JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Feb. 10, 2016) -- Since the start of this calendar year, noncommissioned officers across the Army have fallen under a new rating system that's unlike anything they've seen for a generation but will help ensure NCOs exemplify the Army Profession.

This is one of the greatest changes that have been implemented with our rating system as it now holds leaders accountable for who we are and how we set the example for our Soldiers.

The new Noncommissioned Evaluation Report now stratifies promotion potential by holding NCOs, their raters and senior raters accountable for taking necessary actions to capture performance and potential. It's critical that each individual in this process understands his or her respective role for which they are now responsible.

NCOs and senior NCOs are the backbone of support capabilities who allow combatant commanders to conduct day-to-day deterrence and theater shaping operations. As supervisors and leaders in the evaluation process, we owe it to those commanders to provide our best Soldiers and finest operational contracting support.

I've learned quickly upon arriving at the Mission and Installation Contracting Command that NCOs in the 51 Charlie military occupational specialty are already a cut above the rest. The requirements necessary to even compete and remain qualified as a contracting NCO are some of the most stringent in the service. However, it is my intent to make sure they are in the best possible position to continue serving our Army in the fullest capacity possible.

I am adamant about ensuring all personnel understand the importance of the new Department of the Army Form 2166-9 NCOER series, which is the new evaluation form. It's all NCO-oriented, which makes it imperative that the rated NCO goes into the Evaluation Entry System, or EES, to build the initial 2166-9-1 counseling form. I can't emphasize enough the importance of getting the appropriate information and input populated in EES and making sure the rating chains are correct.

All NCOs should have already completed their professional development on the NCOER by now. Also, the Human Resources Command has provided additional training packages so that those involved in this process can gain a grasp of how to assess a leader's overall talent. There are three forms as part of the 2166-9 series, each capturing the performance and potential for promotion. The developmental NCOER, 2166-9-1, is for sergeants; an organizational level form, 2166-9-2, evaluates staff sergeants, sergeants first class and master sergeants; and the strategic level NCOER, 2166-9-3, is for command sergeants major and sergeants major. Formal evaluation of NCOs is not about checking the blocks any longer. You really have to step up to the plate to earn your rating. Leaders must understand and assess NCOs through critical thinking.

NCOs are now rated in six categories. You must have a clear understanding of character, presence, intellect, leads, develops and achieves. All leaders, uniformed and civilian, need to be familiar with Army Doctrine Publication 6-22, Army Leadership, and clearly understand the Leadership Requirements Model. It is those attributes and competencies outlined in that model on which we are weighing and basing our leader qualities and ensuring we maintain the best NCOs through talent management.

For sergeants, the NCOER now delineates simply between whether or not you meet the standard. Senior raters then determine whether you are either most qualified, highly qualified, qualified or not qualified. At the organization level, staff sergeants through master sergeant are rated in one of four categories, far exceeded the standard, exceeded standard, met the standard or did not meet the standard. Moreover, sergeants major and command sergeants major are rated at the strategic level through a narrative assessment instead of standardized bullets.

The new EES system builds a profile for every rater and senior rater. It mandates face-to-face contact between the rater, a senior rater when available and the Soldier during specific windows of counseling that must be accomplished, which eliminates an unfairly rushed, last-minute effort on behalf of our rated NCOs. This ensures a deliberate method of managing our most talented NCOs for the next level of responsibility.

This directed interaction is the most critical part of the new system and demands honest counseling so that no one is surprised. That honest feedback should include an understanding that raters and senior raters cannot categorically rate everybody as far exceeds standards any more. It was similar inflation of evaluations under the previous rating system that prompted this new reporting system.

The new NCOER is the best way ahead in order to support the Army's Select-Train-Educate-Promote policy for enlisted Soldiers by forcing leaders to be accountable and make the hard choices.

At this time, it is no secret to anyone where and how we're supposed to be instituting and implementing the NCOER this year. I've had the opportunity to visit a few of our geographically dispersed offices and have met with NCOs and our leaders to ensure we're on track with the NCOER. I've also relayed critical information as I've received it through our leaders at the brigade and field directorate level.

As leaders, we have to stay abreast of the changes in our Army so that we can continue to further develop our NCOs as they strive for promotion. It's been a working progress, but we'll continue to answer all of your questions through all means possible. And again, I can't say enough how important it is for command leadership and leaders at all levels to do the right thing. Be accountable for your Soldiers.