How to not be a dirtbag CGO

Officers in the military don’t always have the best reputation.

Company Grade Officers, or “CGOs,” might have it worse — at least there’s some heft behind a full-bird; lieutenants are like wee babes in the wood.

In the four or five years we’re training and partying at frat houses earning degrees, our enlisted peers go on multiple combat deployments and conduct real mission operations.

So when you show up as a brand new elle-tee with them shiny butterbars, that is decidedly not the time to pull rank; it’s the time to earn the respect the rank commands.

Here are a few ways to do that without being a dirtbag:

1. Be cool, man. Just…be cool.

Lieutenant

Everyone can see your rank. Don’t worry. (Image via HBO & Dreamworks Television)

You do not need to swagger. You do not need to throw that commission around. If you show up barking orders, you will be resented. The ideal goal is for there to be mutual respect, and it starts with you.

2. Find a mentor.

Yoda

Ready are you? What know you of ready? (Image via 20th Century Fox)

Probably someone in the E-4 to E-6 range. These guys know the ropes, they’re experts in their career field, and they’ve been taking care of personnel issues since you were a cadet singing your way to chow.

Learn from them. Take their advice into consideration. Everyone needs a Yoda.

3. Know your people (and their jobs).

Stalking, Zorn

There’s a fine line between stellar leadership and stalking. (Image via 20th Century Fox)

You should know the name, marital status, secret hopes and dreams, and blood type of everyone you are responsible for. If they have an injury, you need to know it.

If Private Jones gets shin splints, don’t make him do parade practice — make him go to the doc. It’s your job to keep your people mission qualified, and to do that, you need to know the best and worst of them.

You also need to know their mission. You’re probably not going to know all the details they know, but you need to understand what they’re doing every day and you need to be able to communicate it up the chain.

4. Ask questions.

Star Trek, question, wtf

No judgment here. (Image via Paramount Domestic Television)

If you don’t know something, don’t bluff your way through it. Acknowledge the information gap and go find the answer. This demonstrates that you are willing to learn and grow, but more importantly, it demonstrates that you are trustworthy.

5. Be a sh*t shield.

Firecracker, safety, idiot

Way to take one for the team, LT. (Image via Giphy)

Back to Pvt. Jones and his shin splints. It’s your job to recognize that Jones’ medical treatment is more important than a Change of Command ceremony — but that doesn’t mean the commander will see it that way.

It’s on you to convey the needs of your people up the chain of command, and to shield those below you from any backlash.

This is rarely a simple task, but luckily you’ve already proven yourself to be true to your word and earnest in your desire to grow (right? RIGHT??) — the commander will see that, too.

Not being a dirtbag is appreciated up and down the chain.

CGO, salute, captain, pirate

Go forth and conquer, young officer. I salute you. (Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures)

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