JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - In the U.S. Army, grade and responsibility are symbols of pride and success. For many Soldiers, leadership positions hold a certain prestige that is evidence of years of hard work and dedication. Among the Noncommissioned Officer Corps, the Army platoon sergeant is one of the more distinguished positions. An NCO holding this coveted spot is responsible for numerous Soldiers as well as the daily operations of their platoon.
"A platoon is an extremely precious asset. Not only (because of) the amount of equipment and gear, but more importantly the priceless assets are the 20 to 40 soldiers who man that platoon," said Sgt. Maj. Sean Mayo, the command sergeant major for 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division. "It's an asset we don't take lightly when we entrust it to someone."
The position of platoon sergeant is normally held by a sergeant first class who has a solid foundation of military know-how and who has worked their way up through the ranks, having held various roles and duties along the way. The whole process is neither quick nor curt and may take well over a decade or more to achieve. This makes the fact that Staff Sgt. Phillip Flory, an Elk Grove, Calif., native with Bronco Troop, 1-14 Cav., is currently holding the position even more special. Moreover, he is also standing in as acting platoon leader; a position normally reserved for a junior officer.
"My platoon leader is going to Ranger School this month and was not able to come with us out here," explained Flory, who is currently conducting training in Idaho with his battalion. "So, I've been acting in both roles and doing the best job that I can."
Even for seasoned sergeants first class, being a platoon sergeant can be rough business, Mayo explained. That's why carrying both of those positions — platoon sergeant and platoon leader — is exceedingly difficult.
"Not many people can handle it smoothly," Mayo said. "Flory's been able to do that. It's a credit to him and to the leaders that trained him early on in his career."
Flory began his service at Fort Knox, Ky., in 2003. It was there that he went through One Station Unit Training to become a cavalry scout before shipping to Korea for a year with 2-9 Infantry at Camp Casey.
"Then I moved to Fort Drum, NY, where I was in [1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division]," Flory said. "I did about a year there and then I reenlisted to come back to the West Coast."
Once Flory joined 1-14 Cav., he quickly ascended through the ranks, working as a gunner on a Stryker Combat Vehicle, then later as a section sergeant, and finally as senior scout for three years before taking over the headquarters platoon.
"I moved into an actual line platoon sergeant position about six months ago … with the support of the squadron sergeant major and commander," Flory said. "I'm not really out to impress anybody, though. I'm out to do my job and do it properly. It's not in my character to only do things to impress people. I'm just trying to do my job the best that I know how."
Flory has a history of excelling in whatever job he holds; something that goes as far back as 2008 when he was a young sergeant attending the Cavalry Scout Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course.
"They sent me there and I actually ended up making commandant's list ahead of several staff sergeants, which kind of surprised me, and it surprised my leadership as well, because I was… just sent to the school to fill a slot," Flory said.
His 'can-do' attitude is what made him stand out as the first choice for Bronco Troop's vacated platoon sergeant position.
"I had no reservations about putting Staff Sgt. Flory into that seat because I knew he was more than capable of excelling in that position and he's done so," Mayo said. "He's validated [his leadership's] trust in him … and Staff Sgt. Flory has more than backed up our faith in him. He's performed outstandingly since we put him in that position."
For Flory, the road ahead is filled with more challenges, and with his leader’s backing, he plans to stay in the military for as long as possible.
"I want it to be a career for me," Flory said. "I've wanted it to be a career for me for a long time. With my sergeant major and squadron commander's support, and [the brigade commander] Col. Bair and [brigade command sergeant major] Command Sgt. Maj. Smith's support, I will be able reenlist soon and be a career Soldier after that."