Tag Archives: promotions

NCOs learn about changes in leadership development

NCO Journal

Putting the spotlight squarely on leadership development, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey warned senior noncommissioned officers early last month of the “tough changes” coming as part of NCO 2020 and the updated NCO Professional Development System during an NCO and Soldier forum at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Sergeants major are what makes the United States Army the strong power that it is,” said retired Gen. Carter Ham, president and chief executive officer of AUSA, to senior noncommissioned officers in October at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
“Sergeants major are what makes the United States Army the strong power that it is,” said retired Gen. Carter Ham, president and chief executive officer of AUSA, to senior noncommissioned officers in October at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“What it’s really about is getting our noncommissioned officers to a place we need them to be for 2025 and beyond, and maximizing the equivalency in the education we get in both the academic field and credentialing perspective so that we can sustain the all-volunteer force for the future,” Dailey said. “There are some tough changes coming ahead in the Army. Some of those affect Soldiers both positively and negatively. What I can assure you, though, is [that there is] a very good, comprehensive plan for the future.”

NCOs and Soldiers gathered Oct. 3-5 to not only tell the Army’s story and share it with the public and corporate supporters, but also to educate and share leadership development strategies with Soldiers, Dailey said. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, has called readiness the Army’s No. 1 priority, and Army leaders agree that leadership development is central to building readiness.

“We have to sit back, take our blinders off and ask ourselves what it takes for every single Soldier in the Army to be ready,” Dailey told NCOs.

Dailey said Army downsizing is still underway to reach the goal of 450,000 Soldiers by 2018. Talent management will play a large part in deciding future promotions.

"There are some tough changes coming ahead in the Army," said. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey to senior noncommissioned officers. Dailey said the changes are coming as part of NCO 2020 and the updated NCO Professional Development System during an NCO and Soldier forum in October at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
“There are some tough changes coming ahead in the Army,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey to senior noncommissioned officers. Dailey said the changes are coming as part of NCO 2020 and the updated NCO Professional Development System during an NCO and Soldier forum in October at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“We’re going to keep people based upon talent,” Dailey said. “We are going to promote people based upon talent, and we will slot people for advancement in the United States Army based upon talent. That is exactly what we are going to do to make sure we maintain the quality of Soldiers and noncommissioned officers who are in place to fight our nation’s wars.”

Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, told NCOs about changes on the horizon to enhance professional military education.

“We are looking at all the programs of instruction, with all of the proponents, and we are integrating common core standards,” Davenport said. “We’re investing in our facilitators, our instructors. We are going to consolidate all the various instructor courses into one. Just like we advise to grow noncommissioned officers based on experience and education, same goes for our instructors.”

Davenport also trumpeted the release of three applications to help guide Soldiers through PME ­─ Army Career Tracker, the Digital Job Book and the Digital Rucksack.

Davenport encouraged NCOs to take a look at Army Career Tracker online, a leadership development tool that integrates training and education on one website. Career maps have been updated and follow the five lines of effort ─ military life cycle, education, assignment/experience, credentialing/experience and self-development. Lines of effort link multiple tasks and missions to focus efforts toward establishing operational and strategic conditions.

Davenport praised the Digital Job Book app for its ease of use.

“What is really important about it is [it] allows organizations ─ commanders and sergeants major ─ to add up to 10 tasks that are specific to your organization so that you can battle track it,” he said.

The highly touted Digital Rucksack app will work with tablets and smartphones Soldiers bring into classrooms, Davenport said.

“Our Soldiers scan a QR code, and it puts all the material that they are going to need for the PME,” he said. “We think [the apps] are really going to help us connect Soldiers and organizations to leader development.”

Retired Gen. Carter Ham, president and chief executive officer of AUSA, thanked noncommissioned officers during the forum for their continued and sustained leadership and acknowledged their vital role in the Army.

