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As Army Downsizes, Soldiers Must Remain Competitive
by Rob McIlvaine - January 27, 2012

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Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III speaks to Soldiers Nov. 15, 2011, about what it means to be a professional during the Army Profession Junior Leader Forum at Fort Sill, Okla. Photo by Marie Berberea
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III speaks to Soldiers Nov. 15, 2011, about what it means to be a professional during the Army Profession Junior Leader Forum at Fort Sill, Okla. Photo by Marie Berberea
  FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service, Jan. 23, 2012) -- The past 10 years of war assured many Soldiers an assignment or promotion with a high degree of certainty, said an official with the Promotions branch. That's no longer necessarily the case.

"It has always been in the Soldier's best interest to ensure his or her personnel file is up to date. But as history tends to repeat itself and the Army scales back its force structure, having an accurate, updated and complete service record is now more important than ever," said Gerald Mayer, chief of DA Promotions Branch.

Soldiers need to know how to present themselves to the board in the most positive and professional manner, Mayer said.

All Soldiers need to be on top of their personnel file at any given time because not only is the file looked at for promotion boards, but it's also looked at for assignments as well, he said.

"If it's not kept current to where you feel that you're being best represented, then you might fall short somewhere," Mayer said.

The U.S. Army Human Resources Command, Department of the Army Secretariat convenes about 80 selection boards each year, for promotions, command assignments, professional development and schools for officers, warrant officers, and senior noncommissioned officers.

But if a Soldier doesn't do his or her due diligence, "the assignment that you want could go to someone else or you could not get promoted," Mayer said.

The Army will continue to promote its most qualified and experienced officers and noncommissioned officers based on potential and performance, he said. But he added this also means that boards will only select the best qualified out of the field of fully qualified Soldiers.

"The Army recommends that every Soldier, at a minimum, should maintain contact with their branch manager; check their DA photo, with emphasis on the proper wear and placement of the awards and to ensure that the data matches their officer records brief or enlisted records brief, and what's filed in their Official Personnel Management File, or OPMF, which is their electronic record depository," said Randy Gillespie, chief of the Officer Promotions Branch.

Gillespie added that everyone should:

-- ensure that their assignment data on the ORB/ERB is accurate

-- ensure that all awards and badges are properly annotated on their ORB/ERB and filed in the OMPF

-- confirm that all evaluations are properly posted in their OMPF and that SSN, height/weight data, and duty title/description are correct

-- review and certify their "My Board File" promotion information is correct

"So don't fall short and think that if you don't put any emphasis on your personnel file, which is kind of your resume and kind of your handshake to whomever is looking at your file, because if it's not up to date, this could send the message that you're not diligent enough, or that you don't care what's happening to you in your career. After all, this is a profession of arms, and it doesn't speak highly of an individual if he or she presents themselves in a way that is unprofessional or fails to show due diligence," Gillespie said.

Prior to a promotion board, DA Promotions Branch publishes a military personnel or MILPER message that gives Soldiers guidelines on what they should do to ensure they are portraying themselves in the most favorable light.

"If a Soldier takes the time to read the correspondence sent to them, they are told exactly what to do and how to do it, and who may help them. There's no guess work in this process," Mayer said.

Every Soldier, said Gillespie, should have the habit of updating their records as they change. This makes sure they go down the right path to get the right evaluation to ultimately show how they rate against their peers.

"It's not how you stack up against the Army standards, it's how you rate against your peers because most boards have a maximum selection objective that restricts the number to be recommended for promotion based upon the needs of the Army," Gillespie explained. "If there's 100 people on that board and the Army can only promote 80, even though they may all be top-notch Soldiers, it's how they rank among themselves provided that they are all fully qualified."

The Army, Mayer said, is an organization that truly cares about its people, but it also knows that not all Soldiers can be promoted. There's not that much room at the top.

"So we don't want anyone to fall short and think something is happening or there's an expectation when there's not. Promotion is not a right or an entitlement. It must be earned," he said.

A Soldier, he said, may say he did all that's required.

"OK, you did all that's required, but how well did you do it?" Mayer said. "Therein lies your efficiency report that talks to a Soldier's potential for advancement to the next higher rank."

"So we're just trying to alert Soldiers that (their) record could be looked at for just about anything, so just keep it up to date and make sure there's a validating document to support whatever entry is in (the) file," Mayer said.

Furthermore, commanders and supervisors can assist by monitoring preparation efforts and reviewing ORB/ERB, OMPFs, and DA photos prior to the board-convening date. The boards will require complete record evaluations as outlined in their respective MILPER Messages.

At a minimum, these senior leaders should ensure that their officers have an official DA photo on file, along with completed evaluations that are processed by the established cut-off dates with emphasis on clear, concise, quantified narrative comments that leave no doubts as to where these Soldiers stand against their respective peers, Mayers said.

Finally, he said all Soldiers should view the detailed Department of the Army Secretariat video on the actual promotion board process to maximize success at DA boards and for their own professional development. This video is available at

By Rob McIlvaine
Army News Service
Copyright 2012

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