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Ask the Sarge

How should a Soldier handle a squad leader who's less than inspiring? In his first column, GX's resident expert answers questions that affect Soldiers everywhere.

Got a question about Guard life? Conflicted about a situation that affects your Guard career? Need advice on, well, anything? Just ask the Sarge—and be ready for a straight answer. This is the first column by GX’s resident expert on all things military, SFC (Ret.) Bob Weaver, who served for 24 years in the Active Army and National Guard, including a tour in the first Gulf War. He’ll tell it like it is.

Send us your questions at AskTheSarge@GXonline.com, and you just might see yours answered in this space.

What do I do if my squad leader is lacking?

Outperform him, and it’ll go away. People like that are like dinosaurs: Eventually, they become extinct. They can’t keep up with high-speed Joes. Sooner or later, someone will figure it out and replace them with someone who can do their job. I’ve been through that many, many times. I can’t even think how many times.

It’s gonna happen. You’re gonna have somebody who should be arrested for loitering instead of getting paid, but the only way you can get around that is just to outperform them, and they can’t keep up. And pretty soon they just fade away. They’re gone. Clipboards are great, but they can’t lead squads.

I got smoked for not saluting an officer at my unit, but I’m friends with the guy outside the Guard. Is it lame that I got in trouble?

No, it’s not lame. If we were friends at the same civilian company, and you were my supervisor, and if we talked about hunting or whatever, it’s great. But if I totally mess up my job, I shouldn’t be surprised if you run me out the front door with the tip of your boot.

It doesn’t matter if you’re friends in the civilian world. You swore an oath, and you committed to something bigger than your civilian employment. And this is all part of it. Saluting, standing at parade rest and all those customs, courtesies and honors that we do aren’t just a suggestion; they’re a requirement. When you become an NCO or an officer, you will require the same of people you encounter, so why would you not offer that same courtesy to the person who’s already got it?

The other thing is, you’re not standing at parade rest for the guy you’re talking to; you’re not saluting the guy you’re talking to. You’re standing at attention, you’re saluting, in respect of the rank of the officer, not the guy who’s in the uniform. The rank that he wears is more than he is. Respect the rank.

I’m an 11B, and one of my squad members is always talking about his PTSD. He is very moody and gets angry easily. I’m afraid to be around him. What should I do?

This is really serious. Number one, it’s not just about the Soldier but the unit as a whole, the people around him. In a situation like that, if that’s your gut feeling about this, then you need to notify somebody. You need to let the chain of command know, because you could be saving a whole lot more lives than just your own. That Soldier’s. Yours. Everybody’s around him.

If he’s got big issues, that doesn’t make him a bad guy. It makes him someone who needs help. There’s a stigma that goes with mental issues. If somebody has cancer, everybody offers to help. If somebody has mental health issues, everybody runs the other way. Why would we do that?

We are our brother’s keeper, so suck it up, get involved, help out a fellow Joe, and get him hooked up with the help he needs so he can get back in the fight. It’s that simple.

The opinions expressed in this column are not the views of the Army National Guard.