“Sergeants major are what makes the United States Army the strong power that it is,” Ham told senior NCOs. “We should never lose sight of that, and the investment in you, the investment in those Soldiers who aspire to be noncommissioned officers, we owe them the best possible development that we can afford them. So that when they follow you to lead this Army, they will build on all you have achieved to keep the United States Army as the premier land force on this planet. That is only possible because of the people in this room.”

Shake-up in promotion, NCOPD policy a ‘STEP’ in right direction

NCO Journal

The path to promotion in the Army’s Noncommissioned Officer Corps has been reshaped as the Army has rolled out its initiative to systematically realign the structure of its “backbone.”

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh recently signed Army Directive 2015-31, which affects Soldiers vying for promotion to the ranks of sergeant through sergeant first class.

The change in the system shifted the synchronization of the noncommissioned officer professional development system and promotion eligibility requirements as part of the Army’s Select, Train, Educate and Promote (STEP) program.

“Under STEP, NCOs will have to meet Army standards for the knowledge, skills and attributes for the grade they wish to hold, before they will be promoted,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey.

“For years, that wasn’t the case,” said the 15th sergeant major of the Army. “During the height of the deployment years, NCOs could advance with no additional primary military education.

“Under this realignment, we are reaffirming that America’s sons and daughters are being trained and mentored by men and women with quantifiable standards of knowledge, skills and attributes associated with the grade and position they hold,” he said.

Lessons learned

The change was prompted by the NCO 2020 survey, which was compiled from NCOs throughout the NCO Corps and validated during subsequent studies by the Center for Army Leadership Annual Survey of Army Leadership; and the Research and Development Corporation.

“We learned … that a more rigorous and effective system is needed for developing NCOs today — not based on a desire to separate from past traditions — but instead based on getting back to a focus on building a competent and professional NCO Corps,” said Sgt. Maj. James Thomson, the sergeant major for the Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

According to Thomson, four key roles and competencies of the NCO, both now and in the future, will be to lead by example; train from experience; enforce and maintain standards; and take care of Soldiers, their families and equipment.

“Until now,” Thomson said, “development of NCOs focused on leveraging their experiences in the operational realm and providing individuals with exposure to technical training in the institution.

“Now, following a long period of war and deployments, Soldiers can benefit greatly from a revitalized set of processes designed to shape their professional growth and optimized performance,” he said.


The change in the promotion system will have a ripple effect on how Soldiers are enrolled in NCOPD schools.

“Under the STEP career model,” Thomson said, “HRC will [send only] those selected for promotion to sergeant first class to attend SLC. So the scheduling is going to be, when the E7 list comes out, HRC is going to schedule all those [Soldiers] to go to school.

“Every month, when they get the new list from the E6 board,” he said, “those folks will be scheduled to go to school. We actually think that we’ll gain efficiencies in our school scheduling and attendance processes.”

Recently promoted Sgt. Felipe Zamora, a paratrooper assigned to the 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, passes through the archway, symbolizing his induction in to the noncommissioned officer corps during an induction ceremony Aug. 27 on Fort Bragg, N.C. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)
Recently promoted Sgt. Felipe Zamora, a paratrooper assigned to the 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, passes through the archway, symbolizing his induction in to the noncommissioned officer corps during an induction ceremony Aug. 27 on Fort Bragg, N.C. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

There will be no new additions to school backlogs as of Jan. 1. because Soldiers will not be scheduled to attend school if they are not in a promotable status, Thomson said. However, there will be a backlog for Soldiers who have not attended schools that will be required for their rank.

“There are some staff sergeants today who have not been to ALC,” Thomson said. “After [Jan. 1], they will be in what we call the ‘legacy backlog.’

“We are going to give every one of those [Soldiers] in that legacy backlog one opportunity to complete their [Professional Military Education],” he said. “If they don’t complete it, if they don’t take that opportunity, they will not have an opportunity to go again, nor will they be competitive for any future promotions.”

