By Sgt. 1st Class Joy Dulen
U.S. Army Human Resources Public Affairs
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey led the first 2016 meeting of the Senior Enlisted Council recently at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, with the focus set on managing the enlisted force and maximizing talent.
Because HRC’s mission is to optimize total force personnel readiness, Dailey said it was the perfect setting for the topic at hand.
“This time, we talked about our personnel and how we’re going to rearrange the talent management and leader development of our senior noncommissioned officers,” he said.
A new direction
Dailey changed what was once known as the Board of Directors under former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler to the SEC shortly after taking over as the 15th Sgt. Maj. of the Army in January 2015. The council of senior sergeants major from throughout the Army meets monthly via video teleconference and in person quarterly to discuss issues that affect the welfare of Soldiers.
Topics may range from military pay and compensation recommendations to uniform changes. However, Dailey said the time has come to concentrate on Soldiers after more than a decade at war.
“The Chief of Staff of the Army has tasked me with taking a look at how we manage our enlisted force, how we maximize the talents and capabilities of our Soldiers, and really answer some of the questions that we’ve asked for a long time,” Dailey said.
Topics discussed during SECs can affect the force in as little as a month or result in ongoing talks into the future. Dailey said it depends on the issue.
“We get recommendations, and some of those start with one individual Soldier,” he said.
He gave the example of a recent change in Army policy on the authorized wear of black socks with the Army physical fitness uniform. A Soldier stood up in a town hall meeting and asked why black socks weren’t allowed. Less than 30 days later, the policy was changed.
“We took that to the Senior Enlisted Council, had a unanimous vote that it was in keeping with the finest traditions of Army service, went to the Chief of Staff of the Army and we quickly made a decision,” Dailey said.
Some issues are much more complex. When you’re discussing working through the intricacies of military compensation and reform, it could take several months to affect the force, he said.
“The perfect example is the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report that has just been launched,” Dailey said. “We worked on that for two years in the Senior Enlisted Council … and some of these things take a lot of work because we have to call in the professionals, like those people who work here at the Human Resources Command, to be able to inform us and do the analysis.”
Dailey reiterated the SEC’s biggest concern is Soldiers’ welfare. They don’t want to make decisions that could have a negative impact over the long term, he said.
“This is the Army, it’s a big organization and it’s hard to turn back,” he said. “Simple things like black socks — not a huge effect on Soldiers. But the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report, that has a huge effect on the total population of NCOs, not just now, but into the foreseeable future.”
Dailey said the SEC will continue to meet with a fresh new focus on Soldiers and the Chief of Staff of the Army’s No. 1 priority — readiness.
“We’re an organization made up of people, and we’re the largest people organization in America,” he said. “Human Resources Command is one of those critical nodes that we have to invest in for the future and make sure we get it right because they’re here to take care of our people. And our job as an Army is to always get better.”
After an Army Times article detailed the seven-day workout plan for Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, he got a lot of comments telling him, “That’s not PRT.”
Dailey has also heard Soldiers using their dislike of Army Physical Readiness Training as an excuse for not exercising. During a recent interview with the NCO Journal, Dailey made it clear that he believes in PRT, but that PRT is just the beginning of staying physically fit. Dailey said he does his workout routine in addition to PRT to maintain his fitness for the things he has needed to do throughout his career as an infantryman.
“I think PRT is actually very good, and it’s proved a success in our training environment,” Dailey said. “We’ve reduced injuries, and we’ve increased physical fitness scores coming out of basic training and AIT. What I need units to understand is PRT is not the end. … We shouldn’t be blaming PRT for our failure to have success in physical fitness. It’s a tool to use in achieving that success. … PRT is not the problem; 6:30 to 9 [a.m.] is the problem. We’ve failed the sacred hour. We need to get that back. It’s something that’s not going to take months; it’s not going to take years. Leaders can change this tomorrow morning. All they have to do is find a flag, wait for the music to go up, salute it and start getting after it.”
