Considerations When Filling the Critical but Less Appealing Jobs in an Infantry Battalion: Company Executive Officer, Battalion Logistics Officer, and Battalion Adjutant

By Matt Lensing, MTI Contributor


Many people are familiar with Michael Lewis’ 2003 book, “Moneyball,” and even more know the 2011 movie starring Brad Pitt. Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, the real life manager of the Oakland Athletics was trying to build a World Series caliber roster on a budget the fraction of larger market clubs. As a member of my infantry battalion command group I often felt like a baseball manager looking at the organization’s depth chart to figure out where to squeeze the maximum amount of talent from the pool of officers.

While the pinnacle of every young infantry lieutenant’s career is usually the time they spend as a platoon leader their average time in that position will likely only be 9-12 months. Aside from the rare few who get a second platoon in a specialty formation: scout or mortar platoon, LTs spend most of their first few years in the Army on staff or serving in administrative or logistics roles. These jobs were the most challenging for the Battalion Command Team to fill because the traits and qualities of effective platoon leaders don’t necessarily result in success for the following positions:

  • Company Executive Officer (XO)
  • Battalion Logistics Officer (S4)
  • Battalion Adjutant


Company XO

If you ask an infantry lieutenant to describe their ideal career timeline most will say they want to go to a Rifle Platoon as soon as possible, stay in position for 18-24 months, and then move to a specialty platoon. Officers view the most rewarding jobs as those where you go to weapons ranges and train tactics in the field. Being the person responsible for picking up food and ammunition does not rank high in their career aspirations. However, depending on the Battalion Commander, the most promising officers may actually find themselves in the supporting role instead of staying a platoon leader. Company XO’s in my last battalion were the junior officers who showed the most potential for company command because they were respected by peers, organized, and were team players.

The Company XO is the senior lieutenant in the Company. They are knowledgeable but should be approachable to other officers. Often XO’s utilize peer leadership because they will enforce standards and deadlines while sometimes wearing the same rank as the platoon leaders below them. Successful XOs demonstrated humility by sharing their mistakes with running ranges or conducting inventories to help the PLs not make their same mistakes. They also have to establish and manage systems.

XOs, along with the Company First Sergeant, focus on the readiness of the company. To ensure the weapons, vehicles, and equipment were fully mission capable XOs would hold their own maintenance meetings prior to the the Battalion meetings to ensure their readiness status matched higher’s. They also built schedules for all the tasks that needed to be completed based on the upcoming training calendar. Less effective XOs wait for the Battalion to tell them what the maintenance focus for that week should be while the better ones already prioritized equipment for maintenance and coordinated to have additional maintainers for support.

Lastly, Company XOs need to be team players with the other companies and the battalion staff. Problems in an infantry unit are not novel. Someone else has already planned the same range or training event, so instead of building a plan from scratch they should leverage their peers in other companies to find out how they completed a task. Better yet XOs can work out deals with other companies to assist each other with increasing readiness. As an example, one company can run a range for the rest of the battalion, and in return those other companies will allow other Soldiers to shoot on their upcoming ranges. Platoon leaders that did not share information with peers and spotlighted their own successes likely have too much ego and will not be a good selection for XO.


Battalion S4

The Battalion Logistics Officer (S4) is arguably the most demanding of all BN staff positions. Since all operations require logistical support the BN S4 needs to be detail oriented and foster positive relationships within the battalion and across the brigade. When I was a BN XO my S4 had to plan the movement of all vehicles and equipment to our combat training center (CTC) rotation in Fort Irwin, CA. Clearly there were many steps to the process, so he developed the list of intermediate tasks that contributed to the overall objective.

He realized he had to build the requirements for our unit deployment list (UDL) with all the equipment and vehicles we needed from home station. Someone who struggles to get into the details for problem solving might start scheduling vehicles and trains to move equipment before they know what equipment is on hand and what will actually be used during the training event. Yet even more important than the ability to plan and analyze the details is relationship building. The most aggressive rifle platoon leader is not likely the person I want as an S4. In this role they will work primarily with supply clerks, mechanics, maintainers, and various logistics Soldiers that will likely have differing views and priorities than an infantryman. 

I have seen infantry LTs serving in the S4 role burn bridges with the support Soldiers by treating them as lesser individuals because they are not from a combat occupational specialty. A good S4 will understand how to communicate to all types of Soldiers and empathize with their unique challenges. They will even have to stick up for the support personnel in front of their infantry brethren when platoon leaders don’t understand the battalion’s prioritization of resources.

A strong S4 will develop a network of contacts across the Brigade that they can use for assistance. When I looked at potential S4 candidates I valued their communication skills and relationship building abilities over tactical prowess. A hard charging LT that alienates everyone else who isn’t combat arms will not work out in this position since it requires support from all types of Soldier not job infantry for success.


Battalion Adjutant

This job is the most contentious because it is not actually an official position in the organization. There is no spot in the Modified Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) for an adjutant to the battalion commander yet most headquarters will have a lieutenant or captain sitting at a desk outside the commander’s office. Filling this role with the right person is often challenging. 

A lieutenant arrived to the unit and expressed that he had no desire to be a platoon leader. Infantry was not his top choice but nevertheless his career progression required that he go to an battalion to be a platoon leader. I could have encouraged my Commander to force this LT to take a platoon in the hope he would fail quickly so we could say we gave them a shot, or I could try to put them in a position to make the biggest impact on the organization. Ultimately we settled on making him the adjutant.

Normally a senior lieutenant or junior captain is preferred for the position because they have experience in the unit, but we opted on this inexperienced officer instead. He was however a prior enlisted Soldier, so he possessed more maturity than his peers, but the real deciding factor was his writing ability and understanding of social media. 

This officer wrote blog articles, managed his own social media accounts, and was even working on a book in his free time. As adjutant he had the most engaging and consistent social media campaigns representing our Soldiers’ accomplishments, and he planned some great unit hosted family events. This officer did great work to make Soldiers and families feel connected to their organization, which improved retention and instilled unit pride. However, we could have easily cast him aside and put him in another staff position that would have limited his creativity.



Commanders largely do not have a say in what lieutenants arrive to their formations, but they do decide the jobs they fill inside the battalion. Proper talent management requires leaders to receive honest feedback on their subordinates’ strengths and weaknesses. Company Commanders, Battalion Staff, and often peers will tell who is best suited for important roles within the organization. Putting the wrong lieutenant in a Company XO or staff position will immediately erode the unit’s ability to function.

Sometimes the top lieutenant with the best PT scores and tactical acumen will fail in these critical roles while the lieutenant that may have been passed over for a specialty platoon will shine in a staff or administrative role. When given autonomy and responsibility these officers were able to complete complex tasks and truly kept the organization running.

Matt Lensing is an active duty infantry officer who has served in the U.S. Army since 2007.


Want to be a paid, MTI contributor?  Learn more HERE.


Subscribe to MTI's Newsletter - BETA