Every Army unit, from company-level up to corps, has an Executive Officer (XO). The XO is a commissioned officer who handles the daily operational affairs of a unit. Their job is to ease the routine administrative burdens of the Commanding Officer (CO). Doing so frees up the CO's time to prepare strategic plans.
The executive officer's function is integral to the mission of any Army unit. The XO's areas of responsibility are supply, maintenance and administration. Specifically, they make sure their soldiers have the tools they need, that the tools are in good working order, and that the unit has the proper documentation on both personnel and equipment. This supports the commander who has more time to devote to planning.
To become an Army officer, applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree. The major does not matter. Executive officers are generally chosen after spending 9 to 18 months as a platoon leader. At this point they achieve the rank of first lieutenant and move on to the position of executive officer. XOs should have excellent time management skills, be of high moral character and pay strong attention to detail.
After earning a commission, second lieutenants attend their respective basic branch courses. These courses teach new officers how to lead soldiers in their respective branches and how units are organized within those branches. For example, infantry officers attend the Infantry Officer Basic Course (IOBC). While at IOBC, they master the skills and weapons of the infantry soldier. They also learn infantry tactics and strategies, the organization of infantry units and how infantry units work with other combat units. This training, as well as a year and a half of platoon leader experience, prepares officers for the position of executive officer.
Executive officers serve at the company, battalion, regiment, brigade, division and corps level. Each successive assignment brings more responsibility as the number of soldiers and amount of equipment that the XO is responsible for grows. The XO position is generally a stepping stone to a Commanding Officer assignment. Executive officers are also assigned to army bases and hospitals. Assignments are available all over the U.S. and at Army installations around the world.
After the Army
The position of executive officer requires an individual who has excellent organizational skills and the vision to make long-range plans. These are exactly the skills that are so highly prized by employers in the civilian sector. XOs in the Army are well prepared for jobs in upper and middle management. In addition, the skills of an officer's specific branch also help in finding a job in the civilian world. For example, a Signal XO who maintained an Army communications network would be well suited to a managerial or executive position with a telecommunications company.
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