Last month I wrote about some of the things a soldier can expect when attending the promotion board. Now, I’d like to go more in-depth on exactly what soldiers can do to prepare for one of the most important events of their career.
Each unit will have their own Standard Operating Procedures. However, after 14 years of being a leader and attending numerous boards as a participant, supervisor, and board member, I have acquired a handful of tips that should help any soldier attending any Promotion or Soldier/NCO of the Month board. I focus on the following when determining if a soldier will get my recommendation for promotion.
ENLISTED RECORDS BRIEF (ERB) – Soldiers must update their ERB prior to the promotion board and ensure that all awards are listed correctly. Equally important is the weapons qualification, APFT, and NCOER data (if soldier is appearing before the Staff Sergeant board).
UNIFORM – The uniform you wear will be determined by the location of your Promotion Board. Normally, units want you in your Class “A” uniform when in a garrison environment. No matter which uniform you wear, it’s vital that it’s in perfect condition.
- The more people that look at your uniform, the better, up to and including your First Sergeant. I look at all my soldiers’ uniforms at least a couple days prior to the event. This gives them ample time to correct any deficiencies
- Only the awards depicted on your ERB should be worn on your Class “A” uniform
- Your uniform needs to have the proper fit in accordance with AR 670-1
STUDY – Depending on your unit, you may have a Unit Study Guide that the Command Sergeant Major wants you to know. If this is the case, you have no excuse for missing any questions. There are many different guides you can use, but in our boards you need to be well rounded, with a good grasp of the major Army Regulations and what Army Programs have to offer. Our Squadron utilizes the “Situational Question” model. It only takes me two questions to decide whether or not a soldier studied enough. Know the NCO and Soldiers Creed!
- Study with friends, family, and fellow soldiers
- Don’t cram the night before the board
- Watch the nightly news during the week leading up to your board to understand current events
- The only thing you should study the morning of the board is newspaper headlines. Focus on national news and things that affect the Army, military, and/or government
PRACTICE BOARDS – Convince your chain of command to hold mock boards. This is the only way to practice board etiquette and be completely prepared. Have your Platoon Sergeant ask to see if your First Sergeant will serve as the president (great way to get some tips from someone who will be sitting on your actual board).
BOARD EDIQUETTE – More than likely, your supervisor will go in before you to “sell” you to the board. It’s natural for you to be nervous, and the board members are going to expect some level of it. Ensure your counseling packet is complete and accurate. I look over your last 6 months of counseling. This is also the time that I look at your ERB, APFT, NCOERs (if applicable), and weapons qualification.
- When told to report, rap hard and firm three times on the door and wait to be called in. Don’t knock the door down, but don’t tap lightly either
- When told to enter, march straight towards the president of the board, stop a couple paces in front of him/her, and render a proper salute. Sound off with “Command Sergeant Major (or whoever is the president of the board), SPC Snuffy reporting to the President of the Board.” Wait for the President of the Board to return your salute and return to the position of attention
- You will conduct some facing movements and march a few steps in order for the board members to get a good, close-up look at your uniform.
- When told to take a seat, locate the chair and take the most direct route to sit down. This is the only time that the board becomes “Informal”. Get comfortable sitting down, adjust your uniform, take a deep breath, then return to a modified position of attention in the chair and lock eyes with the President of the Board
BIO – Know and rehearse your biography. Write it down on paper, starting with when you joined the Army to your current duty position. Mention awards, deployments, and duty positions. Practice this in front of your family, friends, and soldiers. This is the time that you will get to “connect” with the board members. Lock eyes with each of the board members as you are giving your bio. Not doing so is one of my personal pet peeves. The Command Sergeant Major gets all the attention, but I am the one with the vote. If I were attending a promotion board, this is what my bio would look like:
“Command Sergeant Major, First Sergeants, Members of the Board. My name is 1SG Gibson and I joined the Army in December of 1995. My first duty station was with 1-77 Armor in Schweinfurt Germany, where I held the positions of Tank Loader, Driver, and Gunner. While there I earned an Army Achievement Medal (AAM) for qualifying Superior during tank gunnery, an AAM for my deployment to Bosnia, and received an Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) when I PCS’d to Ft. Hood Texas, 3-67 Armor in the Summer of 1998. While at Ft. Hood I served as a Tank Gunner and received another AAM for qualifying Distinguished on Tank Table VIII and another ARCOM when I PCS’d back to 1-77 Armor in the Summer of 1999. I served in 1-77 Armor as a Tank Gunner, Tank Commander, Company Master Gunner, Battalion Master Gunner, Tank Platoon Sergeant, and Scout Platoon Sergeant. My deployments with 1-77 Armor include Kosovo and Iraq twice. While assigned to the Steel Tigers I received two AAM’s, one ARCOM, one Meritorious Service Medal, and two Bronze Stars. I PCS’d to Hohenfels Germany where I served as an Observer Controller and deployed to the Republic of Georgia where I received the Humanitarian Service Medal. I received an MSM as a PCS award when I left for Joint Base Lewis McChord in 2011. I was then assigned as a MGS Platoon Sergeant, MGS Platoon Leader, and am now currently serving as a Cavalry Troop First Sergeant here in the Blackhawk Squadron. My military schools include Warrior Leaders Course, Advanced Leaders Course-Commandants List, Senior Leaders Course, Master Gunner Academy, and Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course-Commandants List. I am married to my wife Katrin Gibson and have three lovely girls: Tabea, Kiersten, and Amelie. My short term goals include finishing my Bachelors Degree and my long term goal is to become a Command Sergeant Major.”
