Author: Vasquez, Manuel
Date published: January 1, 2012
It is a pleasure for me to write a message to the 131A community concerning my experiences in the last promotion board. Some of the remarks included in this note are my personal observations. I will do my best to highlight when I give my opinion so as not to confuse the reader. For the people who libe to read here are some of the most important reference material used during the board process: Title 10, U.S.Code, section 611647, Promotion Boards, Title 10, U.S. Code, section 571-583 Appointment, Promotion, and Involuntary Separation and Retirement for Members on the Warrant Officer Active-Duty List, AR 600-8-29, Officer Promotions, a memorandum of instruction (MOI) from the secretary of the army, and any other pertinent Army regulation.
I was one of 12 voting members, seven of the members were active duty warrant officers, and the other five officers were colonels (COL). All 12 officers came from different branches with one warrant officer and colonel being Army aviators. Two of the seven were chief warrant officers of the branch (CWOB) or regimental warrant officers of branch (RWOB) and the aviation (AVN) COL was the current Warrant Officer Career College (WOCC) commander (CDR). The promotion board president was a brigadier general (BG) and chief of staff (CoS) of an Army command (ACOM). We all had an undergraduate degree with some having at least one type of graduate degree. All the warrant officers were of the rank of CW5 and graduates of the Warrant Officer Senior Staff Course (WOSSC), which is a mandatory requirement according to the U.S. Army G-I Officer Selection Board Policy Branch Standing Operating Procedures (October 2009). All the chief warrant officers had held the rank for a minimum of 2 years with some more than 10 years.
One myth I want to quash has to do with equal opportunity and the promotion board. Over the years, I have heard rumors that promotion boards must contain certain races or specific genders and must promote certain groups over others. There is no Army regulation or U.S.C, that stipulates the board has to consist of a certain amount officers from various races or be of a specific gender. However, US Army G-I Officer Selection Board Policy Branch Standing Operating Procedures (October 2009) states, "Each selection board will have at least one minority officer as a voting member," and "... (that) some boards (might) require more than one minority officer as a voting member." The SOP further states that, "For boards requiring one minority representative, the minority member should be from the minority category having the greatest representation in the considered population," and "...at least one minority member should be of the minority category having the greatest representation in the considered population." In addition, the MOI never instructed the board members to give preferential treatment to members of a certain minority group or to women.
The Army did a tremendous job in selecting members from various ethnic groups, races and genders for the Fiscal Year 201 1 CWO Promotion Board. Theboard had 10 male officers and two female officers. There were six Caucasian officers, four AfricanAmerican officers, one Asian officer, and one Hispanic officer and the board demographic lay-down closely matched the figures in the Army Gl 2010 Demographic Profile of the Army. As a voting member, I can honestly say that the Army could do away with the photo and remove gender and race from the Officer Record Brief (ORB) because it was not a factor for me. My quantitative vote was based on the contents of the file. I would ask if you hear someone say race or gender has anything to do with a promotion board or the promotion process you immediately stop the erroneous information.
According to specific U.S.C, and Army regulation, there are only two competitive categories for Army warrant officers. The two categories are aviators and technical services. The board must consist of at least five core members serving in a permanent grade above major or lieutenant colonel and from the same service as the selectees. The Secretary of the Army may appoint warrant officers as additional members to the selection board that are senior in grade to those under consideration. There must be at least one warrant officer originating from each of the competitive categories, unless there is an insufficient number of warrant officers within the competitive category that are qualified and senior in grade to all thosebeing considered.
A few things that are important in the previous passage to the reader is all warrant officer promotion boards must consist of at least five core members that are Army O-grades and there is no mandatory requirement for the Secretary of the Army to appoint warrant officers to the selection board. Nevertheless, the Secretary of the Army has habitually appointed warrant officers as additional members on warrant officer selection boards, so there must be at least an aviator and one technical services warrant officer serving on the boards. This does not mean that an aviator or technical services warrant officer holding a specific military occupational skill (MOS) are going to be members of every board, but it does mean that at least one qualified individual from one of the two competitive categories is going to be present to represent their cohort. Finally, no officer may serve on two consecutiveboards if the second board is considering anyone looked at by the first board.
The memorandum of instruction (MOI) is the official method for the Secretary of the Army to provide his guidance to the board. The MOI is a living document and it is constantly changing. It states the maximum number of warrant officers recommended for promotion and the promotion zone for warrant officers on the warrant officer activeduty list. The Secretary, through the MOI, orders the selection board to consider all warrant officers for promotion to the next higher grade either from the promotion zone or above the promotion zone for promotion. The selection board may not recommend a warrant officer for promotion unless the officer receives the recommendation of a majority of the members of the board and a majority of the members of the board finds the officer is fully qualified for promotion. The Secretary shall establish the number of warrant officers the selection board may recommend from among warrant officers considered from below the promotion zone (BZ) within each grade or competitive category. The number of warrant officers recommended for promotion from BZ does not increase the maximum total number of warrant officers, which the board is allowed to recommend. The number of officers recommended for promotion from BZ may not exceed 10 percent of the total number recommended.
