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Thread: Air Force does away with promotion test for senior NCOs

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    Quote Originally Posted by FLAPS View Post
    Definitely not a perfect system, so I was just commenting on my personal experience when determining which one of my ratees was actually deserving vs a butt-kisser. I never gave my opinion on the test, and I have mixed feelings. Honestly, I think the only safe way to promote someone deserving is for the immediate leadership to have that ability to decide, based on feedback from the right Chiefs/officers who know the individual and who can gain an honest assessment. Unfortunately, promotions aren't decided on the local level (for various reasons). Words on a piece of paper for a board of strangers by itself isn't that fair either (bad vs good written EPR).
    The sad thing is that the AF knows it's promotion system is screwy. Hell, it's been trying to fix it since the early 90s (and probably before that). I can't count how many changes there have been in the last 30 years, all supposedly improvements, yet still no closer than they were back then.

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    Senior Member Bos Mutus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AF sgt View Post
    The sad thing is that the AF knows it's promotion system is screwy. Hell, it's been trying to fix it since the early 90s (and probably before that). I can't count how many changes there have been in the last 30 years, all supposedly improvements, yet still no closer than they were back then.
    not to mention the ungodly amount of time and effort that is put into EPRs...crafting, writing, editing, kicking back, rewriting...talking about it, angling for it, etc.

    Well, I've been retired a few years, so maybe the newer once are less time, but I dunno...a good many SNCOs spent most of their time on EPRs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bos Mutus View Post
    not to mention the ungodly amount of time and effort that is put into EPRs...crafting, writing, editing, kicking back, rewriting...talking about it, angling for it, etc.

    Well, I've been retired a few years, so maybe the newer once are less time, but I dunno...a good many SNCOs spent most of their time on EPRs.
    No doubt. I went back and looked at my first EPR from the early 90s and it was so simple, and made sense. It said what I did, no real strict format, had sub-bullets if the statement needed to be longer, there were no abbreviations, a lot of white space, and was a good EPR at the time.

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    Senior Member LogDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bos Mutus View Post
    Big change for the AF.

    I suppose it's a good one...we spend a lot of time studying those books. To me, the tests were a way of promoting those who wanted it more (by spending hours studying)....this new change should look more to the people whose records show them deserving of promotion. OTOH, a lot of the stuff we study like control roster, epr, personnel programs, etc. are really good to have SNCOs know about...without testing, I think a lot of this stuff might just not be learned.

    Like, hey, did know that you can request the commander to end a UIF early on your Airman for good behavior/performance? Stuff like that...it won't come up day-to-day, but if you remember it from studying, it could come in handy.

    I've always been the book smart guy that scored high on tests...may never have made it if this were the system.
    One of the problems when I was in was the AF expected you to work 40 hour plus, go to college at night, be active in sports/community, and study for promotion. That was just too many hours with little too little time for yourself, family, and friends. About knowing about control rosters, eprs, etc.., that knowledge come primarily from attending NCO Leadership School/Academies and experience. The experience is learned from SNCOs guidance to mid-level and junior NCOs.
    Last edited by LogDog; 02-07-2019 at 06:37 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AF sgt View Post
    I was really just being "extreme" for the sake of it. The complaint for years, from the "top performers", is "I don't test well but I'm a great worker" so this definitely takes care of that. However, it does seem a little backwards. I would think that you would want your "managers" to be much more "book smart" when it comes to PDG type stuff (though I guess one can just look it up if a question arises) and be more tech savvy for TSgt and below, and this kind of turns that on it's head.

    Bottom line is that there's no way to keep everyone happy. Let's be honest, when it goes to a board, even prior to taking away the test, the board score is what gets the person promoted. One can score 100 on the test and still not get promoted if they aren't looked upon fondly by the board members.
    The "buttkissers" will always be around so the way around it is demonstrate to the SNCOs, OICs, and commanders that you are the "go-to" person to get things done. Of course, this works if you have good commanders who are attuned to the people in their squadrons/groups.

