. DA Pam 600-8-101 Personnel Readiness Procedures
s. AR 600-8-2 Enlisted Promotions and Reductions

David S. Chang

Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Wealth Manager and CEO | Chief Editor, Author, Keynote Speaker, Consultant ArtofThinkingSmart.com | Political Consultant | Army Officer National Guard | Living To Fulfill Needs, Solve Problems, and Live Passionately!

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