The realignment will serve as a potential promotion opportunity for Soldiers who are doing the things needed to qualify for promotion.

“As Soldiers choose not to attend their requisite schooling or meet the prerequisite standards for PME success like [the Army Physical Fitness Test] and height/weight,” Dailey said, “they are self-selecting to be removed from the promotion lists. This will allow those who are committed to the Army profession a chance to demonstrate initiative, and they will be the ones to get promoted.”

The STEP program is one of several ways the Army plans to improve its NCO Corps.

“There is more work to be done,” Dailey said, “including adding levels of PME and adding rigor to the course work in those classes, which also can lead to ultimately more college credits. With these and other advancements in the works, we are on a path to maintain the undisputed title of ‘The Most Highly Educated Enlisted Force in the World.’”

New requirements

Beginning Jan. 1, Soldiers competing for the rank of sergeant must be graduates of the Basic Leader Course and individuals competing for the rank of staff sergeant must be a graduates of the Advanced Leader Course in addition to meeting or exceeding the promotion point cut-off score, which is published monthly. Those who meet point requirements but have not completed school requisites will not be promoted, but will retain their promotable status.

Staff sergeants who are selected for promotion by the fiscal year 2016 Regular Army or Reserve sergeant first class selection board will be required to have completed Senior Leader Course to be fully eligible for promotion, regardless of their sequence number. Soldiers who are eligible by sequence number but have not completed SLC will retain their sequence number, but will not be selected for promotion until they have completed the course.

The realignment will also affect National Guard Soldiers. Those Soldiers selected for higher-grade positions but who have not completed the NCOPD requirements will have 24 months to complete the level of NCOPD required for promotion pin-on or they will be removed from the position that fill.

“One key line of effort for the [NCOPD] is a focus on ensuring that NCOs have exposure to the right types of education and broadening experiences as a part of their career life-cycle,” Thomson said. “Systematic changes to the way the Army trains and develops NCOs are also necessary to achieve strategic goals and objectives the Army has in mind for its operating concept in the future.

“NCOs must become more knowledgeable regarding their role within unified land operations, joint force planning, and the tenets of operational art,” he said.

Additional reading

To read the full text of Army Directive 2015-31, click here.

Searching for the secret to promotion

Department of the Army Secretariat

When it comes to military advancement, the questions abound — why wasn’t I selected for promotion? What must I do to be competitive? Is it whom you know that will get you promoted? Why is my cutoff score so high? What makes them better than me?

These are common questions enlisted Soldiers ask their supervisors, organizational leadership and mentors to get a better understanding of how the promotion system works. Unfortunately, everyone will have a different perspective.

That’s because the abundance of variables factoring into promotion can seemingly leave no clearly defined path for selection at certain levels. That complexity spurs conspiracy theorists, fiction writers and anyone else to voice their opinion on how the “system” works. Though the Army has changed the selection process for junior and senior NCOs in many ways during the past 15 years, transparency has always been a goal of the Army’s senior leaders. The force has tried to give its No. 1 resource — the Soldier — a treasure map to success. However, poor dissemination and improper interpretations of the information consistently cloud Soldiers’ view of this map.

Junior NCOs

Enlisted cutoff scores are a mystery to many Soldiers.  The confusion is evident on various social media websites. One will illustrate the Soldiers’ frustration with how high one career field’s score is while another site expresses joy with how low the score is. Do we as Human Resource professionals understand how the score is calculated? What avenues have been taken to educate our Soldiers?

Cutoff scores to sergeant or staff sergeant vary depending on the Army’s readiness needs at the time the cutoff score is being published. Soldiers may look in their current command and realize their unit is short of people at certain grades, and they may not understand why the Army is choosing not to promote.

The basics of junior NCO promotions are:

1.)    A Soldier has to make the cutoff score.

2.)    Points are updated through the Promotion Point Worksheet (PPW).

