Contrary to popular belief, the role of the company 1stSgt isn’t merely to maintain good order and discipline by providing a never ending supply of fresh charge sheets. Though command personalities and climates vary, I’ve always reminded my commanders that they were to be the gentlemen and I was to be the thug.
Of course, this doesn’t mean your Marines should live in a state of terror either. If your style of leadership is always at the top of your lungs, perhaps you’re not being as effective as you’d like to think. Just because that’s how your drill instructors did business doesn’t require you to do it too. Though I’m not above adding a little spice to a vigorous counseling session, learning should actually occur or the experience is a waste of time for everyone.
I had a new company commander check in one day while I was flaying someone alive in my office. I don’t recall the offense, but it was one of those I wanted to make sure everyone knew was a wrong course of action so I was particularly ferocious that day.
The new CO was a little concerned I did nothing but brow beat troops all day and pulled our company XO aside: “Man, is he like that all the time?”
“Actually sir,” the XO said. “Not as often as you’d think.” I took that as a compliment.
Guiding and mentoring enlisted Marines isn’t the only role of the 1stSgt. Much to the surprise (and occasional consternation) of the commissioned ranks, their 1stSgt is there to advise and guide them as well.
I got a call early one Saturday morning from my irate company commander. He was furious as to the overnight conduct of some of our Marines. In between heated expletives he let me know we were going to bring everyone in and conduct an NJP that very day.
“Well sir,” I said. “I’ll tell you why we’re not going to do that.” There was dead silence on his end of the line as I derailed the freight train of his outrage. “We need to give the Marines the opportunity to speak to a lawyer.”
“Oh … yeah,” said the CO. “I guess that’s why I have a 1stSgt.”
“Indeed sir. See you Monday morning.”