Dailey agrees with concerns that there should be stricter consequences for failing the Army Physical Fitness Test, and he said there will be stricter consequences as the Army continues to implement STEP (Select, Train, Educate, Promote).
“When we moved into Select, Train, Educate, Promote about two and a half years ago, we made physical fitness a critical part of succeeding in your institutional training experience,” Dailey said. “So if you go to your institutional training experience now and fail the APFT, you will get a derogatory [DA Form] 1059, which will remain in your records. Previously, that was not true. You could fail your school, and then when you passed, that 1059 would come out. It stays in there now. That’s critically important, because when we look for promotion we need to see the whole Soldier concept. So now with STEP, you have to go to your institutional training experience before you can get promoted. It’s a gate. So we’ve said that noncommissioned officers need to be promoted because they’re certified across all three leadership development domains, and now that’s going to be true with STEP. So until you’ve completed your selection, your training in your organization, your education through self-development, and your institutional experience, then and only then will you be able to be promoted. Physical fitness is a key and critical part of that.”
Recently, Dailey announced that the new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report would be delayed until 2016. Dailey expressed complete confidence in noncommissioned officers adapting to the changes in the coming NCOER, but he said it was necessary to slow the process down to make sure the NCOER is implemented correctly.
“We have to get this right,” Dailey said. “We worked really hard on the new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report. It is an excellent product. But how we roll it out and how we make it applicable to our noncommissioned officers is essential to the move forward. It’s OK if we slow down to take the time to make sure we train and educate the force on how to appropriately do it. We need buy-in from all the leaders here and across the Army, because this is intended to fix our Noncommissioned Officers Evaluation Report. So I’m not concerned about the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report; it’s the right way to go. But I am concerned that we make sure that we get it right as we roll it out to the Army. And we’re going to do just that.”
Because the Army as an organization is so large, it has suffered from moving people administratively instead of really managing talent, Dailey said. Though it will be difficult, Dailey hopes leaders can begin to be more involved in some of those decisions.
“We’re a leadership organization,” Dailey said. “I want leaders involved in that. That doesn’t mean leaders will control every facet about where someone PCSes or where they’re going to stay or extending them. But I do need leadership involvement with regard to managing the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to move an individual to the appropriate position that maximizes the capabilities of the organization and strengthens the mission of the United States Army. That’s complex stuff. As big as we are, that’s very complex and very hard to do. So as we move forward, my senior enlisted counsel will work on doing that. Of course, a lot of that will occur at the senior noncommissioned officer ranks. But internal to the organization, I need talent management from the perspective of, ‘I have to give back to the Army sometimes. I have to invest in the future of the Army by sending our young men and women to school to enhance their performance.’ Sometimes that takes sacrifice from a unit. Maybe they’re going to miss a unit field training problem. But what’s more important? Is it more important to invest in that noncommissioned officer for the future or just that two-week field training exercise?”
At the NCO Solarium in May at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Dailey expressed concern about how some Soldiers are behaving on social media. “When Soldiers harass, put [damaging] things on the Internet, they are not in keeping with the honor, tradition and the stewardship of the profession,” he said.
Dailey told the NCO Journal he thinks NCOs can solve the problem without needing new rules and regulations in place. He wants NCOs to have an attitude of “Not in My Squad.”
“It sounds very simplistic, and that’s exactly what I want it to be,” Dailey said. “I want noncommissioned officers to know we trust them, because this is about trust. Trust runs both ways, up and down the chain of command. I want them to understand that we do trust you. We trust you with the lives of … the young men and women that we’ve given you. We’ve bestowed the greatest honor the American society can give to one individual and that is to lead those men and women into combat. That same trust applies when we’re back in garrison. More accurately, there’s no such thing as combat leadership. There’s no such thing as garrison leadership. There’s something called military leadership and Army leadership. It exists regardless of where we are and what we do.”
Every Soldier a billboard
Another topic of discussion that began at the NCO Solarium was the effectiveness of Army branding campaigns. Dailey said he wants Soldiers to see that what is more important than the slogans of “Army Strong” or “Army of One” is the everyday effect a Soldier has walking around his or her community. Dailey wants NCOs to know they are walking billboards for the Army.
