Reflections on Command

On September 12th, I relinquished the company command of the Army School of Music after serving in the position for a little over two years. (That’s not me in the above picture; I just thought it looked cool.) I came to the School of Music to be an instructor; as often happens in the military, it didn’t quite work out that way. Circumstances led to me assuming command of this unique unit while continuing to serve as Director of Training. Having two full-time jobs wasn’t always fun, but how could I pass on the privilege of my second command? I couldn’t.

This is me (the one with my back to you) at the change of command ceremony. (I’m not quite as short as I seem; my First Sergeant (1SG) was tall.)

My first command was with the Army Ground Forces Band. It was truely a pleasure to make music with such fantastic musicians, and I certainly miss the thrill of performing for Soldiers and the American public – an opportunity that is not part of my current job.

As great as that job was, command at the Army School of Music was equally rewarding. I had the privilege of working with some of the very best Army Musicians in the program who serve on the staff and faculty, while also overseeing the soldierization (a made-up Army term that means turning civilians into Soldiers) and maturation of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) Soldiers – new recruits, straight from basic training, who come to the School to learn how to apply their music skills to the job of Army Musician. I was constantly inspired by their enthusiasm, skill level, and willingness to serve their country during a time of persistent conflict.

So what does it mean to be in command? Well, I’m not going to pretend to know it all because I’ve only experienced a fraction of the responsibilities. What I can tell you is that knowing that you are responsible for everything that your unit does and does not accomplish; that you are responsible for the well-being of the people under your command; that your decisions will have a direct impact on the success of your unit and the morale and well-being (personally and professionally) of your Soldier and Civilian workforce, is a sobering realization.

A couple days after taking command of the Army Ground Forces Band, my 1SG came into my office and wanted an answer regarding a policy. It took me a moment to realize that he was expecting an answer from the only person who could provide it – the commander. Just a few weeks earlier, I would have thought about it and then made my recommendation to the commander. Now I was the commander.

When I was a Second Lieutenant, I was the executive officer of the School of Music. I used to sit in on the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) proceedings as an observer and offer my opinions to the commander. Luckily, I never had to deal with administering Article 15’s while in command of the band in Atlanta; however, UCMJ proceedings are a little more prevelant in AIT. The first time I reduced a Soldier in rank because the violation warranted the punishment was tough; it was also a reminder of the awesome responsibility of being fair and impartial when dealing with my Soldiers.

One of the best things about command is the great satisfaction in seeing your Soldiers succeed. Whether it’s watching one of my Platoon Sergeants expertly train Soldiers, listening to a student ensemble rock the house, or seeing the smile on a young Soldier’s face after they’ve passed their audition and know that they’re going to graduate – nothing beats the pride and satisfaction of seeing my Soldiers’ hard work pay off.

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing a couple of AIT Soldiers become U.S. citizens. An incredibly moving experience.
AIT Soldiers performing during their Field Training Exercise.
AIT Soldiers preparing for their ceremonial band assessments and led by our top-notch faculty.
AIT Soldiers performing on their graduation concert.

Now that I’ve relinquished command and am back to being “just” the Director of Training, a part of me is glad to have more time to spend on the job I originally came here to do; but I have to admit, a part of me misses the honor and responsibility of commanding the greatest Soldiers in the world. I hope I have the opportunity to do it again.



Filed under Army Bands

11 responses to “Reflections on Command

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