23 May 2016

** Advice for the next generation of Young Officers

Jim Boyden, Former Army Officer seeking new challenges.
May 19, 2016
As I come towards the end of my time in the Army, I was writing the inevitable "Handover/Takeover Notes" that come with every posting when it struck me that I could collate some of the advice given to me over 18 years service and pass it onto the next generation of Future Officers. It also allows me to procrastinate from job hunting for a little while longer!

Things I wish people had told me...

1. When a SNCO speaks, you should listen. SNCOs, unlike Officers, tend not to speak for the sake of it, so it's generally worth listening to. Surprisingly, not every SNCO is massively fantastic, but they are all massively experienced.

2. Drinking brews with the lads isn't slacking off. It's taking the time to know them. It's bouncing ideas off each other. It's sounding each other out and learning strengths and weaknesses. It's finding out the duty rumours and secret superstars and what's actually happening away from your PC. In short, it's never about the actual brew so even if you don't drink brews, learn. The spreadsheet on your PC can wait.

3. Ranks, braid, medals and uniforms are all highly seductive and impressive but remember, in the grand scheme of things, no person is better than any other because of clothes. The real leaders are the ones who remain charismatic and interesting in their civilian clothes.

4. The primary aim of your HQ is to get you to do lots of work. The primary aim of the lads and girls is to finish early and see their families/X Box/pit. Your job is simply to act as a shock absorber ensuring both parties are happy. Good luck with that.

5. Know and understand the subtle difference between when you "must", "should", "could" and "may" do things. If you did everything the Army mandated, you'd work a 12 day week and ain't no one got time fo' that.

6. Definitely know the difference between taking a "risk" and taking a "gamble". One is acceptable, one is not. If you don't know the consequence, it's a gamble. People who shout loudly and criticise the Army for being "risk adverse" are normally actually advocating taking a gamble. You can safely ignore them. We're part of a Formation, not part of a Funfair.

7. Soldiers hate change. It's not enough to simply make a change. You have to burn the old idea to the ground in front of their eyes and show them how bad things will be if you continue. Then sell the good idea, and sell it like your mommas life depends on it.

8. Don't cross the line. You do know where it is. Don't cross it.

9. You'll be a husband and father for longer than you'll ever be a soldier. Get that right first. Sorry, I should have put that first. So also, learn to prioritise.

10. Enjoy it. Nothing lasts forever, except perhaps Drill Lessons at Sandhurst and Mess Meetings on a hot June day when you really should all be in a beer garden.

Now, go and sit in a beer garden. Who knows, you may think of some others and all contributions are gratefully received!

Now, back on with the job hunting...

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