What are my duties as a sergeant

Federal Army

The command sub-officer in the Austrian Armed Forces Top NCOs in the Anglo-American military - a comparison

For centuries, Western armies have relied on the know-how of their NCOs and military commanders have made use of their experience for their own leadership work. In the meantime, due to internationalization, this development has also been strengthened in the Austrian Armed Forces and underlined by the implementation of the first command sub-officers.

Regardless of whether in the Middle Ages or in modern times, the commanders were always aware of the important role of the NCO in the management structure of an army. Even if the term "NCOs are the backbone of the army" only came into our usage years later, NCOs have always formed the basis for achieving military success. By drawing on experienced and competent NCOs in their advisory staff, the commanders have made their management work easier and thus also raised the position of NCOs. This development has continued since the creation of the Austrian Armed Forces.

For decades, soldiers of the Austrian Armed Forces have been working closely with members of the armed forces of the United States or Great Britain on international missions. The Austrians were able to find time and again that in other countries in the immediate vicinity of the commanding officer there was usually a high-ranking NCO who stood by his commanding officer with advice and action. The British Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) attracted attention during cross-national trainings and multinational ceremonies during the UN mission in Cyprus, because of his special tasks and his importance for the appearance of the association. Later, in multinational operations under the command of NATO, such as B. in Bosnia 1997, there were very close business contacts with the U.S. Army and was able to understand the meaning of the "Command Sergeant Major" (CSM), among other things. get to know at joint training and operational meetings. International cooperation, be it in the context of peacekeeping missions or in multinational conferences, has grown immensely. The military, multinational network in Europe and beyond has long since ceased to be reserved for the officer corps alone, because a wide variety of basic, advanced and advanced training courses are also offered for NCOs, including symposia for "Senior Non-Commissioned Officers" ( SNCO).

Therefore, in Austria, too, there has been an increasing need to position a particularly qualified non-commissioned officer directly at the side of a commanding officer. Commanders in particular who have international operational and training experience were initially able to best estimate how important an experienced sergeant in an advisory role can be in the performance of management tasks, and above all to what extent this increases the importance of the sergeant.

NCOs of the U.S. Army and the British Army The command sergeant was essentially not an Austrian invention. On the one hand, from a historical point of view, it has always been present, even if only in rudiments at company level, and should only have been further promoted. On the other hand, regarding this function, the Austrian Armed Forces participated in the U.S. Army and the Royal Army oriented. As a result, the command sub-officer of the Austrian Armed Forces is also referred to as "Command Sergeant Major" or "Regimental Sergeant Major" in many places. In doing so, direct comparisons are very often made and conclusions drawn about our army, which, without taking into account the historical background, could also lead to incorrect assessments of its tasks in the armed forces.

In order to correctly interpret these American and British terms in our linguistic usage, we have to become aware of the history and, above all, of the tasks and powers of this function.

Command Sergeant Major duties and skills

The militia and soldiers played an important role as early as the Indian Wars, which began on March 22nd, 1622 with the Jamestown massacre during the uprising of the Powhatan Confederation and lasted into the 19th century. Military organizations and especially leaders were of great importance at all times and in every army. So it is in the military history of the U.S. Army. The origin of today's armed forces of the United States of America lies in the Continental Army, which was set up with a decision of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, i.e. a year before America's independence was declared on July 4, 1776.

The "Command Sergeant Major" (CSM) has existed in the US battalions for about 50 years. In addition to the commander, he also makes a significant contribution to ensuring that the working atmosphere and solidarity in the association, and therefore not least the performance of the units, are good. The designation of the "Command Sergeant Major", which is supposed to be compared with the command sub-officer of the Austrian Armed Forces, must be viewed in two parts purely historically, on the one hand with regard to the "Sergeant Major" and on the other hand to the designation "Command".