3.)    A certain level of Structured Self Development (SSD) is required for each promotion.

4.)    A Soldier under a suspension of favorable actions or barred from reenlistment cannot be considered for promotion.

5.)    A Soldier must have at least 12 months in service remaining if being promoted to staff sergeant.

While most of this is accepted, Soldiers may not understand the intense level of detail that goes into establishing a cutoff score. It is a system designed to help the Army maintain balance within skill sets to carry out the Army’s extremely diverse mission. Evaluation, Selections and Promotions Division (ESPD) is the face of promotions to Soldiers in the Army.

Soldiers may also not know that their career branch, enlisted Force Alignment Division (FAD), and the office of the Director of Military Personnel Management (DMPM) all play a role in how the Army promotion system works.

These departments receive input about the Army’s current inventory, authorizations, projected gains and losses, Military Occupational Specialty conversions, force structure changes, DMPM allocations based on the Army’s budget, etc. This input is used by U.S. Army Human Resources Command to set the cutoff score. HRC optimizes readiness by developing the force and promoting Soldiers to sergeant and staff sergeant in the fields in which they are needed.

Readiness dictates how high or low the sergeant or staff sergeant cutoff score is set but the Army doesn’t prevent Soldiers from striving for promotion. If a Soldier puts in the hard work and dedication toward maxing out his or her MOS’s cutoff score, the Army recognizes it by selecting the Soldier for promotion.

Senior NCOs

Understanding junior level promotions is comparatively simple. The majority of confusion and questions enters at the senior level. Promotion paths to sergeant first class, master sergeant and sergeant major are not as clearly defined. Simple eligibility criteria such as time in service, time in grade and educational requirements are articulated in the message announcing a selection board. AR 600-8-19 gives a brief overview of how the selection board is set up, but the question now is: What’s next? What information does the board consider in selection or non-selection? What is the gauge for measuring a record? Are Soldiers compared to one another?

Board members are selected because of their experience in their respective career fields as defined by the DMPM and divided into panels that cover those fields. Each panel has three or more members consisting of sergeants major, command sergeants major and a colonel in the same field. They’re charged with selecting the best qualified Soldiers for promotion based on demonstrated leadership, effectiveness and potential.

During the board process, candidates are scored from 6 to 1 based on an evaluation of the Soldier’s MyBoard File. A 6 represents superior performance with potential for promotion and continued service, and is a score usually assigned to a select few. A score of 1 shows unsatisfactory performance and little to no potential for continued service. The MyBoard File consists of board correspondence, the Soldier’s DA photo, Enlisted Record Brief, performance, education and training, records and a commendatory section of the Soldier’s Army Military Human Resource Record (AMHRR).

But what makes the board member give a certain score? This is where the selection process enters the “unknown zone.”

When a selection board begins, the board recorders assigned to the DA Secretariat brief the board members on the requirements set by the Memorandum of Instruction (MOI).  The MOI provides administrative instructions identifying zones of consideration, special skill requirements and board procedures, and outlines selection board authority. This is what’s referred to as the “left limit” of the board members’ voting philosophy. The “right limit” is the board members’ leader experience.

Each board member is given information explaining the career paths of MOSs being considered in their particular panel, along with Army regulation updates for MOS changes provided by DMPM. Board members then evaluate candidates’ MyBoard file and score them based on this information.

The board members receive candidate files in random order, limiting the number of voters evaluating the same record at any given time. Board members cannot discuss files as they evaluate candidates within their panel. Any questions about a candidate’s file are addressed to and answered by the board recorders. There is no specific panel standard that states criteria for a certain score.  A board member may use personal knowledge of the individual in scoring a candidate’s file but may not share that information with the board.

After board members within a panel score all candidates in their panel, these scores are combined to give the candidate a total score. For example, if four panel members score a candidate with a 6, the candidate has a total score of 24.