RECITAL OF THE NCO/SOLDIER CREED – You need to know it and be able to recite it with conviction. When the President of the Board tells you to recite either of these, snap to attention and sound off. Don’t scream, don’t yell, but lock eyes with every board member and recite it with conviction. Doing so will convince the board members you are already living by that creed. Blow me away with your creed and you may not have to answer a single question. The creed is not printed on the wall above and behind the board; recite it directly to us.
QUESTIONS – Simple, know the answers. And if you don’t know the answers, know where you can reference them. You won’t get full credit, but at least it will let the board members know that you know where to find them.
- Don’t “sandwich” the answers with rank. Example: “First Sergeant, the answer is AR 670-1, First Sergeant”
- It does not matter to me if you recite the question back as part of your answer. If you know the answer, give it. Example: “AR 670-1, First Sergeant”
- Lock eyes with me when answering my questions
- If you are drawing a blank, tell me you are drawing a blank and where you can reference the answer. Do not say, “I do not know the answer to that question, First Sergeant”
- Pay attention to only the person asking the questions, unless it is the President of the Board cutting in. We 1SGs sometimes like to try to break your concentration by throwing things, tapping our feet, or holding side-bar conversations, but keep your focus. There is nothing more important than the Q&A session you are having with the board member
DISMISSALS – When you are told you are dismissed from the board, snap to attention, render a proper hand salute and sound off with your Squadron/Battalion Motto. When the President of the Board returns your salute, return to the position of attention, make one facing movement left or right, and march directly out the door.
Units differ on when they tell you the outcome of your board, so stand by and wait further instructions from your supervisor. More likely than not, your supervisor will know if you passed or failed as you walk out the door.
About the author
Master Sergeant James Gibson is a 19 year Army veteran currently assigned to Purdue University as the Senior Military Instructor where he teaches Military Science and Leadership 201. Having served in both Cavalry and Armor units, he has held every position from Tank Loader to Cavalry Troop First Sergeant with deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Republic of Georgia, and Afghanistan. His previous duty stations include: 1-77 Armor (Schweinfurt Germany), 3-67 Armor (Ft. Hood Texas), HHC Operations Group (Hohenfels Germany), 1-17 Infantry (Joint Base Lewis McChord), and 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment (Joint Base Lewis McChord).
Military biographies, just like any personal biography, help to identify abilities and accomplishments, but of former and current military service members. Basically, it looks just like a resume but here you talk more about your military achievements, awards and trainings.
You begin your military biography with name, branch, rank, deployment status, current place of deployment, age, date of birth and hometown. Then you continue with chronological listing of your military history. Additionally, do not forget to add your military awards, honors, and decorations, especially Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars, service ribbons and other qualifications. Then, you can talk about your military school and camp trainings. Also, you should remember to list chronologically your rank ascension history including dates. Finally, finish your military biography with family background and civilian school you attended. Or you can combine your military and civilian schooling.
To tell the truth, there’s so much to talk about that I personally would be at loss what to write about and would just ask to write my assignment for me, but instead using a good template is a life-saver. This would put me on the right track and give some ideas on how to format and organize a military biography and not confuse it with, for example, the character biography.
MILITARY BIOGRAPHY TEMPLATE #1
Cadet Harris is the Wing Commander for Air Force ROTC Detachment 060 hosted at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. His job is to oversee the operation of the whole cadet wing which involves planning and coordinating activities to ensure successful trainings of cadets.
In 2010 Cadet Harris graduated Los Angeles High School and entered University of Southern Carolina, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. In the first year of university he served as Flight Drill and Ceremonies Officer, and Flight Physical Fitness Officer. In the second year of university Cadet Harris served as Flight Recruiting Officer and Flight Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Officer. In the third year of university he was Flight Commander. In the summer of 2014 he attended Air Force Academy Free Fall program at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, where Cadet Harris received basic jump wings. In the fourth year of university he was Joint Board Officer. Additionally, he was selected for the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard Air Force Base, TX.
MILITARY BIOGRAPHY TEMPLATE #2
LTC Bradley was enlisted into 225th Engineer Battalion in 1992 as a 15B Combat Engineer. In January 1997, once he reached the rank of E-6, LTC Bradley was commissioned in the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Military and civilian education: LTC Bradley obtained BS in Psychology at Walden University, MN and MS in Plastic Engineering at Ferris State University, MI. Additionally, he took the Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course at the United States Army Engineer School in Fort Leonard Wood, MO and US Army Command and General Staff Officers Course.
Assignments: LTC Bradley’s first assignment was Support Platoon Leader, 225th Engineer Company, ARNG, OR in 1997. In 2000 he was selected Company Commander. After finishing Company Command in 2002, he worked as Training Officer. In 2003, he moved to HQ, Camp Beauregard, LA, as the Officer Strength Management Officer for Recruiting and Retention Command. In July 2008 he was raised to the Executive Officer for, HQ, 225th Engineer Company. Currently, LTC Bradley holds the position of Executive Officer.
Awards and decorations: LTC Bradley’s military awards and decorations are the Bronze Star Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Army Superior Unit Award, and Master Recruiting Badge.
Currently LTC Bradley resides in Pineville, LA with his wife Anna and two daughters Emily and Rebecca.