Being twice the citizen calls for Army Reserve officers to juggle competing career requirements to achieve their desired level of personal success. This bifurcated civilian and government employment career path comes with limitations and constraints that can be strenuous on the officer. Officers can become muddled and disillusioned at career management leading to the loss of great talent from the force. The key to career management success for the Army Reserve officer is a model that supports, trains, and educates them on achieving their career goals.
For the past year, I have been assigned to the Army Reserve Careers Group as a career manager responsible for assisting officers under the branches of Logistics (LG), Quartermaster, Transportation, and Ordnance in Troop Program Units (TPU) within the United States Army Reserve (USAR). With more than 4,200 officers from the ranks of second lieutenant through lieutenant colonel, I have witnessed firsthand the habitual issues they encounter while navigating their Army careers.
To combat these issues, I took my observations and began applying data to find trends of common issues within the LG TPU officer population. Researching through surveys, senior leadership interviews, and personnel file analysis has led me to design a model to help TPU officers succeed in their career ambitions. The model’s foundation lies with the officer’s ability to understand, develop, and care for themselves. This foundation then builds into career management’s four pillars (4Ps): positions, professional military education (PME), performance, and promotions. Officers must know how to successfully navigate and excel in these pillars to achieve their desired success in the Army. Finally, to help understand the 4Ps, officers should rely on a support system consisting of mentors, career managers, and their chain of command.
Self-Care and Self-Development. There is a saying in the Army that no one will manage your career better than you. Though this saying rings true, officers can manage their careers most effectively by being equipped with the right information and a desire to act on it. This information includes regulations and processes governing career management, and more importantly, it requires accurate understanding by the officer. The foundation of career management starts from within and rests on the officer’s knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences (KSB-P). Officers must use the counseling, coaching, and training from mentors, career managers, and their chain of command to validate and develop their KSB-P. Self-reflection and developing their strengths and weaknesses will allow them to understand and visualize their abilities to make the best decision on their career path.
Positions. The greatest benefit TPU officers have is the control to choose future assignments. They can search for and fill open positions that they deem best suited to themselves and their needs. Using the Reserve Component Logistics Branch Professional Development Model found in the Department of the Army (DA) Pamphlet (PAM) 600-3, Officer Professional Development and Career Management, TPU officers can identify the required key development (KD) and suggested broadening positions at each rank. DA PAM 600-3, in conjunction with the officer’s support system, will enable them to make the most informed decision on what positions to pursue to build their KSB-P and achieve career fulfillment.
Professional Military Education. Year after year, the USAR promotion selection boards see significant percentages (as high as 50+ percent) of officers failing to meet the PME requirements to be considered for promotion. This alone counts for more officers not being selected for promotion than any other statistic. Many variables explain why this statistic is so high, but significant evidence shows ignorance on the enrollment process is the place to start. Enrollment into the Basic Officers Leaders Course for lieutenant PME is managed by the Initial Military Team (IMT) under the USAR command G1. Enrollment into the Reserve LG Captains Career Courses and Command and General Staff Course (CGSC) is a unit-driven process through the Army Training Requirements and Resource System.
The other significant factor in high levels of failing to meet PME standards is apathy, especially among the field grade officers. The requirements for CGSC are sometimes a tall order for the TPU officer who is juggling a KD position at the field grade level, family commitments, a civilian career that is usually outpacing their military one, and many other extracurricular activities. This leads to the necessity of something taking a back seat on the career path. Unfortunately, it is typically PME. Successful field grade TPU officers understand CGSC requirements, budget their time wisely, and do not procrastinate. With that, all TPU officers should reference DA PAM 600-3 and use their support system to understand further the nuances of each PME course, the required prerequisites, and how to complete the PME in a timely manner.
