Allen West: Here’s what being “chief of staff” means in the military

What exactly can retired General John Kelly bring to the table and what exactly should the respected new Chief of Staff expect from his new position in the White House? Allen West provides some insight on what to expect given his years of experience both in the Military and in politics.

As written by Allen B. West:

Even though I was enjoying the beauty of Wheeling, West Virginia over this past weekend, I was still paying attention to the news cycle. And let me tell you, some great scenery for running up here, and fantastic opportunity to ponder current events as I was running.

I want to take the time to discuss with y’all the most recent personnel change in the White House. Yes, I have listened to all the political pundits but they fail to envision this personnel change from the eyes of a military veteran.

What does the title chief of staff mean in the military? With the announcement late Friday that retired Marine General John Kelly is the new White House chief of staff it’s important that we all, including President Trump, understand what that means.

I had the honor of holding two critical staff positions in my 22-year military career. One was as a brigade/regimental operations officer, the other as a battalion executive officer.

In the military at the company, battalion, and brigade/regimental levels we have executive officers (XOs). They’re basically the second in command of the unit. However, at the division and higher levels, you have a chief of staff.

The most critical aspect of being an executive officer or chief of staff is that you “run” the staff and ensure the commander’s guidance is implemented. Normally, the only person who can have direct access to the commander is the operations officer, the person designated as the S3 or G3. But, I can tell ya that even as the brigade S3 for Colonel Denny R. Lewis at Ft. Bragg, I never just busted up into his office, unless called upon, but I always made the Brigade XO, LTC Charlie Powers, aware of my comings and goings.

And there was NEVER a time that I didn’t share my conversations with COL Lewis with LTC Powers…just so y’all know, I was a major at the time. Furthermore, every morning the three of us would have what was called “Stand To” with COL Lewis before we conducted PT in order to synchronize the days activities.

The key was that I understood LTC Powers was the “XO” and that success meant ensuring he coordinated the actions of our staff. And let me tell you, if you wanted to see LTC Powers go nuts, just let him find out you went in with COL Lewis without his knowledge. As we say in the military, “surprises are for birthdays.”

As a battalion executive officer I was responsible for coordinating the staff, and yes, to be in command when the battalion commander was not available. That meant I had to be cognizant of the staff functions and our operating systems. Before we had a command and staff meeting I would conduct a pre-brief with the staff because we were not going to have any embarrassing moments. The only individuals who had carte blanche to have an audience with the commander were subordinate commanders. But just as when I was a brigade S3, the smart commanders would always check in with you before going to see the “Ol’ Man.” The reason is simple: subordinate commanders always knew that the XO or chief of staff had the commander’s ear, trust, and confidence. I can tell you there were plenty of times when COL Lewis spoke to me in confidence about some of the battalion commanders.


Here’s what being “chief of staff” means in the military

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