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Rusty Jones
03-11-2013, 07:15 PM
Sailors want formula change for advancement

By Mark D. Faram - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Mar 10, 2013 9:58:49 EDT

Ask 10 sailors what they think is wrong with the advancement system and you’ll most likely get 10 different reasons why they say the Navy unfairly “racks and stacks” its sailors. When it comes to petty officer advancements, many say . . .


After reading the article on issues that Sailors have with the advancement system, I couldn't help but shake my head at the section where Sailors suggested shifting greater weight over to performance and away from the advancement exams.

Though, I'm not surprised. I served for 11 years, and I've heard it all before. The majority of the Sailors making these suggestion usually fall into at least one of two categories: a) those who overestimate their own level of performance, or b) those who forget, or are totally ignorant of, how each Sailor's level of performance is currently determined and rewarded in the form of advancement points.

Before the Navy can even think of overhauling its advancement system, the EVAL/FITREP system needs to be overhauled or replaced; or concurrently changed so that it integrates with whatever new system that the Navy comes up with.

As it stands right now, the Navy uses a forced-distribution appraisal system that quantifies performance into five groups - Early Promote, Must Promote, Promotable, Progressing, and Significant Problems. The EP is limited to the top 20%, and the MP is limited to the next 30%. And that's the only thing that matters for points; trait marks and averages mean nothing. As such, commands rank Sailors first, and then set the trait marks to reflect that ranking - not the Sailor's performance.

The biggest impact on advancement is the 16-point difference between groups, while none exists within the groups to reflect the widely varying differences within them. So if 100 Sailors are being ranked with all EP and MP quotas being used, the Sailor ranked #20 goes into the exam with the same amount of points as the #1 ranked Sailor. However, the Sailor who is ranked #21 goes into the exam with a 16-point drop from the Sailor who is ranked #20.

Somebody please tell me how this makes any sense, whatsoever?

The Navy needs to follow the Marine Corps model. Whatever the performance average of all of those being evaluated is, the points you receive for advancement should be determined by how far you are from that average. So if everyone is a 5.0, then everyone is average, and the points will reflect that - that way, the Navy scraps the current system, without returning the system used prior to 1996.

Another thing: although the current EVAL system is long overdue for a major overhaul; none will be perfect, and this is where the role of the advancement exam comes into play. Subjectivity is going to affect any appraisal system that you can come up with, or any other flaws - be it the halo effect, the horn effect, recency bias, or flat out personal bias. The advancement exam is the source of points that you, as the Sailor, have 100% direct control over. It's the one thing that's strictly between you and the Navy, that your command cannot touch. If the flaws of any EVAL system adversely affect you; the exam is the one thing that you have to show the Navy what you've got. And if you've benefitted from the flaws of the EVAL system, the exam is going to be the great equalizer (which I suspect could be the source of negative views on the exam).

As far as the weight of the EVAL and exam go, I say "leave it alone." If you're such a "hard charger," then no Sailor that you deem to be beneath you should do better than you on the exam and advance. If they do, then they obviously wanted it more than you did; and you're not that "hard charger" that you thought you were.

The one suggestion that I do have for the overall system is this: for all categories of points over which the Sailor has 100% direct control (i.e., exam score, education points if the Navy keeps it, PRT points if the Navy decides to add it), if the Sailor maxes out in points in all of these categories, then the final multiple should be waived and the Sailor advanced. In no advancement cycle should it ever be impossible for a Sailor to advance.

Bottom line: You want the Navy to go by performance? You need to make sure that the Navy has a system that more accurately captures that performance, or you will be just as much a "victim" to a new system as you are to the current one.

Rusty Jones
03-11-2013, 07:22 PM
I can't help but think of all the Sailors with straight "Promotable" EVALs who can't advance, yet they think that the exam is the reason why they're not advancing.

Or how about the people who constantly lament about others being good "test takers," and that the test is not a reflection of rating knowledge? That they're not good at taking tests?

When you're out on deployment, where can you find these SAME Sailors when they're not on watch or doing their maintenance? They're either in their shop or down in the berthing playing video games or watching movies. Didn't study so much as a single paragraph of anything listed in the Bibs.

And they want you to believe that the exam is the problem, and not them. Please.

Banned
03-12-2013, 05:25 AM
Don't know about the Marine Corps fitrep system (got out too quickly), but I'll tell you the evaluation - pros/cons - system for E-4 and below is complete trash. Anyone who actually follows regulation when rating his Marines is going to fuck them over - I recall myself and everyone else in my section got 4.2/4.2 (Average... AKA shitty), or lower. Absolutely fucking ridiculous, and nothing like checking into a new unit - where you get a 4.5/4.5 for breathing - with everyone thinking right off the bat that you're a dirt bag because of the 4.2... and of course there's no point in trying to explain to them that I was coming from combat arms where pretty much everyone got fucked on pros/cons.

/rant off

Chief Bosun
03-12-2013, 11:30 AM
Rusty -

True, no system will be truly objective.

I don't like the forced distribution but can see why it is there - to force a choice on who is the most deserving of an EP, etc. In some cases that can lead to a heartbreaking choice.

One real issue I saw with the evaluation system as a Chief was the CO saying who would be the EP, MP, etc., before the ranking board had even seen the evals and had a chance to review them. As a result we had to re-write the eval to match the recommendation, even though the initial write up didn't support that Sailor getting the EP, but did support the guy the board was told to give an MP to getting the EP. Yes, the CO does have the final say, and no problem with that. But they should not be giving orders to force this person to get a higher mark then they deserve, etc.

Test - you have to have some objective way to assess the Sailor's professional knowledge. However, you have people that are book-smart but couldn't handle a mooring line safely to save their lives, and vice versa - the Sailor is a whiz on the deckplates, but simply draws blanks when taking tests.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Rusty Jones
03-12-2013, 07:53 PM
Rusty -

True, no system will be truly objective.

I don't like the forced distribution but can see why it is there - to force a choice on who is the most deserving of an EP, etc. In some cases that can lead to a heartbreaking choice.

One real issue I saw with the evaluation system as a Chief was the CO saying who would be the EP, MP, etc., before the ranking board had even seen the evals and had a chance to review them. As a result we had to re-write the eval to match the recommendation, even though the initial write up didn't support that Sailor getting the EP, but did support the guy the board was told to give an MP to getting the EP. Yes, the CO does have the final say, and no problem with that. But they should not be giving orders to force this person to get a higher mark then they deserve, etc.

That's why was saying that EVALs should be used for advancement the same way they are in the Marine Corps. Under the Marine Corps' system, if you make everyone a 5.0; then everyone is hurt in terms of points for promotion because everyone is average. There shouldn't be a 16-point difference between the Sailors ranked #20 and #21, while there is no difference between the Sailors ranked #1 and #20.


the Sailor is a whiz on the deckplates, but simply draws blanks when taking tests

The problem is - and you may have seen differently - that I was always hard-pressed to find a Sailor who makes this claim about himself, or a Sailor that others say his about, that actually had his nose in the Bib references during deployment.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.[/QUOTE]