DUFFEL BLOG PRESENTS: The Platoon Sergeant’s guide to dealing with Lieutenants

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Are you a Platoon Sergeant struggling to deal with a pesky young lieutenant? Do you need new ways to say “up yours” while still remaining superficially professional?

Every day Staff NCOs just like you strive to find dubiously respectful methods to remind butter bars that they have no idea what they’re talking about. Here are some tips to keep lieutenants powerless while still letting them think that they’re in charge.


#1 - The Empty Compliment

Sergeant Major Michael Barrett
"Lookin' good, Sir!"

Lieutenants don't often get compliments, because, let's face it, they don't often do things worth complimenting. Therefore, if you compliment them in front of others, they will be indebted to you no matter how meaningless the praise. You won't even lose face because every one except them knows you're kidding!

"Hey Sir, your platoon looked good out at the range!" It doesn't matter whether they looked good or not, or even if they went to the range at all.

#2 - The Stare Down

Sgt. Maj. Kasal mastered "the stare down" as a Platoon Sergeant.

Like dogs, lieutenants can't look you in the eye for more than a few seconds. If they disagree with you, just hold eye contact for five to 10 seconds and they will back down.

#3 - "In My Experience..."

Army Land Nav Course
This lieutenant is probably lost.

Whenever a lieutenant begins a sentence with "in my experience," ask him to clarify which experience, specifically, he is referring to. As he relates a story about his high school tennis team, politely remind him that you were slaying insurgents in Fallujah while he was struggling to get to third base with Janie Daniels at junior prom. 

#4 - The Stack Glance

Not a lieutenant. (Wikimedia Commons)

If you're wearing a dress uniform and are stuck in another horrible conversation with a lieutenant who is talking about CrossFit, the Naval Academy, or his new Dodge Charger, just glance briefly but obviously at his awards (or lack thereof), then casually adjust yours. He will become acutely aware of his inadequacy and be forced to end the conversation.

#5 - The Premature Salutation

Cliché picture of lieutenant saluting.

Sometimes you just can't avoid crossing paths with a lieutenant while outdoors, but you definitely can't give him the satisfaction of a salute. At a range of 4-6 paces, raise your hand as if saluting. When he returns the salute, just scratch your ear or adjust your hair instead, then smile and keep walking. If he tries to correct you, apply rule #2.

#6 - Appeal to Doctrinal Authority

Some doctrinal publications.

Lieutenants look at doctrine and other authoritative documents as a sort of military Bible. Whenever the 'good idea fairy' strikes just say, "Sir, I don't think that's in Joint Pub 3-02." By the time he reads through the whole publication to confirm it, his original idea will be irrelevant.

#7 - The E-8 Exit

First Sgt. talking to a lieutenant. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lieutenants like to ramble, and sometimes your typical exit strategy isn’t tenable (see rule #4). If you’re caught in this situation, just stand at the position of attention, yell the proper greeting of the day, then promptly turn and leave. Typically only performed by E-8s and above, this can be executed by well trained E-6s and E-7s in extremis.

#8 - The Long Con

Soldiers pondering ways not to do whatever it is the lieutenant is saying.

When all other tactics fail, remember that he'll be changing billets in a year or two, but you're in it for the long haul. "That's a great idea Sir, I think if we wait 'til the next fiscal year to start planning it, we can get the funding and make it happen."

It's a win-win. You'll get your way, and you'll prepare the mark for his first staff job by helping him understand that his ideas will always be crushed under the weight of bureaucracy.

#9 - Mentorship

One day he'll be a man. (Wikimedia Commons)

Remember, it's your job to mentor your lieutenant so that one day he can grow into a real man. Nurture his supple mind, but don't go easy on him.

As a wise man once said, "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to fuck with every lieutenant you meet."