In addition, the MOI lets the board members know what is to be considered positive or negative information within each file. From memory, the MOI made it clear that the lack of civilian or professional military education and the lack of deployments are not discriminators for promotion. Additionally, it told the board to look favorably at information about officers serving in military transition teams (MiTT), embedded training teams (ETT) or any other type of unit that provides those types of functions. One area in which I remember the MOI was lacking guidance was concerning warrant officers recovering in warrior transition units (WTU). Again, I need to reinforce I am pulling from my memory and this was an issue on a couple of files. My personal opinion is these individuals had incredible files due to their performance and were most likely going to be promoted anyway.
At this point, I want to move on to the actual promotion files. All the files are in a digital format, shown on computer screens, and are randomly displayed to the board members. There are no loose papers for the board members to shuffle through or the possibility for something unauthorized to enter into the file without being cleared by the appropriate authority.
All members are sitting either at a cubicle-type desk or at an individual desk. There is no talking allowed among members unless a recorder is present. There were at least three recorders in the room at all times: one was answering questions received from members online, working on administrative information, or preparing for the next segment of the board process; the other two were roaming the room to ensure the members are following the established rules, answering verbal questions, and keeping unauthorized personnel from disturbing the board.
Upon opening a file, the first thing the board member sees is any retirement paperwork that might have been submitted anytime during the individual's career. A white sheet of paper is displayed with the person's full name, social security number, the date the paperwork was submitted and the approved retirement date. I noticed certain things when it came to retirement paperwork. The first, was some officers had submitted retirement paperwork with an approved release date approximately 90 days after the board was expected to convene. In this scenario, my perception was these officers were challenging the board to promote them, and if not selected, they were going to retire and move on. It made me question their loyalty. The second thing I noticed was some officers, for one reason or another, had submitted retirement paperwork earlier in their career and decided not to follow through. In this second scenario, it made me look deeper into a person's file during the timeframe to find out what exactly had occurred to make them pull their paperwork. No matter what scenario you may find yourself in, ensure that when retirement paperwork is submitted, it is exactly what you want to do. This, at least for me, sent a definite message.
The next part of the promotion file was in the 'Derogatory Information' part. The first thing that shocked me was the number of warrant officers getting into legal trouble. It ran the gamut from driving while intoxicated, adultery, as well as other illegal or immoral behavior. All of which are signs of immaturity within the ranks. I am far from perfect; however, some of the things I saw in the files were truly startling. The voting member cannot proceed without opening the derogatory file, if there is one. It does not mean I have to read the contents, but I must at least open it for the program to give me permission to move forward. In my opinion, very few officers who have received punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice do not have the ability to overcome the smudge in their files. I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and read their entire file to see if they were remorseful by overcoming the indiscretion. Something you can take from this is that UCMJ action against an officer is probably a career terminator. Even if the officer attempts to improve him or herself, it is most likely too difficult to overcome in the long run. My advice to everyone is to think before acting. Don't destroy your livelihood.
Finally the most important part of thisentire essay concerning theboard: the Officer Evaluation Report (OER) and how I used it in developing a word picture on a warrant officer. We all agree the OER is not perfect and may never fit perfectly in describing the performance of a warrant officer. According to FYlO statistics maintained by the Army Gl, warrant officers only make up approximately 3 percent and commissioned officers account for 14 percent of the entire end strength of active-duty force. Nevertheless, this is the system used to articulate promotion potential to future promotionboards. That being said, remember. . . you are your best career advocate and manager. It is your responsibility to ensure your administrative data is correct, so as a board member, I only scanned this area. To a certain extent, OER block III and IV were not very important to me; however, block IV - c, 'APFT/height and weight' was extremely important. It was not my job to question or verify rater or senior rater's entries in the block. However, if theblockhad APFT failure, no entry or it mentioned the rated officer did not meet the Army height and weight standard, I wanted to see a profile date or a comment in the rater block concerning the non-compliance. This is simple for warrant officers out in the field to correct. I personally havebeen injured in the past, so I understand if a Soldier cannot physically do an assigned task. However, make sure it is annotated correctly on your evaluation. Army Regulation 623-3, Personnel Evaluation- Evaluation Reporting System has the specifics on what must occur to rectify this problem.
The part of the OER I consider the most important is the back page, block V (rater) and VII (senior rater). These two portions are what I used to develop your potential for promotion. Throughout the entire process of the board, I read every rater and senior rater entry for each individual. I read almost 4,000 files over a two-week period and I can honestly claim I gave every file the same level of scrutiny. Every file contains all OERs and DA 1059s Academic Evaluation Reports that are allowed to be shown to the board . It is a falsehood the board can only see five years worth of reports. The board sees it all and there is no time limit on how long a member can spend reviewing any particular file. The rumor of specified time limits has evolved through the recorders monitoring the times board members spend on files. If the recorder notices a particular member taking a long time to review files, the recorder might ask if the member is having issues with voting. On the other hand, if the member is moving quickly through the files, the recorder might engage the voter to ensure they are giving the proper attention the files deserve.
