CQ and Staff Duty are among some of the least desired duties in the military. Even if you only get it once in your military career, you’re bound to feel an impending sense of dread before going on the 24-hour assignment.
With all the talk around CQ Duty, its bark may be worse than its bite, but it still begs the question: why is CQ necessary in the first place?
First, what is CQ Duty?
CQ — or “Charge of Quarters” — is a tasked duty in which the designated service member must guard the front entrance to the barracks.
One of the big points against CQ Duty is that it usually lasts for 24 hours, and depending on your 1SG, you may have to stay awake for the whole damn thing.
Traditionally, two service members will perform the duty, one being an NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) and the other a lower-level enlisted. They will monitor traffic going to and from the barracks, and also have to clean their assigned area. However, as with anything else in the military, different stations, units and commanders have different policies.
What is the difference between CQ and Staff Duty?
Staff Duty is very similar to CQ. They are both day-long shifts that involve guarding service members and military property, as well as other tasks like cleaning and answering the phone.
However, CQ is an extension of the Company; you are expected to act in accordance to the Company and 1SG guidelines. Staff Duty, on the other hand, is an extension of the Battalion or Brigade, and usually performed by higher-ranking service members.
For CQ, the NCO is normally E-5 and above, and the “runner” (enlisted service member) is between E-1 and E-4. For Staff Duty, the NCO will be E-6 or higher, though there are always exceptions.
Why is CQ Duty so despised?
CQ Duty has built up quite a reputation over the many years it’s been in place. Both service members and their spouses dislike the lengthy, circadian-rhythm-ruining duty. So why does it get such a bad rap?
A couple pretty common complaints are as listed:
- Long hours
- Nothing to do
- Strict rules
Literally nobody wants to spend 24 hours sitting at a desk doing nothing — aside from maybe cleaning the restrooms. However, CQ Duties tend to be about as bad as you make them… or as bad as your commander makes them.
Here are some nightmare CQ stories from Reddit
“SDO starts dosing off at 0500. CSM walks in and sees him. “Hey LT, you look tired. Why don’t you go home and get some sleep and I’ll see you at 1400”.
Poor dumb dude had to pull it a second night in a row. Which is why you need to be crafty about where you choose to take a nap.”HighNoon44
“My BDE makes LTs pull duty, no sleep plan allowed and my company CDR doesn’t give us comp days unlike everyone else. So it’s basically a 50 hour work shift when me and the two other guys in my company pull it.”zerogee616
“Camp CJR is about a 30 minute drive from on base housing on Eglin AFB. We had a guy doze on his motorcycle after a 28 hour Staff Duty shift and wreck on his way home.”DeCoder68W
“No electronics (computers), no playing games on your phone, no tv/movies, no sleeping plan, no leaving post, cq tests, police calls. All you could basically do was read the cq book, monitor the motorpool cameras, or read some books about how to locate snipers.
Plus it started and ended at 9am… but you had to do PT in the morning before your shift… so you essentially had to stay awake for 29-30ish hours and then drive home if you lived off post…
Whenever I could get away with paying some sucker to do it, I did.”Phil_Scorpio
“I never understood why in the Army, you can be in an Overwatch in Afghanistan on a 33% rest plan with bad guys in the area and yet you go back to the states and it’s 100% all night.
What drives me the most crazy is that we force Soldiers to submit TRIPS evaluations for anything and everything, including driving to the airport but we completely ignore Soldiers driving home after 24 hours of no sleep.”Toobatheviking
“CQ’s, Staff duty, and selected soldiers had to guard the barracks in full kit (without weapons) every night because somebody using a lawnmower accidentally chipped a window with a rock. The BC and CSM enjoyed the irrational thought that someone threw a rock on purpose.
Lasted a good 2 months.”supremeinfantry
“In 2014, JBLM had a guy leaving Staff Duty die on I-5 due to falling asleep at the wheel. Did it change a damn thing? Not at all.”trfnc
Are there any benefits to CQ?
There are a couple perks to the much-hated CQ Duty.
One is comp time. You have the day following off, and if it happens to fall near a weekend, you could have three or more days off in a row. Sometimes, if you get CQ on a holiday, your commander might feel bad enough to give you extra time off around other days.
Another is that many service members are allowed to study, play games or do other recreational activities during the shift. It all depends on where you’re stationed.
Why is CQ Duty needed?
One word: safety.
Even if you never see any action on CQ, the point is that there’s always the possibility you could. Some tasks may be mundane and undesirable, like watching for drinking and substance abuse, and performing checks around your post.
However, if something serious were to happen, it is your responsibility to respond in the manner that best fits the situation, and potentially prevent a crisis.
This article by We Served Too details a Saturday night on Staff Duty, where the writer saved the life of a soldier who had overdosed when he went to check on her.
At the end of the day, as a service member, your job is to do what you are told. Embrace the suck, as they say. CQ Duty can be a cruel and unusual punishment, or simply another night staying up past your bedtime — you decide.