When the time comes, have “you” made yourself promotable?

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. David Dock
  • 39th Force Support Squadron
Whether a new Airman or senior master sergeant, it is important to understand what it takes to reach your Air Force goals. One of the most misunderstood systems is the senior and chief master sergeant board-score portion of the Weighted Airman Promotion System. I was lucky enough to have some very good senior non-commissioned officer mentors in my career who educated me on the system. Since then, I have heard many misconceptions about how promotion boards work and would like to clear up some confusion. I don't consider myself an expert, but I have done my research. I will stick to facts and one or two opinions.

Misconception 1:

"I don't have to worry about testing for senior/chief until I make master sergeant!"

False: The board will look at your last 10 Enlisted Performance Reports and all of your decorations. If you start your on- and off-duty education, become active in professional organizations and involve yourself in the community just to make yourself promotable when you sew on master sergeant you're sending the wrong signal and it is most likely too late. The Air Force wants to promote well rounded Airmen demonstrating sustained leadership ability. Become well rounded today, for the right reasons.

Misconception 2:

"I don't have to worry about my Enlisted Performance Reports, that's my supervisor's job!"

False: What goes into your Performance Report is as much your responsibility as your supervisors. Understand your supervisor's expectations and ensure you fulfill the requirements of each block on the EPR. You will see and sign your report before it goes into your records. If there is information in it that is incorrect or misrepresents what you did, identify it. We would like to think that our supervisors are as excited or as disappointed as we are when we make rank or get passed over, but the truth is, the only one who is really going to lose sleep is you. Sure they want to see you get promoted, but supervisors have tests and promotions of their own. Take an active role and ensure you are properly represented.

Misconception 3:

"I have no control over what board score I get!"

True and False: This one goes back to number two. You won't know what your board score will be because there are different board members every year. Each group has different opinions of what data weighs more and less, but the board has guidelines and they have to come to a mutual decision on their scores (within one point of each other). You will score between six and 10 by each member. All three members add their scores together and multiply them by 15 (6+6+6=18x15=270) to accumulate your score. If all board members give you ½ point more, you gain 22 1/2 points. The more you meet their expectations, the better you do. Once again, we go back to number two. If you ensure that the bullets you give to your supervisor are written well you will do better. Enough ½ points and you climb the board score ladder.

Misconception 4:

"My board score is worth up to 450 points!"

False: (this one is my opinion): Most everyone knows that the maximum board score that you can get is a 450. But what a lot of people don't know is that the minimum you can get is a 270, (which is based on receiving the minimum individual score of six from each of the judges mentioned in misconception three). If this is the case, then your board score is really only worth 180 points.

Misconception 5:

"Why study, I probably won't get a good board score!"

False: It is possible that you won't get a good board score. This goes back to number 4. If my theory is correct and your board score is only worth 180 points, this puts a new emphasis on the test. Let's say you get a 352.5 board score (360 being the average). The Air Force average selectee's score for testing is usually around a 66. If you study like a mad person and score an 86, that's the equivalent of getting a 372 board score and an average test score. The test is looking much more important now, isn't it?

There is no magic formula to propel you to the enlisted heights you have dreamed of. There are, however, time-tested strategies that will point you in the right direction. If you don't take control of your career there is a possibility that no one will. The Air Force is filled with great leaders and mentors. Find one, grab his or her coat tails, learn, grow and pass their knowledge on to others. This was my research and a few of my opinions. Is it true? I challenge you to do your own research and educate me and others not exactly on the mark. We are all Team Air Force "above all".