All candidates of a particular MOS are rank-ordered, creating an order of merit list set by their total score. The best-qualified-for-promotion line is drawn based on the number of required promotions of an MOS and grade to meet the readiness needs of the Army.

But what earns Soldiers a certain score? Opinions vary. Army leadership maintains that certain assignments and experiences are necessary to be selected for promotion. As Soldiers reference their career maps and requirements outlined in Army regulations they need to understand that many Soldiers have achieved the same benchmarks.

Sgt. Quintin Steeves addresses the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) promotion board in December 2014 at the Vernon T. McGarity Army Reserve Center in Coraopolis, Pa. (Photo by Master Sgt. D. Keith Johnson)
Sgt. Quintin Steeves addresses the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) promotion board in December 2014 at the Vernon T. McGarity Army Reserve Center in Coraopolis, Pa. (Photo by Master Sgt. D. Keith Johnson)

What makes one Soldier better than another? Most believe that it is the individual’s performance in key jobs. Soldiers are taught if they do what is required of them to the best of their ability, everything will work out. That may get them on target for the next rank, but it may not be enough. A Soldier’s performance muse be articulated through evaluations in such a way that it is evident or established that they are capable of serving at the next level.  This is where the conspiracy theorists and fiction writers begin the tales of “whom you know” and many other falsehoods. Approximately 90 percent of all senior NCOs receive “Among the Best” and a 1/1 rating for promotion and potential in their evaluation reports. This is where the job of scoring a Soldier’s record becomes difficult.

Our society is in the “Information Age,” making it easier than ever to get information distributed to the masses. This is great in many respects; however, our wish to share information has led to a decrease in originality. When board members score records, they routinely view the same ratings or wording on multiple evaluations given — outstanding becomes average. The only thing a board member has to score your record is what is annotated in your AMHRR. This means the Soldier’s entire record must contain information that clearly distinguishes him or her from anyone else within the career field. Evaluations that articulate the Soldier’s importance to his or her assigned organizations and the Army, academic reports showing the Soldier is among the top few in his or her field, a DA photo showing your attention to detail and military bearing is the next hurdle in getting one closer to the coveted rank.

The last step is something over which Soldiers have no control — Army readiness. Readiness will dictate whether one or one thousand can be promoted. The Army’s mission is: “to fight and win our Nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders.” Soldiers’ records may receive perfect scores from every board member, but if they are limited by no requirements in their career field, the Army cannot promote them.

As the Army’s force structure changes to adapt to the evolving battlefield, requirements are created in some specialty MOSs and cut in others to meet the Army’s needs. New career fields were created, such as 25D (cyber network defender), 29E (electronic warfare specialist) and 51C (contracting NCO), where historically there was not a requirement. Other career fields were forced to release NCOs by using force alignment tools such as the Qualitative Service Program (QSP), which means that if the Army has no requirement for that MOS, then there is no opportunity for promotion.

The question of “what must I do to get promoted?” is different for every Soldier. The first step is the Soldiers’ responsibility: They must be willing to accept challenging assignments, perform their duties to the best of their ability and ensure their exceptional performance is articulated specifically in their evaluations.

Next, they should make sure the rest of their records reflect their abilities. Their ERBs and DA photos must reflect the attention to detail that demonstrates the Soldiers’ potential.

The final step to being selected is patience. Soldiers’ careers are built over time. Selection for promotion to sergeant or staff sergeant may be credited to personal accomplishment, but promotions to senior grades are attributed to an overall view of Soldiers’ careers as reflected in their AMHRR.

A career takes time to develop, just as the Army takes time to change. It’s important to understand that many people have the same goals with similar paths. The number of candidates makes promotion extremely competitive. It takes hard work and timing. A Soldier’s personal record is the tool used by the Army’s leadership to select its future leaders. That record and the Army’s readiness needs are the driving force to promotion.

Master Sgt. Price is the senior enlisted advisor for the Department of Army Secretariat, which conducts all centralized Army selection boards for promotion from sergeant first class to master sergeant in the Army.