The history of the "Sergeant Major" goes back to the 18th century and has its origins in the officer field. At that time the "Sergeant Major" was an officer with the rank of general. As the third highest rank in the army hierarchy, he also commanded the infantry. In addition, at that time the "Sergeant Major" also acted as Chief of Staff (COS), that is, as Chief of Staff of the Army Commander.

In the 17th century the "Sergeant Major" was introduced into the regiments as a staff officer and also as a third person in the regiment's chain of command. He was responsible for planning and organizational tasks as well as monitoring military training within the regiment. The history of the "Sergeant Major" hierarchy began in this century when the higher-ranking "Sergeant Major" of the army was given the designation "Sergeant Major General".

Between the 17th and 18th centuries, the "Sergeant" was removed from both rank designations, thus laying the roots of today's American officer ranks, "Major" and "Major General".

It was not until the late 18th century, when the Austro-Hungarian Army had the function of sergeant in charge, that the designation "Sergeant Major" was reintroduced into the United States' Continental Army as the highest-ranking officer in an infantry battalion or cavalry regiment. In 1775, under the command of General George Washington and his staff, the "Sergeant Major" was assigned to each headquarters of a battalion or regiment of the Continental Army for the first time. In 1778 General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben revised the implementation regulations of the Continental Army. In his "Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States", Part I (1779) - also known as the "Blue Book" because of the blue cover - General von Steuben pointed out that the "Sergeant Major" was very good Must have knowledge of the organization of the regiment; In addition, he is responsible for the discipline, order and compliance with the duty rosters. William Duane wrote in his Handbook for Infantry in 1814 that the "Sergeant Major" is as important to sergeants and corporals as the major is to platoon officers. With the standardization of the salary levels of the non-commissioned officers of the U.S. Army, the "Sergeant Major" disappeared in 1920 as a rank and salary level. However, he was retained as a senior non-commissioned officer (SNCO) post before being reintroduced as a rank in the Army in 1958.

Like his historical predecessors, this Senior Non-Commissioned Officer was entrusted with administrative and training matters. He was also the superior of all corporals and sergeants.

In 1966, analogous to the "Sergeant Major General" introduced at the army level in the 18th century, with the introduction of the "Sergeant Major of the Army" (SMA), a post for an SNCO in the immediate vicinity of the Chief of Staff of the Army created. This post became the highest-ranking officer in the American armed forces. General Harold Keith Johnson was Chief of Staff of the U.S. from 1964 to 1968. Army and one of his most important achievements was probably the introduction of the "First Sergeant Major of the Army". Two years after taking office, General Harold Keith Johnson, as COS of the U.S. Army informed his commanders that he would appoint a "Sergeant Major of the Army" as personal advisor and assistant and at the same time gave the order to propose suitable candidates. General Johnson selected a suitable SNCO from the list of nominees, which had already been reduced from around 400 to 21 candidates. One week after the tender, William O. Wooldridge was sworn in as the first Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) by the President of the United States. As the superior of the Corps of Corps of the U.S. Army, the SMA belongs to the staff of the Chief of Staff of the Army and advises them on all official matters that affect the Army NCOs, in particular in the areas of training and quality of life for these soldiers. In order to be able to perform these tasks, especially for the benefit of the NCOs, the SMA travels a lot with the troops, monitors the training and holds talks with the soldiers and their families. SMA Kenneth O. Preston, who was sworn in on January 15, 2004, is currently the 13th "Sergeant Major of the Army" in office.

It was not until ten years after the re-implementation of the "Sergeant Major" in the battalions and regiments that the "Command Sergeant Major" (CSM) received its own badge in 1968. The CSM is another job in the U.S. Army. As the highest-ranking sergeant in a battalion and in higher staff positions, he advises the commanding officer.

As already mentioned, the CSM has to contribute significantly to a good working atmosphere and to the cohesion of the association and therefore not least to its performance. He has to know his soldiers, especially their talents, skills, strengths and weaknesses and is responsible for the selection of the junior NCOs as well as for shaping the NCO corps spirit in the unit.

