J E THOMAS MBE ADC October 2006 Brigadier Signal Officer in Chief (Army) Annex A â Handy Hints to Young Officers Joining the Corps. HANDY HINTS TO YOUNG OFFICERS JOINING THE CORPS FROM THE SIGNAL OFFICER IN CHIEF (ARMY) Congratulations on making it up the steps and in through the Old College door. The Queenâs Commission is not lightly earned, and your course at the Royal Military Academy was a high hurdle to clear, but you did it. You should feel very proud of your achievement. Iâm sure your families and friends are too, and rightly so. Now comes the hard bit. The only way we can be the best Army in the world is if everyone plays their part in keeping it that way. What this means is that, from now on, for as long as you hold your commission and beyond, you must live up to the standards expected of a British Army officer, every minute of every day. In a sense, you will never be off-duty: your soldiers, your peers and superiors, and the society from which they are drawn, will continually look to you to demonstrate the highest qualities of honour, loyalty and behaviour, whatever the circumstance. It is never easy, but to earn their respect is to experience a level of satisfaction few outside our world will ever know. I cannot tell you how to achieve this: some of it you will pick up from your training; some from the example of those around you; and some of it you already know, because we saw that quality in you when you were selected to join us. What I will do, however, is offer you some âhandy hintsâ: simple advice which you should try and follow now, at the very start of your officer career, and which might stand you in good stead for the harder challenges which will come along as it progresses. Theyâre just the thoughts of one Signal Officer in Chief, and some are more straightforward than others, but I hope theyâll help you get started in the right way: â¢ If you donât write it down, you wonât remember it. Youâll find that ours can be a complicated business. Carry a notepad, and write things down, or it will always remain that way. â¢ Donât be late. On the battlefield, a lack of punctuality gets people killed. In barracks, it attracts extra duties. Know where you have to be, how to get there, and set off early. â¢ Donât shout or swear at your soldiers â your troop NCOs are better than you at this. As tempting as it may be to use some of your Sandhurst Colour Sergeantâs riper expressions around those you command, donât. Youâre not âone of the ladsâ, and one of the ways you make this evident is how you express yourself. â¢ Seek regular advice from the Adjutant and the RSM, even if you think you donât need it. Not only can the Adjutant and RSM offer useful advice (your problems will very rarely be unique, after all), but they feel much better if theyâre given the chance to offer it. So donât wait â go and ask them what they would do. They spend 90% of their time dealing with the worst 10% of the unit, so giving you guidance will brighten their whole day. â¢ When you owe someone a thank you, write. When you receive a letter of congratulations, write back. If youâre entertained in someone elseâs house, or mess, do the same. Such letters should always be written by hand, and not delayed. You donât need to write a novel, but you do need to say more than âthank you very muchâ. â¢ Donât eat all the pies â youâre supposed to look good. You received a uniform allowance so that you could wear your uniform with pride when at the head of your soldiers. You canât do this if youâre pouring out of the sides of it. Weâre not all built with leonine grace, but if that tailored mess kit is starting to bulge after six months or so, think what itâs going to look like in five years. â¢ Donât zoom to the front during PT â but beat at least half your troop on the CFT. Youâre probably as fit now as youâre ever likely to be. Donât show off about it. Leading from the front is all very well, but during PT sessions your job is encouraging your soldiers, and you canât do this if youâre way out in the distance, chatting to the PTI. You need to stay with the pack, noting who can hack it, and who canât. The PFT is a different matter. âBest effortâ means exactly that. â¢ Stand Up for Senior Officers. If the CO or another senior officer enters the room, stand up. Itâs what they did when they were younger, and it demonstrates respect. Not sure who qualifies as a senior officer? Stand up anyway: theyâll soon tell you if theyâre not. â¢ Even in the depths of despair, donât lose your sense of humour. Sometimes we face difficult, even grave situations. The ability to maintain oneâs sense of humour, irrespective of the circumstance, is a tremendous quality, and can contribute enormously to collective motivation - what we call morale. â¢ Be professional. Remember we are a technical Corps and to be fully effective you need to know your business but equally we must be able to articulate the effect we are delivering to those who receive it (primarily our commanders) with appropriate language and in context. â¢ And Finally. We are privileged to command. We must always achieve the mission, and we must always sustain the team. Know your people well â there is no substitute for this, and it takes time and effort to achieve. When youâve worked out their strengths and weaknesses, work the good ones really hard (itâs what they want: they joined because they rejected the easy life outside). Donât forget to encourage the weaker ones, though. Your team is only as strong as its weakest link.