The chain of command is the single most important organization in the United States Army. It is the cornerstone on which the Army is built and is what differentiates it from all other organizations. In no other organization are leaders charged with the responsibility for everything that their unit does or fails to do. A significant portion of that responsibility is taking care of Soldiers.
It is my firm belief that nobody joins the Army with the intent to fail. However, many of our Soldiers are faced with problems that they have never encountered before in their lives. Who can they turn to for help? The short answer is the chain of command.
It may come as a surprise to many of you that leaders – from the team leader to the chief of staff of the Army – are people. They, too, did not join the Army to fail. They understand that their success hinges on taking care of the Soldiers in their formations. It may seem simplistic, but good leaders are there to help their team mates succeed on the battlefield, in the Army and in life.
When you have a problem that you are unsure how to solve, your chain of command is your first choice in getting the coaching, teaching and mentoring necessary to succeed. This does not just apply to new Soldiers fresh out of Initial Entry Training. This applies to everyone. When in doubt, consult the chain of command. They are the individuals being held responsible for the success of you and the mission. It is in their best interest to provide the help needed.
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
• Pvt. Doe is having problems making ends meet since having to replace all four tires on her car due to hitting some road debris. She has a choice. She confides in her team leader her problem who schedules a budget class for her and arranges a meeting with the commander to authorize some financial aid through Army Emergency Relief. The team leader continues to follow up with Pvt. Doe to ensure she is still on budget and that her financial obligations are being handled appropriately.
• Fast forward a few short years, Sgt. Doe is given a mission to move her team from one location to another in a short amount of time. She is concerned that the short timeframe will make the movement unsafe. She raises her concerns to her first-line supervisor who tells her, “Just follow your orders.” Not happy with this reply, she chooses to go to the next step in her chain of command which is the company commander.
He relates to her the importance of the move, but validates her feelings of Soldier safety. He tells her to continue with the move, but not to sacrifice safety in the name of speed.
These examples show the importance in using the chain of command.
In the first example, should Pvt. Doe not have used the chain of command, she puts herself at risk for Uniform Code of Military Justice or other administrative actions should she fail to meet her obligations.
The second example shows the importance of continuing to use the chain of command until a question is answered.
To conclude, the chain of command exists to extend the responsibility of all the Army does or fails to do from the highest to lowest levels of command. The success of a unit hinges on the success of its people.
Leaders have an inherent self interest in helping to solve problems. So, the next time you have a problem, and you are unsure where to turn for help, it is time to use your chain of command.