“My billboard has and will always say Army Strong,” Dailey said. “I encourage leaders to think about how they are going to paint their own billboard for Soldiers. What is it going to say? You have so much influence on what that billboard says. It can affect whether a Soldier stays in the Army or they transition. It’s critically important that our nation clearly understands and knows that we will always be the organization that is most trusted in America. It takes a lot of billboards to maintain that. It takes a lot of hard work as well. But I always ask this: What do you want your billboard to say? What does it say today? What is it going to say tomorrow?”
Working on their personal billboards and striving to be the best will also help Soldiers have a better chance of staying in the Army as it downsizes, Dailey said. He offered his advice to Soldiers and NCOs looking to take charge of their careers.
“I’ll tell you that you can start first and foremost by listening to your noncommissioned officer every day,” Dailey said. “Do good PT and keep yourself physically fit. When you get the opportunity to go to a military school, stay in it and study hard. Strive to be in the top 10 percent of every school you go to. You should want to, if you want to maintain that edge over your peers. Those are the things you have to go after.”
The recent overhaul of the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report will help identify the next leaders of the Army by ensuring that NCOs meet requirements before they are given greater responsibility, said officials at U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky. Ultimately, the new NCOER — which will transition from a one-size-fits-all report to one based on the NCO’s rank — will offer Army officials a better tool in determining which Soldiers to place in key assignments.
Plans call for the Army to transition from one NCOER to three separate reports for NCOs of different ranks. The new NCOER, which is due to roll out in September 2015, will also feature new responsibilities for raters and senior raters.
“We need to align [the NCOER] with current doctrine,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III after addressing students in August at the U. S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, shortly after NCOER changes were announced. “We should be measuring people against what we say leaders should be, know and do. … [New control measures] may be part of the solution, but it’s really going to be about noncommissioned officers upholding a standard to define what means success, failure or excellence.”
“With new control measures, everyone cannot receive a 1/1 (exemplary rating) anymore,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, the command sergeant major of HRC. “It’s also going to help shape the Army across the board because when promotion boards and senior leaders are looking at those files to pick the next future leader of the Army, there will be a clearer distinction between who is among the best.”
Reviewing the old NCOER
The Army began a review in 2010 of the NCOER, which has been in place since 1987. Army leadership wanted to align what they saw as an aging and “over-inflated” NCOER with current leadership doctrine. The goal was to establish and enforce accountability among raters, and determine whether the one-size-fits-all approach of the old NCOER was still appropriate.
Army feedback on the current NCOER, lessons learned from it and comments from centralized selection boards − which noted the difficulty in identifying the very best in the Army for promotions or key assignments − were among the factors that helped contribute to the development of the new NCOER, said Sgt. Maj. Stephen J. McDermid, the sergeant major of HRC’s Evaluation Systems Branch.
“The bottom line is it’s going to force rating officials to identify the very best, because centralized selection board comments have noted the difficulty that, when everybody’s file looks the same, it makes it really hard to know for sure that you’re picking the right individuals,” McDermid said.
Change was due for the “highly inflated” evaluations of the previous NCOER, McDermid said. Approximately 90 percent of all senior NCOs were basically rated as being among the best in the Army with a 1/1 box check, which is the best possible assessment, he said.
“It was very difficult for the Army, selection boards and career branch managers to identify the best talent [with the previous NCOER],” he said.
Transitioning from one to three reports helps establish the differences between junior and senior NCOs while allowing the assessment to focus on grade-specific technical performance objectives, McDermid said. The new NCOER also delineates official rating roles and responsibilities: Raters are to focus only on performance while senior raters are to address the NCO’s potential. The idea is to eliminate the inconsistent ratings often found with the current NCOER.
