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Life as an Armoured Officer

TangoTwoBravo

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I've fielded some personal messages recently on what is involved in being an Armoured officer, and when I searched my previous open forum posts on this topic I noted that some of it is out of date and some of it is buried inside threads. Since it seems to be that time of year when people are considering career options I'll beg the moderator's indulgence in posting some information on what it is like to be an Armoured officer.

The good book states that Armoured officers need the following: sense of awareness, leadership, speed of reaction and anticipation, knowledge and common sense. Some of the NCOs reading this might be giggling now. The guys that do not get through training tend to fail because they cannot navigate (sense of awareness) or cannot navigate quickly enough (speed of reaction). Others might not be able get a decent plan together quickly enough (speed of reaction) or be able to get it out to the crew and subordinate crews in a timely fashion that is understandable. If things get sticky out in the rhubarb remember that the good book says:
   
    The first rule of tactics is "Do Something."

Assuming you pass all your Canadian Forces, Army and Armoured officer training (could take two years for a Direct Entry Officer) you will be badged and posted to one of three regiments. You will be posted to Edmonton (LdSH(RC)), Valcartier (12 RBC), Petawawa (RCD) or Gagetown (C Sqn RCD). You can expect your first tour at the regiment to last between two and three years. You might not get a Troop right away depending on how many junior officers are at the regiment. Every branch in the Army is full of junior officers right now, but for those looking to join that situation might be different by the time you arrive. Even with a full house new officers are getting at one year as a Troop Leader.

The role of Troop Leader is the most important one that a new officer will have the priviledge of executing. You are responsible to the squadron commander for "command, control, organization, fighting effectiveness, training, discipline and welfare" of your Troop. A tank troop has four tanks and sixteen men while a recce troop has eight Coyotes and thirty-two men. You are assisted by a Warrant Officer (Tp WO) with 16 to 20 years of experience and a number of Sergeants and Master Corporals. Your first task is to gain the trust of your Tp WO and develop a strong working relationship. Your OC, 2IC and BC will torture you daily, but your Tp WO can make your life much easier.

As a Troop Leader during a year you can expect to spend between two to three months in the field, a month or so on leave and the rest of the time in garrison. If you are deploying then the field time will go up. In garrison your daily schedule runs from 0730 till about 1600, but you don't have a fixed clock. Sometimes I come in at 0530 and leave late at night, but other times I seem to barely work at all! Garrison time includes going to the ranges, running courses such as 25mm Turret Operator, conducing low-level tactical training, PT and sports. You will spend time at your desk, but when the troops go to the field you go to the field and live with them in a crew tent with your crew. Looking at the past two years as a squadron commander, my Troop Leaders have generally run 25mm ranges, participated in live fire exercises with the infantry, conducted a field exercise in the fall and spring, conducted an exercise in Kentucky, ran 25mm TOC and other courses, participated in a number of higher level Computer Assisted Exercises and a host of other things. It is great fun being a subbie - don't get too stressed about the future and just focus on learning as much as you can.

After two or three years you will get posted to Extra Regimental Employment (ERE). You will be a Captain by this point, noting that each entry plan is a little different. Roughly half the guys will go the Armour School to instruct and the other half will go the Reserve units as Regular Support Staff. Both postings are intended to develop your ability to plan training and look after administration. You will spend three years in this posting, which we use to season you as a Captain. This time is a great time to get your Army Tactical Operations Course (ATOC), your French profile squared away and perhaps get your Army Operations Course (AOC) done. Guys who got posted to Petawawa for their first Troop Leading tour can use their ERE tour to find a wife since it will usually be in a city.

The lucky ones will then get posted back to the regiment as a Captain. Depending on numbers your will start as a Squadron Battle Captain. This is probably your most important year, which accounts for why BCs torture subbies so much. Your next year should see you as a Squadron Second in Command (2IC). These jobs can be quite stressful, but your ERE time should have prepared you for it. You won't be alone, and as a BC you have an Ops WO with you who can set you right. If you didn't already get AOC then it should happen in this time. If you are a strong performer you will then get one of the "Big Three" Captain jobs: HQ Sqn 2IC, Adjutant or Operations Officer. You generally need one of those to get considered for the next level.

After that you get posted somewhere and if everything has gone well you might get promoted to Major and be considered for Squadron Command. It will probably take twelve years to get to this level, and it is far from guaranteed.

Armoured officers have much in common with other combat arms officers, and the differences are subtle to outsiders (except for our dashing looks and rakish berets that women find irresistable). Our leadership style with subordinates tends to be a little more casual than our infantry and artillery brothers due to the crew concept, but most Armoured officers are type A++ personalities so as a group we can be difficult. 

Cheers




 

GAP

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Oh....so that explains why they don't play well...... ;D
 

TangoTwoBravo

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Somebody asked me three very insightful questions in a PM, and I figured I'd answer out here in the open.

Question 1 -  What qualities do you believe make an excellent Armoured Officer?

Armoured officers work and live in very close proximity with their soldiers in the field. You spend days, weeks and months with the same small crew in very close confines. As such, you need strong people skills. Every officer from every branch has to have strong leadership skills, but Armoured officers need to be able to relate with their soldiers in a somewhat informal manner while still maintaining appropriate discipline. Its a fine line and we screw up either way all the time.

Armoured officers need to be able to think very quickly. You are crew commanding a vehicle as well as a troop or squadron of vehicles in harm's way. Seconds count and you need to be able to process, decide and act very quickly. You also need to be able to get your plan across to your subordinates quickly on the radio. I am generalizing here, but I find that Infantry officers are better at deliberate detailed thinking while Armoured officers are better at doing things on the fly. This is not to say that one is better than the other and there are always exceptions!