Back to the rater and senior rater blocks of the OER. Because these two blocks hold so much weight for board members, it is imperative raters and senior raters do a better job of quantifying their claims. For example to say, 'This is the best warrant officer I have rated in my entire career, which has spanned more than 28 years," does not do much. It is better for them to say, "I consider this warrant officer the best out of 25 I have rated in my entire career, which has spanned more than 28 years." The difference might be slight, but very important because it does not force the board member to try and figure out what the raters or senior raters are attempting to impart. Another example in support of the point I am attempting to argue is, "This officer is in the top three of more than 15 warrant officers I currently senior rate." To some this might be an awesome write-up, but in reality, it does not say much except this particular officer cannot breakout of the 'top three' logjam to be the very best officer. A board member might conclude this officer is a strong center of mass performer - promote with peers.
A number of raters and senior raters have found a way to change the font size or to bold particular lines in their write-ups. In my opinion, these illegal techniques did nothing to get the rated officer a higher vote and did not accomplish what the raters and senior raters intended. Another thing most senior raters did was use 'gimmicky phrases' to describe an officer. One phrase I remember was to compare an officer to a 'rock star.' I recommend rated officers advise their senior raters not to do this unless you truly aspire to be in a band.
Another area I noticed were warrant officers who stayed in one location for an extended amount of time. Many of us call this 'homesteading.' It appeared to me that officers who stayed at one post for a long time had stale OERs. It was almost as though evaluations were photocopies of previous OERs, even when they changed jobs within the same organization. If the officer was a steady-state performer, his file showed he was steady state for the entire time with no sign of improvement or any further development. There are tremendous benefits to having officers move to other locations to experience new things and overcome different sets of challenges. At a very minimum, when an officer moves it is customary to receive an award for past performance. This shows the board signs of improvement and growth.
The final three areas I want to address have to do with the Officer Record Brief (ORB), the official photos, and being a member of a special mission unit (SMU) . The ORB was my primer before I delved into the officer's promotion file. I know from experience it is very difficult to keep the ORB up to date, specifically concerning awards and assignments. However, I could tell the officers who cared about being selected for promotion by the accuracy of the ORB.
Although I applaud members of SMUs, they do not get favorable treatment as compared to other officers serving in conventional units, unless the Secretary of the Army mentions it in the MOI. For this board, he did not. From my perspective, SMU rater and senior raters have the same difficulty quantifying their warrant officers as the rest of the conventional side.
The official photo is an area where the lack of attention to detail can hurt an individual. I've already made the point the promotion file could get rid of the official photo and it was not important to my vote; however, some warrant officers were wearing awards in the wrong locations or wearing unauthorized awards. There were officers wearing insignias of aides to Presidential, Vice Presidential, Secretary of Defense, or other staff over the wrong breast pocket. In addition, Army regulation does not authorize the wearing of the German Marksmanship Award (Schuetzenschnur) by officers, but officers can wear one of the various levels (bronze, silver or gold) of the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency or any other Bundeswher award that German military officers are allowed to wear.
Three more points on the official photo: (1) wearing the Army Service Uniform (ASU) or the Class A' green uniform in the official photo made no difference to me, (2) female officers need to pay specific attention to hair color and makeup, and both must be within Army standard, and (3) I was shocked at the sheer numbers of warrant officers who have outdated photos, many of which were still wearing their NCO rank.
The most important thing to take away from this is everything you do, or do not do, comes down to the needs of the Army. Promotion has nothing to do with open slots. You might be an officer with the right schools, assignments, deployments, awards and still not get selected for promotion. Nevertheless, I can guarantee if you quit and stop doing all the right things, you will never get selected for promotion. To me it is like playing the lottery. Even when the odds are so great, the chances of winning are almost non-existent, people still buy tickets and have the same opportunity to win as everyone else. The individual with no ticket is guaranteed to never win. I know this euphemistic example might appear simplistic, but in reality, i it can happen if you decide to quit on yourself and your career.
By CW5 Manuel Vasquez
Since 1993, CW5 Manuel Vasquez has been a 131 A Field Artillery Targeting Technician and has served at every level of command expected from a warrant officer in his career field. Vasquez has performed traditional FA Targeting Technician functions and nontraditional duties at various locations from Germany to Afghanistan as a member of various military units. He has two conventional deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and one deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) for a totality equating to almost 40 months of deployment time. Vasquez has completed many Joint Courses (Joint Firepower Control Course, Joint Airspace Command and Control Course, Joint Targeting Course, etc.), Army specific courses (Army Operational Electronic Warfare Course, U.S. Army Red Team Member Course, etc.) and all the recommended wan-ant officer professional military education courses. He is currently serving in the newest U.S. Army Service Component Command (ASCC) - U.S. Army Africa Command (USARAF) as the command targeting officer. The U.S. Army has selected Vasquez for attendance at the Advanced Military Studies Program (AMSP) class 12-02, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Vasquez is a graduate of the Austin Peay State University with a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security field of study and presently enrolled in the Long Island University Homeland Security Management graduate program.