“[The advantage of the new NCOER for NCOs is] it’s going to level the playing field and ensure fairness across the board,” McDermid said. “Right now, we have a system where there is no accountability for the rating officials. … If raters use [DA Pamphlet 623-3], it clearly identifies, particularly for the senior rater, what those assessments mean and stand for. With a highly inflated system, everybody feels they must have a 1 in order to be competitive. But the reality is that a 1 should only be used for those truly deserving NCOs who have demonstrated the potential to serve at a higher grade or responsibility.”
Big changes ahead
Another key change of the new NCOER is that support forms will require senior raters to counsel NCOs twice, at a minimum, during the rating period. But despite the changes on the horizon, rating officials don’t need to change their rating philosophies until the new NCOER is implemented, McDermid said.
In moving to a senior rater profile, it becomes even more “critical that [the senior rater] sit down, counsel and mentor that rated NCO,” he said.
The counseling sessions will force rating officials to sit down with NCOs to make sure that the expectations laid out by leaders are followed through and that the NCOs stay on track, Smith said. Additional responsibility will also be placed on the rated NCO to set a goal for that rating period and to achieve it.
“[NCOs will then hear raters say], ‘If you want to remain competitive, if you want to be a future leader in the Army, you’ll have to do the things that are going to get you there,” Smith said. “You have to stay proficient in your core competencies. You have to go to school to improve yourself. You have to continue to improve on your physical fitness. All those things that have been laid out for years, those things are really going to come to the forefront because now not everybody is going to receive a 1/1 [rating]. This is going to force leaders and Soldiers to strap up their boot laces and really get after it every day.”
In order to ease the transition to the new NCOER, mobile teams will begin training in April at HRC at Fort Knox. Once completed, mobile training teams will then instruct trainers throughout the Army in May. Those trainers will then return to their installations, and they will train their assigned units and personnel from June through August 2015 in time for the rollout of the new NCOER in September.
“During this time, when we start to roll out and we start training and bringing out mobile training teams to different organizations, it is critical that senior leaders at all levels in the Army are really engaged in this process so that we can properly train the entire Army,” Smith said. “The people who should be putting a lot of emphasis on it are the senior leaders, because if we don’t get this right, we can [adversely] affect some Soldiers’ careers in the long run.”
Establishing and enforcing accountability for rating officials will be paramount in eliminating rating inflation in the evaluation system, officials say.
“Leveling the playing field and making sure that everyone plays by the same rules will create fairness across the board,” McDermid said.
“[The current NCOER] is outdated and highly inflated,” he said. “NCOs must understand the move toward [establishing] the accountability of the rating official, which will ensure that we provide accurate assessments because … not everybody is a 1 [rating],” he said. “When we talk about a culture change, we’re talking about a significant emotional impact on the NCO Corps once the new NCOER is implemented.”
Key changes in the new NCOER
Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved the following revisions to the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report on Aug. 1, 2014. The changes apply to all components: active, Reserve and National Guard. Use of the new NCOER is due to begin in September 2015.
Three NCOER forms aligned with Army leadership doctrine (Army Doctrine Publication 6-22)
▪ Sergeant — will focus on proficiency and is developmental in nature
▪ Staff sergeant through first sergeant/master sergeant — will focus on organizational systems and processes
▪ Command sergeant major/sergeant major — strategic level report will focus on large organizations and strategic initiative
A rater tendency label or rating history for raters of staff sergeant through command sergeant major/sergeant major that will be imprinted on completed NCOER
A senior rater profile established for senior raters of staff sergeant through command sergeant major/sergeant major (managed at less than 50 percent in the “most qualified” selection)
Delineation of rating officials’ roles and responsibilities to eliminate inconsistent ratings
▪ Rater assesses performance
▪ Senior rater assesses potential
● Assessment format
▪ For raters:
▫ Bullet comments (for sergeant through first sergeant/master sergeant forms)
▫ Narrative comments (for the command sergeant major/sergeant major form)
▪ For senior raters, narrative comments for all forms
The senior rater willcounsel the rated NCO, at a minimum, twice during the rating period
A supplementary reviewer will be required in some situations where there are non-Army rating officials in the rating chain
Source: U.S. Army Human Resources Command Evaluation, Selections and Promotions Division, Evaluations Branch
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