Armoured officers have to be able to navigate on the move at speed without a compass while looking in one direction and moving in another. This might be called "spatial awareness", but whatever it is called you need to be able to do it.

Armoured officers need to be technically proficient with their machines of war. Gunnery drills and communications must become second nature. This is not to say that you have to be the best at these in your troop, but you are responsible for a vehicle that needs to be in the fight.

Question 2 - What is the most rewarding part of being an Armoured Officer?

This will be different for everybody. For me, it is being able to lead Crewmen. Whether they are tankers or recce guys they are independent and aggressive soldiers who will get the job done without the need for excessive direction. They look after their machines before themselves without having to be told. I should also admit that I enjoy being in the turret as the squadron rolls towards some objective. Moving cross country while shooting is a great feeling!

Question 3 - What is the most challenging part of being an Armoured Officer?

When you are in training it is mounted navigation. Crew commanding is an art that relies on knowing where you are and where you want to go. GPS can help, but it can't crew command for you. You can't roll around staring at your GPS.

Once you are trained I would say that it is your reliance on equipment. It is hard to be a tanker without a tank, and while an armoured recce guy can do without a vehicle it does make it difficult. I can overcome many obstacles, but making sure that I have vehicles for my soldiers is probably the most challenging one that I face!

 
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Thank you very much for posting this information! I am seriously considering enrolling as an armoured officer and I find this information very useful! I definitely see certain traits within myself that is well suited for this position and it excites me to think about a career where one can "make a difference." I do have one question, and forgive me if it has been asked before, what would be the most integral qualities that make an armoured officer successful at leading his/her troops?
 

TangoTwoBravo

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PotentialOfficer said:
Thank you very much for posting this information! I am seriously considering enrolling as an armoured officer and I find this information very useful! I definitely see certain traits within myself that is well suited for this position and it excites me to think about a career where one can "make a difference." I do have one question, and forgive me if it has been asked before, what would be the most integral qualities that make an armoured officer successful at leading his/her troops?

All officers need to possess basic leadership qualities. Our leadership theory offers that all leaders need to have: knowledge and skills; cognitive ability; social capacities; personality; and motivation and values.  All army combat arms officers need to have strong personal skills, since they are usually going to be leading people directly in times of stress and danger. I take it as a compliment, but some have accused armoured officers of having too much personality.

Armoured officers need to be technically proficient, since they are crew commanders. They need to be able to work in close proximity with some subordinates while also influencing the rest of their command from a distance. For example, a young Troop Leader will have his own crew. He will work, live, sleep, eat in very close quarters with his crew for prolonged periods. He cannot be a remote figure to his crew, so he needs to strike a balance between being the boss but maintaining some informality. He also needs to be able to influence his crew commanders through his orders (mission and intent) and through the radio. Armoured officers need to be confident and decisive. You won't have much time to make decisions and issue orders. Tanks sitting about in the open waiting for direction won't last long. You need to be able to quickly assimilate information and make a decision.

 

dogger1936

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Tango2Bravo said:
Armoured officers have to be able to navigate on the move at speed without a compass while looking in one direction and moving in another. This might be called "spatial awareness", but whatever it is called you need to be able to do it.

My god that made me laugh....so true...so true.

And some people (all ranks) just do not possess the ability to do so!
 

OldSolduer

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dogger1936 said:
My god that made me laugh....so true...so true.

And some people (all ranks) just do not possess the ability to do so!

As an Infantryman ( I don't do that a lot anymore....but) I expect the Armour Corps to be an aggressive lot, but smart aggressive.  I would reckon it takes good headspacing and timing to coord the movement of 19 behemoths (it is 19 in a Sqn still?) and then make sure they're all bombed up and the troops fed.
 
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Gonna bump this thread. The info is great.

Can any experienced Armoured crew comment on what's changed with their trade in terms of training, work life, etc. in the last, oh... ten years? 😄
 

TangoTwoBravo

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Gonna bump this thread. The info is great.

Can any experienced Armoured crew comment on what's changed with their trade in terms of training, work life, etc. in the last, oh... ten years? 😄
Well this takes me back...

I hope that an officer currently serving in a Regt will weigh in, but I will try to give a bit of an update. I was last serving in the Regt in 2013 as the Regt 2IC (Deputy Commanding Officer for those in other Branches). Since then I have been in Bde, Div, Garrison and a School. I was in Pet in a Garrison unit from 2019 to 2021 with mess contact with my Regimental colleagues (until COVID landed on us of course).

The basic career flow has not changed. One difference after ten years, though, is that there seem to be less Junior Officers in the unit. We had too many Subbies for Troop Leading positions circa 2011, and now we don't seem to have enough. That can mean that officers are thrust into leadership and meaningful admin/support positions earlier than ten years ago. You always have to be ready to take charge, though, so no real change to the requirements. Overseas tours happen, although many are not what I would consider traditional ones from the 90s through to 2010.

There are some doctrinal and organizational changes afoot, not to mention new vehicles (and buildings) since I left the lines in 2013. The core business of being an Armour officer, though, is still the same. Life at the Regt as an officer is busy and fun. Time at the Regt is precious - make the most of it. Find the balance between confidence and humility (you need both). Listen and learn from your NCOs while you take command and make decisions within your scope of duties. Make friends with your fellow Subbies. You can all be successful and you can all fail. By successful, I mean you can have a good Troop Leading tour and make a good impression that will result in you being brought back to the Regt as a Captain. Your fellow subbies will be your fellow Captains and fellow Majors down the line. A little competition is natural, but work together.

Anyhoo - best of luck!
 
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