In addition, he should act as a role model for soldier attitude, discipline and a sense of duty and supervise the specialist training in the companies in close cooperation with the first sergeants. He is also the Chief Instructor of the First Sergeants.

Ultimately, he is also responsible for compliance with the military protocol, including the appearance of the battalion.

Tradition and Hierarchy of the U.S. Army give the CSM more room for maneuver and power. In a direct comparison of the tasks of a CSM, however, we can subsequently determine very strong similarities with the area of ​​responsibility of the command sub-officer in the Austrian Armed Forces. The distribution of roles, starting with the First Sergeant at company level, through the CSM at the command levels of the battalions, regiments, and brigades to the SMA, created a network in which the U.S. Armed forces also work in the social field by NCOs for NCOs as well as for their families.

The Regimental Sergeant Major in the British military

After soldiers of the Austrian Armed Forces have worked very often and intensively with soldiers of the British Army since their involvement in foreign missions, our army not only relied on the British in translating our ranks into English, but also in implementing the sub-command in the Austrian Armed Forces Military oriented.

As with the CSM of the U.S. Army also provides the historical background for a better understanding of the functions and enables comparisons. History shows that the 18th century was of great importance for the emergence of the "Sergeant Major". Similar to the U.S. Army, and for the sake of general understanding, we may also contact the sergeant in charge of the k.u.k. Do not ignore the army, the rank of "Sergeant Major" was introduced to the battalion and regimental staff in the same century. In 1813 the cavalry regiments introduced the "Troop Sergeant Major" to replace the quartermaster as the troop's SNCO. However, this required the existing posts to be renamed. Therefore, the "Regimental Sergeant Major" (RSM), with similar duties and powers as his counterpart the CSM of the U.S. Armed Forces, introduced into the British Army. Only later did the company assert itself in the cavalry regiments of the British Army as a principle subdivision and tactical command level. This resulted in the demand for the British that an SNCO should also be introduced at company level, comparable to the "First Sergeant" of the U.S. Army, or the already mentioned sergeant in charge of the k.u.k. Army. This was responsible for the order and discipline in the unit and at the same time the adviser to the company commander. That was the hour of birth of the "Squadron Sergeant Major" (SSM). The infantry, however, stuck to the old concept, at least until the beginning of the Second World War, according to which only one "Sergeant Major" was used per battalion. Only the introduction of the "Company Sergeant Major" forced the infantry to take over the RSM. Notwithstanding the U.S. Army, where the function of the CSM was exercised by a SNCO, from the 19th century in the British Army specially authorized non-commissioned officers, so-called "warrants", held these positions due to the large number of existing RSM posts.

This practice was expanded in 1915 and unified with the introduction of the new ranks "Warrant Officer Class 1" (WO1) and "Warrant Officer Class 2" (WO2). "Sergeant Major" is no longer a rank in either the British Army or the Royal Navy. However, it can still be used as a title for uses that are occupied by warrants.

Tasks and competencies

There are currently the "Regimental Sergeant Major" and the "Company Sergeant Major" in the Royal Army.

The "Regimental Sergeant Major", a "Warrant Officer Class 1", is the highest-ranking sergeant in a battalion or regiment. This post is at least in peacetime with that of a CSM of the U.S. Army but also with the command sub-officer of the Austrian Armed Forces, comparable. Both the U.S. The Army as well as the Royal Army have these key non-commissioned officer functions in their operations to support the commander. The area of ​​responsibility and the scope of action of an RSM hardly deviate from its peacekeeping tasks, apart from the mission-specific matters. In the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) of the 10th Transport Regiment, which is currently stationed in Cyprus, the area of ​​responsibility and the tasks of the RSM are clearly defined. The RSM is responsible to the Commanding Officer (CO) for the discipline of the Regiment's Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). He is the adviser to the Commanding Officer in all matters of the regiment and has to inform him continuously and in particular about the points: discipline, welfare and morality of the troops. The RSM is responsible for compliance with the norms and discipline of a regiment. He monitors the fulfillment of the official duties of the NCOs and intervenes where it is necessary. He has to report to the CO about negative and positive performances of the NCOs.

