Putting together a packet for promotion
January 11, 2012
When NCOs are eligible for promotion to the ranks of sergeant first class, master sergeant, sergeant major and command sergeant major, they don't appear in front of their company or battalion board, but rather submit their packets for promotion to a centralized selection board at Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky. This process relies more on how NCOs present themselves on paper as they won't get an opportunity to articulate their credentials in person. It is imperative, then, that NCOs competing for promotion pay particular attention to their packets and follow a few guidelines throughout the process.
Timeline for promotion
A military personnel, or MILPER, message is released roughly 120 days before a board convenes and announces the criteria for selecting those eligible for promotion. The list is scrubbed through casualty and mortuary affairs, basic time in service and grade, and approved retirements. Sixty days after the MILPER message goes out to the force, NCOs have the opportunity to certify their board files. They can correct items that are missing from their files, certify that their files are accurate or decline consideration for promotion.
If no action is taken to verify their files, NCOs will be considered for promotion with their file "as is."
The centralized board consists of at least five members, but depending on the board, the number of members can range from 38 to 50. To sit on the board, NCOs must be among the best in the Army, said Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Sutton, the sergeant major of the Department of the Army secretariat for selection boards.
In general, board members have outstanding evaluation reports, are physically fit, have attended the Sergeants Major Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy and will not retire within six months of the board's decision. These individuals review the packets to determine each NCO's promotion potential, establish an order of merit list and determine who
will be promoted to the next rank. The board takes the selection process very
seriously, Sutton said.
"The Army wants the best-qualified Soldiers when it comes to enlistment boards," Sutton said. "They want the best Soldiers in that career management field. The Soldiers should do everything, every day to live the Army Values and to perform their duties to the highest Army standards. When they come to work, they should understand that this is a very professional business, where we're looking for the best-qualified. On- and off-duty, they need to make sure they are in line with the Army Values and doing everything possible to make sure they have a balance between their military work and their family lives to make sure that they're qualified when the board members are looking at their records."
What makes a strong candidate
Master Sgt. Jason Kirkman, the NCO in charge of enlisted promotions, said Soldiers need to take initiative when it comes to preparing their packets for the board. "We should be able to forecast and take charge of our own careers to make sure that we are putting our best foot forward or the board members to see," Kirkman said. "There's a strong mphasis on working special-duty jobs -- i.e. drill sergeant, recruiter, instructor, (equal opportunity) and (inspector general) -- that we need to expand. We can't be stuck on just doing our duty; we need to be a more flexible force to be tactically and technically proficient."
There are benefits to a centralized selection committee deciding who to promote. By not having Soldiers appear before the board, the items included in the NCOs packets, particularly
their official photos, need to be squared away, Sutton said. "The Soldier no longer gets to go in front of the board like on a sergeant E-5 board and salute the president and tell the president of the board how great he or she is. The DA photo is the handshake to the board," Sutton said. "That's the first document the board is going to see."
What the packet should include
A strong packet includes a good DA photo, a consistency between the NCO Evaluation Report and the Enlisted Records Brief, excellent performance in the NCO's jobs, and a record of the NCO seeking challenging jobs, Sutton said.
"The best thing is to focus on the whole-Soldier concept and ensure everything is squared away," Sutton said. "Soldiers should not try to guess what is important to the board members. They should ensure that everything is updated."