Army puts new NCOER on hold till 2016

Army News Service

The debut of the new noncommissioned officer evaluation report, or NCOER, expected as a cure for rating inflation, has been pushed to the new year.

During an Army birthday town hall meeting with Soldiers on June 4, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey said the new NCOER, which was originally slated for release in October, would instead be pushed to 2016. The additional time will allow for a fine-tuning of the

The new noncommissioned officer evaluation report is on hold, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey told Soldiers on June 4 at a town hall meeting at Fort Mead, Va. (Photo by Army News Service)
The new noncommissioned officer evaluation report is on hold, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey told Soldiers on June 4 at a town hall meeting at Fort Meade, Md. (Photo by Army News Service)

process and procedures for tracking rater profiles to ensure Soldiers have a fair chance at promotions and prevent rating inflation.

During a town hall meeting at Fort Meade,  Md., Dailey answered questions from more than 100 Soldiers. He also answered questions, which came via social media and pre-recorded video message, from Soldiers throughout the world.

In terms of training military human resources specialists on how the new NCOER will work — that training has been completed, Dailey said. Those human resources Soldiers will in turn train their units on how to use the new NCOER web system and forms.

One of the biggest changes to the new NCOER, Dailey said, is that it introduces rater accountability as a way to address the issue of rating inflation. The NCOER was both “out of date” with Army doctrine and subject to rating inflation, he said.

“We have to get at that,” Dailey said. “We have to make sure, that our people we ask to run promotion boards, have the full capability to understand and know who is best for promotion. This new NCOER is going to help do that.”

The sergeant major of the Army said that for years, those who have rated Army officers have been held accountable for how many they rate as being “the best.” The new NCOER introduces a similar concept for enlisted Soldiers.

Under the current NCOER, he said, “Everybody in the Army had the potential to get a number 1 block. In most cases, that’s what happened.”

When every Soldier is rated as the best, Dailey said, it makes it difficult to decide who gets promoted.

“With a rater profile, your rater is going to be limited on the total number ‘1 blocks’ they can give out,” he said.

The new standard for Soldiers, Dailey said, will be “fully qualified.” Only those exceeding the standard will be marked higher. He told Soldiers that those who rate “fully qualified” will still be getting promoted.

“We are designing the system so that you can get promoted; you will get promoted if the rest of your records are consistent with the good order and discipline of the U.S. Army,” he said.

Addressing a related question regarding promotions, Dailey told Soldiers that one thing they should be doing each month— something many Soldiers fail to do, and pay a price for by not getting promoted — is ensure that their personnel records are maintained and accurate.

Dailey also said that there are some daily activities Soldiers can do to get a leg up on promotion: physical training and education.

“Challenge yourself every day,” he said. “It starts at 6 a.m. You can make a difference as early as tomorrow morning. You can add points to your promotion standing just by doing better at PT. One more push-up is one more point. One more sit-up is one more point. And study hard, do your structured self-development.”

The sergeant major of the Army acknowledged that as the Army draws down, there will be fewer promotions, because there will be fewer Soldiers. But he said the Army still needs to promote Soldiers to have the right leaders in the right positions. He said Soldiers will still get promoted in the same percentage in order to ensure the Army structure is maintained.

“As Soldiers transition and the need arises, the Army will continue to promote in accordance with these needs,” he said.

HRC: New NCOER to ‘help shape Army across the board’

NCO Journal

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 new noncommissioned officer evaluation report, which is due to roll out in September 2015, will transition from one to three separate reports for NCOs of different ranks. The new NCOER will also feature new responsibilities for raters and senior raters. (Photo by U.S. Army)
The new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report, which is due to roll out in September 2015, will transition from one to three separate reports for NCOs of different ranks. The new NCOER will also feature new responsibilities for raters and senior raters. (Photo by U.S. Army)

“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