Together with Regt. 2IC (the deputy regimental commander), the RSM is responsible for security measures in military operations. These range from the assignment of the guard, including the custody of prisoners, to measures to ward off terrorist attacks and cooperation with the military police. The RSM accompanies the CO on all visits and, in particular, on duty supervision.

When comparing the tasks and responsibilities of the RSM, due to the fact that the Austrian Armed Forces also oriented itself towards this army when the command sub-officer was introduced, similarities can be deduced, at least in peacetime operations. Especially when it comes to compliance with regulations and discipline within a regiment, the RSM has to maintain very close contact with the companies. Here, too, there is a network similar to that of the U.S. Army to wear. The RSM maintains constant contact with the sergeant majors of the companies and thus uses the so-called "Channel of Communication" of the NCOs.

The Company Sergeant Major, a Warrant Officer Class 2, is the SNCO of a company and in his duties is roughly equivalent to a First Sergeant of the U.S. Army or comparable to a sergeant in charge of the Austrian Armed Forces.

Command sub-officer - main or secondary function?

As early as 1999, the then Commander of the International Operations Command and now Commander of the Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Günter Höfler, integrated an experienced NCO as a supporting function in his staff.He had to keep in close contact with all NCOs in his area of ​​responsibility and advise the commanders in matters, especially those relating to the NCO corps. Since it was supposed to be a non-commissioned officer in the immediate vicinity of the commanding officer, the decision was made at that time to use the title of "commanding officer".

The first command sub-officer in the International Operations Command was Vice Lieutenant Werner Zofal. Even if this was only a secondary function for Zofal, he said he was able to adapt to this task very well thanks to his extensive experience in working especially with the RSM of the Royal Army during many of his missions abroad.

Looking back, Zofal said, not without pride: "I felt comfortable working as an observer and advisor and was able to realize myself there". He also said: "The special challenge for me was that I was able to advise and help at the base, exactly where the NCOs could do such valuable work. I saw myself as a link and mediator and often recognized problems early on. My commander and I was able to work specifically for the corps of non-commissioned officers. […]. With the success, the reputation rose. It was always clear to me that I could not solve all problems, but at least I could look for solutions and these propose to our commanding officer. [...] I had a second function, but for me it was not a burden, it was an honor that I was allowed to be the interface between my commanding officer and my comrade officers. " Of course, the introduction of a command sub-officer significantly increased the importance of the NCOs in the specific command area from their point of view. Even if there were repeated attempts to compare the Austrian counterpart with the top NCOs in the USA or Great Britain described above, only some tasks could be equated with those of a CSM or RSM, but by no means the powers of the command officer.

In 2002 this key function with the now official designation "Kommandunteroffizier" was introduced as a workplace at the Army NCOs' Academy, in the International Operations Command, and a few months later also in the Land Forces Command. That was the first step in assuming this function up to the level of the association - deliberately not as a copy of the models of other armies, but tailored to the needs of the Austrian Armed Forces.

The duties of the command sub-officer

The tasks of the command sub-officer are summarized in the job description. They mainly include two areas of responsibility:

  • the service to the commander and
  • the link function to the NCOs.

What exactly is hidden behind these very briefly presented areas of responsibility?