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    Senior Member LogDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLAPS View Post
    I've rated dozens of E-6s and above and knew the difference between a productive hard charger and a non-producing butt kisser. Whether in the mil or civ world, those favored by their bosses are usually the ones who are actually making a difference. Sure, many of these producers 'seem' to kiss up in some ways, but as far as I was concerned (as a manager), if you're kicking ass (thus making my job easier), then I am going to push you for promotion. The disadvantages come into play with poorly written vs outstanding (action, impact, result) EPRs going in front of a promotion board made up of people who don't know you or your competition. Unfortunately, this where many exceptional people may get passed over for promotion in favor of average performers.

    The good thing is, exceptional performers will eventually rise to the top of their professions, either while still in uniform or after they separate.
    As a TSgt, I rated a SSgt a "4" on his EPR and I had to justify it. He did only his job, was a star player on the base football team (overseas base), but took no initiative. I explained to my OIC and commander and convinced them that their perception of him was superficial but he wasn't a top performer compared to others in my flight. Top performers usually rise to the top and because they do well more work and responsibilities are given to them to the point the are overloaded where others have the same or less work to do. It's easier for those with less work or responsibilities to look like they're performing well while the overloaded top performers look like they're struggling.

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    Senior Member LogDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AF sgt View Post
    If this is the case, why have anyone test? Sounds like you would advocate for getting rid of PDG/SKT altogether if leaders/managers are able to distinguish the hard chargers from the butt kissers.

    Don't even get me started on "poorly written" vs "outstanding" EPRs. Why on earth the promotion of a subordinate would ever come down to the writing ability of the supervisor is, by far, the dumbest shit that any organization could ever rely on to determine who deserves promotion, especially since it's not up to the subordinate as to who writes the EPR (though usually it turns out to be the subordinate writing it anyway which, as we all know but continually justify, if completely against the instructions for rating. But if the subordinate brings that up, they are seen as the "whiner" and, thus, will not get pushed in front of his peer who keeps his mouth shut. Unfortunately, and undeniably, that is where the massive hypocrisy of the Air Force promotion system lies.
    Having written EPRs as well as reviewed EPRs as a group superintendent the goal is to provide an accurate assessment of the individual. In this assessment, the reporting official should, in most cases, be able to state what the person did, the impact of what was done, and quantify what was done. I recognized not everyone is a wordsmith (I certainly wasn't) but the EPR should be written in a manner that someone outside the career field would be able to understand. As a SNCO sitting on BTZ, quarterly/yearly boards the problem I had with reading an EPR was mostly what was written was routine duties they accomplished. What I looked for was what differentiated them from their peers and others from across the base. My job reviewing EPRs was to help the supervisor communicate their thoughts on the person they're reporting on. My biggest obstacle was NCOs/officers who suffered from pride of authorship and took offense that I would correct their grammar and/or punctuation and sometimes it means explaining how grammar or punctuation works.