Performance. Advice on performance varies too much by grade, position, unit, and personality to go into specifics. The overall key to performance is to understand your roles and responsibilities of the position you are assigned, the doctrine and policies that affect the role you play, and the commander’s intent and vision for the unit. Officers should tailor their KSB-P to the position assigned to perform to their strengths and develop their weaknesses. The officer’s performance is quantified with an officer evaluation report (OER). The OER is used to judge officers’ performance and measure their potential. The setbacks many TPU officers face on their OER is from not understanding what is required of them in the OER process. Officers should ensure the OER reflects their accomplishments and abilities accurately and meets the standards outlined in Army Regulation (AR) 623-3, Evaluation Reporting System.
Promotions. The promotion process begins on the day of a TPU officers’ commission. The positions assigned, PME courses taken, and performance therein converge into the main source of promotion determination. Timing also plays a part in promotions. The mission set of the USAR, personnel end-strength goals, and the construct of your zone of consideration all impact the promotion process. Given the external factors, TPU officers should focus on what they control. Those who make an effort to complete required key development positions in a superior manner—while having the required PME completed—put themselves in the best position to be selected for promotion.
Promotions for TPU officers occur in one of two ways: promotion selection boards (PSB) and promotion vacancy boards (PVB). PSBs are the standard promotion process and are based on zones of consideration derived from the officer’s date of rank. PVBs allow promotion of TPU officers into vacancies units cannot fill. Those within the zones of consideration for PSBs or have applied for consideration for PVBs should pay close attention to the instructions in military personnel (MILPER) messages or letters of instructions for specific criteria on their respective promotion board. The majority of promotions' issues lie in officers not complying with the directions within the MILPER message rather than the strength of their personnel file. Once again, reaching out to their support system throughout the promotion process can best equip TPU officers with the right knowledge and advice to ensure the best possible results.
Chain of Command. The chain of command of a TPU officer plays the most pivotal role of all the support partners. Very little navigating of the 4Ps is left outside the chain of command’s purview. Leadership involvement will vary by unit, but the expectation is for officers to receive counseling, coaching, and training from their chain of command on a frequent and consistent basis. This development is paramount for improving the officer’s KSB-P and properly preparing them for future positions of higher responsibility. Though officers greatly benefit from an active and supportive chain of command, it isn’t necessarily guaranteed for all. For those with an unsupportive or toxic command, the need to lean heavily on the other support partners for help can alleviate some but not all the issues. If the leadership does not improve and continues to impede officer career advancement, other means such as transferring units or lodging a formal complaint should be considered.
Mentors. Mentorship is defined by AR 600-100 as a voluntary and developmental relationship that exists between a person with greater experience and a person with less experience, characterized by mutual trust and respect. The great differentiating aspect of mentorship is that it’s the only supporting partner controlled by the officer. Most successful TPU officers have a support system outside their chain of command and career manager who intimately understands what their KSB-P are, their career goals, and how to be in the best position to succeed. Preferably officers should have mentors within and outside their area of concentration or branch, allowing for specific proponent guidance and outside perspective on career advancement and leadership development.
Career Manager. USAR TPU career management officers (CMOs) assist in the development and career advisement of TPU officers with the correct skill sets to meet the operational and functional requirements of the Army Reserve. CMOs are subject matter experts on the doctrine, policies, and procedures of career management for TPU officers. They conduct record and promotion board reviews, provide promotion board analysis, assist in the PME enrollment process, and give career development briefs, among other opportunities. TPU officers should use their career manager as another support team member for advice on navigating and understanding the nuances of the 4Ps.
A key point of the Army People Strategy is to retain the diversity of Soldier and civilian talent needed to achieve total Army readiness. To retain TPU officers, a concentrated effort must be made to manage their careers. Just as with the commander’s activities in the operations process, TPU officers must drive the conceptual and detailed planning necessary to understand their careers; visualize and describe their career’s end state; make and articulate decisions to and with their support system; and direct, lead, and assess their careers in time and space. The model described in the article is a way to achieve these aims and provide TPU officers with the right tools to succeed.
Capt. Corey A. Dyke is the executive officer to the commander for the Army Reserves Careers Group in Fort Knox, Kentucky. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Florida State University and a master’s degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
This article was published in the Winter 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.