  • The command sub-officer is the interface between the commandant and the corps of sub-officers.
  • He advises the commanding officer on all non-commissioned officers' questions.
  • He accompanies and supports the commanding officer in the exercise of service supervision, v. a. in the areas of training, training methodology, leadership behavior or combat and leadership problems at the lower level.
  • He participates in the planning and implementation of basic, advanced and advanced training for the management. (This task will play a special role after a possible nationwide introduction of the command sub-officers in the brigades and battalions.)
  • He is the link to the training centers for NCOs.
  • He acts as a project manager for his own command in the event of changes in the training and requirement profile for NCOs.
  • He participates in maintaining formal discipline in the corps of non-commissioned officers, whereby in this question, of course, the role model behavior has to play a special role.
  • As an administrative body for the commander, he supports v. a. in relation to travel movements or protocol requirements.
  • He advises the commandant in dealing with disciplinary and complaint cases from the group of NCOs.
  • He accompanies the commanding officer on official and representative occasions, v. a. if he works directly with NCOs from his area of ​​command.
  • He maintains contact with comparable functions in the international area with the aim of setting up his own networks for an exchange of experiences.
  • He looks after the relatives of employees abroad, also here primarily at the level of the associations.
  • He advises and looks after batches and recruits, as these soldiers are of the greatest importance for recruiting junior officers in the corps of non-commissioned officers.

Competencies of the command sub-officer In 2002, when the command sub-officer first appeared in the organizational plans of the Austrian Armed Forces, an article was published in the magazine TRUPPENDIENST ("Training splitter: A 'First NCO' for the Army NCO" TD issue 1/2002), which among other things contained the following statements:

"With the new organization plan, the Army Sergeant Academy got the position of 'First Sergeant' based on the model of the 'Command Sergeant Major' [...]".

There was good intent behind it. This announcement also brought a strong wind into the sails of the opponents at the same time. Because the above formulation aroused fears that an Austrian NCO could receive the same powers as a CSM or an RSM. From the author's point of view, these fears were unfounded.

In order to be able to fulfill the above-mentioned tasks in the interests of the commander and in the interests of the corps, the sub-command does not only need certain rights, but v. a. special skills and competencies in the following areas:

  • Leadership strength - even if he is not supposed to be a commander or instructor at the base;
  • Delegation skills - specific transfer of responsibility to others within the scope of the given possibilities;
  • Presentation skills;
  • social competence - especially in the sub-areas of communication and conflict management;
  • Skill in time management;
  • mental strength in the sense of coping with stress as a role model and to maintain one's own performance over a long period of time;
  • Expertise for service supervision.

Summary and Conclusions

With the establishment of the command sub-officers in the Austrian Armed Forces, the importance and importance of this rank level within and outside the armed forces were initially increased. With this measure, the armed forces have once again moved nationally and internationally in a new and promising direction.

In contrast to the staff representation, the command sub-officer primarily has to look after the interests of the UO corps and raise its status and should therefore be understood as a useful addition.

In addition to the command sub-officer of the armed forces, the brigades and battalions should now receive command sub-officers - but not as a secondary function as currently planned. This would increase the importance of the sergeant and create an efficient network of command sergeants to support the commanders. A visible mark on the uniform should also be considered.

Since there are no comparable functions in the Austrian Armed Forces, at the level of the battalions and brigades, no direct comparisons can be made with the networking options of the CSM or RSM system. A similar structure could, however, achieve considerable success, especially in youth work, and also lead to an increase in the reputation of NCOs inside and outside the armed forces.


Author: Vice Lieutenant Othmar Wohlkönig, born 1959, engagement date 1979 with the then Jagdpanzerbataillon 4 in Graz; Training as a non-commissioned officer and staff sergeant; Uses as platoon commander on the "Kürassier" tank destroyer, assistant for physical and alpine training and as S3-UO at the Styrian military command, officer for evaluation and sub-command officer at the international operations command. Since September 2006 Commander of the Armed Forces. Graduated from the 7th advanced training course for staff sergeants. Assignments abroad: Graduated from the Central Instructor School in Switzerland in 1990; 1994, 1997 and 2001 commander of the command group at UNFICYP, in between instructor for the transfer contingent of Slovakia in Cyprus, 1998 commander of the command group at SFOR in Bosnia and 2003 to 2005 commander of the command group at UNDOF.