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    Senior Member LogDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLAPS View Post
    Definitely not a perfect system, so I was just commenting on my personal experience when determining which one of my ratees was actually deserving vs a butt-kisser. I never gave my opinion on the test, and I have mixed feelings. Honestly, I think the only safe way to promote someone deserving is for the immediate leadership to have that ability to decide, based on feedback from the right Chiefs/officers who know the individual and who can gain an honest assessment. Unfortunately, promotions aren't decided on the local level (for various reasons). Words on a piece of paper for a board of strangers by itself isn't that fair either (bad vs good written EPR).
    There is no perfect system and there will never be a perfect systems. I disagree on having promotions decided on the local level because that only encourages "butt-snorkling." Unless things have changed since I retired, when a person is selected for promotion the commander is required to review the individual's PIF to ensure there is no unfavorable information in it to prevent them from being promoted. This is, although imperfect, a local check-and-balance to prevent "favorites" from being promoted over top performers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LogDog View Post
    Having written EPRs as well as reviewed EPRs as a group superintendent the goal is to provide an accurate assessment of the individual. In this assessment, the reporting official should, in most cases, be able to state what the person did, the impact of what was done, and quantify what was done. I recognized not everyone is a wordsmith (I certainly wasn't) but the EPR should be written in a manner that someone outside the career field would be able to understand. As a SNCO sitting on BTZ, quarterly/yearly boards the problem I had with reading an EPR was mostly what was written was routine duties they accomplished. What I looked for was what differentiated them from their peers and others from across the base. My job reviewing EPRs was to help the supervisor communicate their thoughts on the person they're reporting on. My biggest obstacle was NCOs/officers who suffered from pride of authorship and took offense that I would correct their grammar and/or punctuation and sometimes it means explaining how grammar or punctuation works.
    Let's be honest. "Quantifying" is completely subjective. Joe took care of a building with 100 people in it and 10 million in equipment. Bill took care of a building with 18 people and 2.5 million in equipment. Both people are doing exactly the same job, assigned randomly to the facilities, yet if you compare those 2, who wins? Obviously Joe. Doesn't matter if he did more work, just that his numbers are bigger.

    Honestly, everything should be a 3, and you have to justify if it's above or below. I don't mean "justify" as in writing better bullets, I mean as in having a "push letter" as you have to have if you want to mark someone down.

    Also, ridiculous that it should be the job of a SNCO to spell/grammar/abbreviation check. Didn't know that the job of the SNCO corps was to be an English teacher. Figure out the man hours on that, a frickin' military organization wasting hundreds of man-hours (per squadron) editing. That's tax payer money wasted.

    There is ZERO chance that an objective observer can determine the difference between 2 people based on an EPR. They can only judge based on the EPR writer's subjective view of their subordinates.

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    Senior Member LogDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AF sgt View Post
    Let's be honest. "Quantifying" is completely subjective. Joe took care of a building with 100 people in it and 10 million in equipment. Bill took care of a building with 18 people and 2.5 million in equipment. Both people are doing exactly the same job, assigned randomly to the facilities, yet if you compare those 2, who wins? Obviously Joe. Doesn't matter if he did more work, just that his numbers are bigger.
    The questions, as a reviewer of the EPR, I'd have are what specifically did they do to "take care of a building," what type of equipment was there, and how did their actions postively impact their and their squadron's mission. Numbers alone are insufficient, you have to show impact. If you, as the supervisor, is writing that in an EPR then you're not doing your job nor are you helping your people.

    Honestly, everything should be a 3, and you have to justify if it's above or below. I don't mean "justify" as in writing better bullets, I mean as in having a "push letter" as you have to have if you want to mark someone down.
    I agree that everyone should start out with a "3" and it's up to the individual to upgrade or downgrade it. If you're going to give someone less than a "3" then you should have documentation readily available to support your evaluation.

    Also, ridiculous that it should be the job of a SNCO to spell/grammar/abbreviation check. Didn't know that the job of the SNCO corps was to be an English teacher. Figure out the man hours on that, a frickin' military organization wasting hundreds of man-hours (per squadron) editing. That's tax payer money wasted.
    Even a professional writer has a editor who reviews the book before it's published. In the AF, what we "publish" most often are EPRs and before they're "published" they need to be reviewed to ensure the product meets established standards. I've heard the arguments about the waste of time the review is but it's necessary because it affects the individual career. I wouldn't have want someone who's writing skills are on the 7-grade level to determine my promotion and/or possible assignments. The EPR should read like a literate, educated person wrote it.

    There is ZERO chance that an objective observer can determine the difference between 2 people based on an EPR. They can only judge based on the EPR writer's subjective view of their subordinates.
    All evaluations are subjective and part of the review process means different eyes see the EPR which, ideally, helps eliminates supervisor/endorser biases. Look at the EPR this way, it's a form of a resume that tells the reader what the person's responsibilities were, what they did, their achievements and their impact, and their potential for increased duties and responsibilities.

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