By David Ruderman, U.S. Army Human Resources Command Public Affairs December 14, 2016
FORT KNOX, Kentucky -- Army Human Resources Command has further expanded an online tool that enables active duty, enlisted Soldiers to designate assignment location and assignment preferences.
The Assignment Satisfaction Key, or ASK, program was initially fielded to fill vacant positions in deploying units, but a redesign has transformed it into a career development tool for enlisted Soldiers across the Army -- Soldiers in ranks in ranks E-1 through E-8 non-promotable.
According to Arthur Dille, a human resources supervisor with HRC's Enlisted Procedures and Soldier Actions Branch, the redesign was executed by a team of HRC specialists who went through the program, screen-by-screen.
They then analyzed and reorganized the structure to ensure it is both streamlined and functionally effective, collapsing multiple screens into one to make it easier to navigate.
"We wanted an improved look and feel, we wanted it to be usable. We cleaned it up and consolidated it so it is more user-friendly," Dille said.
"It allows for Soldiers to see requisitions, volunteer for them, and indicate their preferences for assignments. The idea is to empower Soldiers in the assignment process."
ASK has been updated to ensure that Soldiers who log in see only assignments for which they are currently eligible based on MOS, rank, time on station as of report date, and military education. The possibilities for self-nomination are limited to open requisitions organized by location.
"If there are no authorizations for your MOS and grade, that location is not offered to you as a preference option," Dille said. "It is so Soldiers can have realistic expectations."
Once submitted, requests show up in the Army's Enlisted Distribution and Assignment System, or EDAS, within minutes. HRC assignment managers can then immediately begin working the requisition.
Due to the inclusion of lower requisition priorities, the available pool of assignment opportunities has been expanded fourfold. With more options available, the hope is that more Soldiers will be interested in using the tool, Dille said. It's an opportunity for them to become actively involved in the assignment process and take control over their futures.
"We're looking not only at a bigger window, but a lot more requisitions," Dille said. "We want to have more Soldiers have more say in the assignment system with a corresponding increased approval rate."
Once a Soldier selects an assignment, the assignment manager will review the Soldier's preferences, military education, Married Army Couple Program status, time-on-station and other qualifications. If a nomination matches the Army's requirement, the manager can contact the Soldier with the good news.
If a manager wants to reject an ASK assignment, the rejection must be approved by a branch chief.
"Typically, rejection is going to be based on the strength of the losing unit or the Soldier's professional development," Dille said.
Soldiers can also indicate their availability for broadening opportunities such as drill sergeant and recruiter assignments, or other special duty interests such as Airborne or Korea assignments.
"While talent management is considerably more difficult among the enlisted ranks due to the scope and size of the force, engaging Soldiers through ASK in determining their own assignments and development helps the process," said HRC Commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands.
"As the Army focuses more on talent management, the [Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate] team knew we had to provide expanded capabilities for Soldiers to have influence and a greater voice in their career development," said Col. Alan Kellogg, director of HRC's EPMD. "This tool is not only designed to build unit readiness, but also support our Soldiers and their families."
"We want Soldiers to know about the opportunities that the ASK tool provides and we want Soldier to maximize usage," said Sgt. Maj. Lynice Thorpe, EPMD senior NCO.
So far, the redesign is having a positive effect.
"We're accepting over five times more than we were before. Almost two-thirds of the assignments that Soldiers nominate for are being accepted," Dille said.
Even so, ASK is not a guarantee of a particular assignment. There remain circumstances under which HRC personnel will have to ensure that Soldiers fill the high priority needs of the Army -- regardless of their preferences, Dille said.
Flexibility remains key to Soldiers finding their best next assignments, advised HRC's Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson. Someone who nominates himself repeatedly for an assignment for which he is not qualified and then complains the system does not work is missing the point and the power of the ASK tool.
"That's important too. There are requirements and priorities. There is a possibility you may get what you want, but there is also the need to have realistic expectations," Jefferson said.
"Enabling enlisted Soldiers to influence the development of their careers is a plus for both the individual and the Army," Seamands said. "When a Soldier who wants to go to Fort Hood gets to Fort Hood, that is a happier Soldier."