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Army officer: What I do and how much I make

Lieutenant Soham Gupte, a 28-year-old U.S. Army officer, manages $30 million worth of property and oversees the training and welfare of 32 soldiers. His role requires mental agility, confidence, emotional intelligence, and excellent organization skills. He also emphasizes the importance of financial stability for his soldiers.

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Video transcript

My name is Lieutenant Soham Gupte. I'm 28 years old, I'm an officer in the United States Army, and I make $63,000 a year. So far this is my first duty station. I'm at Fort Stewart, Georgia, in Savannah. Officers in the Army are planners. Our job is to plan training for our soldiers, to plan combat operations, and then work with our non-commissioned officers to execute those events. And we supervise those events as well. A big part of being an officer in the United States Army is having property. So right now I am assigned for $30 million worth of property. That includes everything from our weapon systems to our vehicles, and all the components that are associated with it. I am signed for that property and then I sign it down to my soldiers and we conduct monthly inspections on it to ensure that nothing is missing and everything is functional. So as an armor officer, I'm given a scout platoon. My primary responsibility is to look out for the health, welfare, morale, training, tactical employment, and military readiness of my soldiers. I have roughly 32 soldiers under my command. And I have to ensure that they are ready at all times for any type of combat operations that the president may deem necessary. Secondary, but still very important, is to ensure that our six Bradly Fighting Vehicles are combat-ready. I have to ensure that my soldiers are conducting proper maintenance on them, and that we are essentially driving them to make sure they work at all times. We could get a mission at one o'clock in the morning and the commander can tell us, you need to move out or SP by five o'clock, in four hours. So I have four hours to conduct a map reconnaissance, to try and understand the terrain, and then create a plan for my soldiers to execute. So that is my primary job. My non-commissioned officers are the ones that execute that plan. I will maneuver the platoon around, but I really rely on my non-commissioned officers to give me the best advice possible because they have a wealth of experience and they've been in combat situations and done this. So that's a quick mission. Now, if the enemy is set further, or we're looking for a mission down the road, maybe a week out, we could be, as a scout platoon, we could be out for days or weeks at a time ahead of the decisive action elements, and conduct reconnaissance or security operations, understanding the threats, understanding the terrain, understanding the infrastructure, understanding the people, and then send that information back. They're really looking for us to provide timely and accurate data, and if we don't do that, the other units following behind us won't have all the information possible to decisively engage the enemy. I think for across the board as a officer in the United States military, you have to be mentally agile. You have to be able to adapt to any type of situation because at any given time things can change. First and foremost. You have to be trained on your individual tasks and the tactical employment of your soldiers. Your soldiers are looking to you to be an expert on that, to maneuver them properly, to lead them well. You have to have confidence, of course. You have to have the ability to stand in front of a group and present a plan clearly. You have to be able to write very well and present a plan succinctly as possible. The last element I would say is emotional intelligence. You have to know what triggers your soldiers and what motivates them. You have to be detail-oriented in this job, to do it successfully, of course, because there are a lot of things that come at you from every direction. Organization and being responsible, being level-headed. Because we are assigned for a lot of property, $30 million of property, you have to know what accounts for that, what's in that. You have to know it like your own personal items at home. And ultimately, again, you're responsible for it. You have to be organized in terms of training. You have to know what the soldiers need to be trained on, what tasks are coming down to you, and what needs to be executed first and what needs to be executed last. So you have to create a priority list, essentially. And that goes with organization. I love being around my soldiers. I love seeing them develop, seeing them grow, seeing them turn into professionals, from when we first got them after basic training. I love leading them and I love ensuring that their lives are whole. I particularly stress, for me, the finances for my soldiers, to make sure that they are financially secure, that their home lives are as good as possible because this is the type of profession where we need our soldiers to be level-headed and focused on the job 100% of the time. And there's very little room for them to worry about anything else. The most frustrating part is the paperwork, but that's what officers do. We are planners, so we have to be very good at the paperwork portion of our job. What I don't like about it is that it takes away from the time I get to spend with my men, the time I get to train with them, the time I get to develop them, or simply just talk to them. But that is, I understand it's a very important aspect of my job and it's needed because at the end of the day if I'm not completely squared away on that part of my job, everything else kind of goes to the wayside, it does not work. Across the armed forces, the salary is located on the internet. You can find out what you're going to make throughout your career. So a salary is typically, for an officer, it's broken down in three parts. You get your base pay, which is taxed. Then you get your basic housing allowance, which is not taxed and that's based on your rank and your location and dependents, if you have dependents. So as a single soldier, I make less than someone of my rank with a wife and children. The third part is sustenance pay for food. So two parts are not taxed, the latter two. The first part is. The pay chart grows as you increase in rank and as you continue to serve in the military. This is true for both the officer side and the enlisted non-commissioned officer side. So as I started as a second lieutenant. I started off, which is 01 pay in the military, I believe I was making roughly $3,000 a month, so $36,000 a year. And that increased little by little with rank and then with years of service. So the salary has doubled from the time that I started to where I am now.