The Army Officer’s Guide: the Commander

By | August 20, 2020

[August 20, 2020]  Twice, I’ve written about the importance of my 1983 Army Officer’s Guide and how it helped me on my journey of military service (see links here and here).  First, a disclaimer.  I don’t recall ever reading it once I made Colonel.  That was a mistake because it could have helped me in those senior leadership positions, especially as a Commander.

The most significant responsibility any officer (or leader) can hold is that of Commander.  Command of an Army unit of any size is rewarding and satisfying, providing rich experiences of personal contact where they know their troops.  Teamwork flows from working together, and with healthy teamwork comes confidence in the personnel who form the unit.  Any officer assigned in any capacity to duty with troops is privileged and should enter upon responsibilities with determination to succeed.

There is much to know if an officer is to be successful in command.  For example, one must know about Army command policy, supply, maintenance, provision for mess, and more.  But there is a distinct difference between a thorough “knowing about,” in the academic sense, and the “knowing how,” which is gained by on-the-job experience – the capacity to know how is the goal to seek.

As I flipped through Chapter 16 on “Responsibilities of Command,” I came across one sentence that stood out from rest and was a paragraph on its own:

“Every commander has two basic responsibilities in the following priority: accomplishment of the mission, and the care of personnel and property (emphasis in the original).” – The Army Officer’s Guide (1983), 42nd Edition, page 246

 Perhaps I had read this chapter a decade earlier, and it was in the back of my memory.  As a General Officer, I had two priorities, and they were clear; 1) get the mission done and 2) take care of Soldiers.  Our mission in peacetime was quality training, and in wartime, it was going after the enemy.  How close these two statements/priorities were, are uncanny.  If only … if only I had studied my Army Officer’s Guide more closely, I would have evolved faster and had a better time of it.

It matters little the specific military service or job as a leader we are assigned.  Being a leader means finishing the mission and caring for those that work for you.  Commanders who fail at either task are not leaders.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “The Army Officer’s Guide: the Commander

  1. Dennis Mathes

    I went back to read your other two articles. Well done!
    I would suggest a future article on military taboos.

  2. Harry B. Donner

    Another article from Gen. Satterfield that is both entertaining and educational. I only wish my teachers in High School and college had been at least a little entertaining. Boring is the word. Thanks all for sticking by Gen. Satterfield even when people disagree.

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      One good thing about this forum is that folks can disagree and still get along. In the past we had a couple of PC trolls but they decided to part ways with us. We should be please with the discussions and learn from others even when we disagree.

  3. Max Foster

    It is of interest to me anyway, that you had two prioriteis. If we look at what typical management and leadership courses say, they tell us to have 3 to 5 priorities. That way, people can’t forget because there are too many. An old boss of mine had 10 priorities and today I can’t even remember one of them. Having two is perfect or…. better to have just one. Your’s was right. Keep up these great articles, especially those that reinforce your instincts.

  4. Xerxes I

    Another spot-on article. Thanks. I just sent it to several of my friends. I’ll let you know what they think.

  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Nice piece today, Gen. Satterfield. Makes me want to go buy one.

  6. Eric Coda

    Wow, nice article. I think I might order one of these. Do any of them work better than the others? Maybe not but I wonder if the more recent ones are too wordy or too infected by PC ideology.

    1. Fred Weber

      I think there is not much difference except perhaps in the more technical sections that deal with army policies, etc. I would buy anyone of them, maybe more than one to see what the differences are these days.

    2. Georgie M.

      Any should be just fine. These are not official US Army pubs anyway.

  7. Army Captain

    Commanding troops, regardless of which military service, should be the goal of everyone desiring leadership. Leading in peace is difficult, leading in on the battlefield is something else but relies upon those skills and trust gained in peacetime.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Excellent point, well said. Thanks for your service Army Cpt.

        1. JT Patterson

          There are keystrokes you can use to represent them, I recommend just searching on the Internet for them.


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