Not necessarily present at all Army promotion and Soldier/NCO of the month boards, but a common feature at boards such as SAMC (Sergeant Audie Murphy Club), situational questions are an excellent way to gauge the leadership ability of Soldiers. SAMC board questions are heavily situational, but Army promotion board questions can be as well.
Unlike traditional Army board questions, there are a spectrum of answers that can be considered right. The following format is extremely helpful in answering situational board questions:
1) Take care of the Soldier.
If the Soldier is in trouble or in possible danger, ensure they get out of it. Make sure the Soldier and the Soldier’s family are safe before you worry about spouting off an Army program or ensuring a Soldier gets punishment for his or her misdeed. Board members are testing your ability to be a leader, which first and foremost is taking care of Soldiers.
2) Handle at the lowest level possible.
Board members want to hear what you would do. Passing off the Soldier to the next level in the NCO support channel or Chain of Command is sometimes the right answer, but most likely not. If a Soldier gets a DUI, then obviously it needs to be sent up appropriately, but these questions likely lie in gray areas where passing the Soldier off above you is a cop out answer and one which fundamentally disagrees with the Army’s philosophy of handling issues at the lowest level possible.
3) Utilize Army programs when applicable.
Board members are attempting to see how you would not only respond to common situations as a leader, but also your level of knowledge about Army resources and programs. Often the answer will allow you an opportunity to display your knowledge of Army programs and services. The answer does not necessarily need to be completed by the mention of programs, but they could be a part in a comprehensive answer.
Using this format will guarantee you success at answering any situational question. Above all, make sure you convey your concern for the well-being of your Soldiers. Taking care of Soldiers is more than just a line in the NCO creed.
1) You receive a phone call at 0200 on Saturday morning/Friday night. It is one of your Soldiers who says that he has been out drinking and needs a ride home. How do you respond?
A: Ask the Soldier if he is okay. If the Soldier is okay and functioning, see if anyone else is with him. Soldiers should always be out as battle buddies and he may have friends that need assistance as well. Find out the Soldier’s location and ensure that he understands he must not drive in any circumstances if he drove there. Is the Soldier capable of calling an uber or taxi ride? This is the time for you to make a judgment call, if the Soldier can do this and you are confident in it, you may ask him to call himself an uber and inform you when it arrives and when he is safely home. If the Soldier does not seem capable of doing this, you may need to drive yourself to his location and get him safely home or call someone capable of doing so. After the Soldier is safe and secure, the following day you should prepare a counseling documenting what happened. The counseling should be an event-oriented counseling which summarizes the decisions made by that Soldier. Areas of emphasis should be on the Soldier developing a better plan when drinking, identifying if the Soldier has a drinking problem and referring him to the appropriate resources, if the Soldier is under 21 taking appropriate action, emphasizing the Soldier did the right thing by notifying you before he got into trouble, and serving as documentation that this Soldier had an incident should a pattern develop or a future incident occur.
2) Did you check your Soldiers’ rooms today? Why is it important to check your Soldiers’ rooms?
A: Be honest, either yes you did or no you did not. They will track down your Soldiers and verify your answer. Do NOT lie. Answering no is not a death sentence, its an opportunity for senior leaders to teach you something and for you to display honesty. The PRIMARY reason you check Soldiers’ rooms every day is first and foremost to inspect your Soldier. Accountability! How are they doing? Is he functioning? Does he look okay? Learning your Soldiers’ habits and behaviors is important to possibly identify changes in behavior that may be indicators of something serious (such as suicide or family issues). The secondary purpose is to ensure that they are maintaining their room in accordance with the unit standard or barracks SOP. Soldier discipline extends everywhere and how they maintain their government property is also important to ensuring that they display that attitude throughout their career. Most things in their room are government property and they need to treat it with respect as a professional steward, but also you want to make sure they do not damage anything and receive a statement of charges when they leave.
3) One of your Soldiers just failed an APFT. Describe the steps you would take beginning after the failure.
A: The first thing that needs to be done is the Soldier needs to be counseled (Sample APFT Failure Counseling). During that counseling it is important to explain to the Soldier the consequences they are facing in terms of their flag, possible separation, and career limitations. The Army assigns physical fitness as an individual responsibility, and it is. My responsibility as a leader is not to put so much effort into a Soldier that they can only pass a PT test with me riding them and doing remedial PT, but to transform them into a self-sufficient Soldier. I need to find out why this Soldier failed (out of shape, poor diet, illness, home issue, or just THS) and develop a plan of action to fix it. For some Soldiers yelling at them to be better will be effective, for some just extra PT will fix their issue, but for others a different plan of action is needed and that will depend on the Soldier. Not everyone is Army material, and as the SMA has made clear, physical fitness is essential to what we do. As I said earlier, PT is an individual responsibility, and my role is to figure out how to motivate this Soldier to achieve the standard, give them the proper tools and information to succeed, and then ensure that they are following the plan of action. If they do not want to be better, then I will personally initiate separation. I do not want a Soldier, with an identified lack of motivation, to serve in this Army. This is your Army, this is my Army, but most importantly this is America’s Army. I want to do everything in my power to preserve this Army and this nation for the next generation–whether that means staying late to do remedial PT, showing my Soldier to the library to check out a nutrition book, ensuring they have a proper rest plan, or separating them from the military.
4) You’re standing in line in uniform at a restaurant for lunch when someone approaches you and asks, “Aren’t you glad that clown Trump is out of office?” How would you respond?
A: Well it’s important to remember that we always represent the Army and something larger than ourselves. Any answer I give here is going to be construed to be the “opinion” of Soldiers. I would simply say that, “We take an oath to protect the Constitution and defend the people of the United States. Regardless of who is President, that is what we’re doing and will continue to do.” If pressed further, I would politely respond that I don’t feel comfortable discussing my personal political views while I’m representing the United States government because it would be unprofessional and inappropriate.
5) What was the last book you read professionally?
Don’t let this question trip you up! Grab a book from our NCO 2021 Professional Reading List! and be able to answer honestly.
6) Suppose you have a Soldier who refuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine. How would you handle this situation?
While the COVID-19 vaccine is completely voluntary due to it being authorized under and emergency use by the FDA, all credible data suggests it is effective and safe. First, I would listen. Why does my Soldier not want to receive the vaccine? It is possible my Soldier has a medical history that makes him more unsure. Maybe he has read that it causes autism or some other serious side-effect?
If the Soldier is unsure about its safety (most common concern), I would first direct him to the plethora of educational resources available online showing the vaccines are safe and effective. However, I know that sometimes reading journal articles just is not that exciting or convincing. I would say that I received the vaccine and why would I knowingly put something harmful in my body? Also, I would arrange an appointment for him to speak with the PA to discuss any concerns he may have.
Now, if my Soldier says something like “it is a government tracking device” or something outlandish, I would ask him if he carries a cellphone? That is literally a tracking device. Does he have social media? You are literally volunteering personal information for EVERYONE. So, if you are that concerned about being tracked, lets get rid of your cellphone and social media.
I, personally, would encourage my Soldier to think about the safety of himself and the team. By getting vaccinated he is preventing himself from getting sick and most importantly stopping himself from infecting others. Were all part of a team and we cant afford to lose Soldiers due to preventable things.
If my Soldier flat out refuses to get the vaccine, that is his right at the moment, BUT I want it to be because he made an informed decision based on the facts. At the end of the day, Americans have the right to decide what is best for themselves, as long as doing so doesnt infringe upon the rights of others.