This article was a submission to the 2022 Cove Competition.
TIME. Time is your enemy. Every facet of your duties as a Rifle Company Sergeant Major (CSM) inside an ARA battalion is a contest for your attention and time. I had prepared an address to be delivered to the sub-unit, an additional one for the NCOs, and had my discussion points for my obligatory OC/CSM command team chat. All of that went out the window in early January when elements of the battalion were recalled for OP Bushfire Assist 20. I learned early on that the year was going to be fluid.
Task prioritisation is a valuable skill, everything will be the main effort; be it battalion need, company need, RSM need, or OC need; you are constantly re-structuring your outputs to meet these needs. The ability to see the “So what?” in a task will assist you in this and save you TIME.
CPL/SGT/Clerk/CQMS and junior officer development is ongoing and never ending. Seeing the skills and attributes they have, or don’t have, and guiding / building them up is at the core of your daily business. But this costs TIME and personal investment, but the cost to you is well worth it. I used the mantra: “What did I wish I knew when I was a…” This is not just a RAINF requirement, the development of your CQMS and company clerk will go a long way to the generation of tempo within your company.
Sub-unit training is your world. Training programs, exported training, MAE, PTE(P) and skill grade changes are but a few. These are what gives a company its daily structure and a sense of itself. Getting this right from the start is key, set the standard and follow through. Get it wrong at your peril. Soldiers’ pay is at stake, and company morale too.
Continue to learn. Equipment and TTP’s are evolving rapidly, being relevant and competent is key to your success as the company SME on training. Seek out the council of trusted peers or mentors, this will help cover any knowledge gaps or skill fade.
The OC/CSM relationship is vital; a clear understanding of my OC’s intent for me was vital, also understanding how he thinks and what his priorities are gave me excellent context to my decision making and my focus. Being able to provide correct and timely advice on all topics and assist the OC’s decision making will put the company in better positions. The CO/CSM relationship must not be overlooked either, while very different to the OC/CSM dynamic, having the ability/trust/competence/respect to speak up, be heard, and – more importantly – be listened to is very powerful. This will be built over TIME and through demonstration of job competence, demeanour, and your ability to foster and build a relationship with the CO. Foster and encourage a similar environment between your SGTs and OC, good ideas and thinking is not bound by the chain of command.
Team and relationship building is your life, you set the demeanour and standard for the company. Morale is directly linked to how you interact with the company. You are watched always – be authentic, lead from the front, and speak to your soldiers like humans. Get to know all your soldiers by first name, put their birthdays in your outlook calendar and acknowledge them; all these things cost nothing but are the glue that starts to bond a strong team. Be approachable always, listen to their problems and assist where you can. Sometimes just listening can turn the situation around. Remember that you have massive levers and scope to assist your soldiers, investing TIME early will save TIME later.
The CSM/RSM relationship is position, tempo, and personality based. Having worked with 6 different RSMs since promoting to warrant officer they all have been very different for a range of reasons. Remember that the RSM is trying to develop and mentor you too; pick their brain and experience, but remember they are the busiest person in the battalion, don’t steal their TIME.
I was lucky to have 2 years as the CSM of Charlie Company 8/9 RAR with the same OC. This gave me TIME to develop and foster relationships up and down all ranks. I found it to be a privilege and worked with some excellent soldiers and officers. It will go quick, come to the role armed to the teeth with all the tools you have developed so far. Have your own family and personal situation in good stead as this role will have an impact on your family. Discussing this, expectation management, and preparing for it will set you up for success.