16 February 2013
The one thing never changes about the Army, change. It seems like every day we are preparing for a different course of action in regards to coming home. I know, it’s absurd to think about going home so early in a deployment, but I guess that’s what we do. Last deployment I was so busy with taking it to the enemy that I didn’t think much about returning back to the land of the good and plenty. This time, as the HHT 1SG, I am in a working group to help with the draw-down of forces, and I actually get to be part of the planning. It’s kind of nice as I haven’t been that busy lately.
One thing I did do today was hold a promotion board for three young Specialists that want to be Noncommissioned Officers. I am holding the main promotion and Soldier of the Month board on my birthday this month, but due to operations one platoon couldn’t make it to FOB Apache on the 26th, so we had it today. This is a big step in a Soldiers career, and one not to be taken lightly. Each 1SG I have had the pleasure (or displeasure) of working for has their own take on the promotion system. Every month First Sergeants are given a roster of Soldiers that are eligible for promotion in his or her Company/Troop. The Commander is the one that is ultimately responsible for promoting Soldiers, but it’s the First Sergeant that has the pulse of the Soldiers and the task is usually delegated down to him.
I have had First Sergeants in my career that decide, without anyone’s input, which Soldier is going to be promoted or retained in their current grade. Although I don’t agree with this approach, it is their right. I, on the other hand, take all recommendations from the Platoon Sergeants. The Platoon Sergeant is the one that is constantly working with that Soldier on a daily basis and knows better than I do if they deserve a promotion. There is only two times that I really have a vote. One is when we have a “Waiver” to promote someone early. If we only have one waiver, and multiple Platoon Sergeants believe they have a Soldier that deserves it, I weigh in with the deciding vote. The second time I have a vote is when holding a promotion board for Soldiers that want to become a Sergeant or Staff Sergeant.
The promotion board is a formal event in which young Soldiers appear before a “Board” that is chaired by all the Troop First Sergeants and the Command Sergeant Major (President of the Board and non-voting member). Although board proceedings may differ from unit to unit, they are all pretty much the same. The Command Sergeant Major sits in the center with the Troop First Sergeants spread out to his left and right. The Soldiers First Line Supervisor enters the room first to “Sell” the Soldier and explain why they should be promoted. They bring in the Soldiers counseling packet and the event starts. It is vital that the First Line Supervisor is squared away. Although you may not think so, this is the first look at the Soldier that the members of the board get to see. We are evaluating the supervisor and his abilities as well. If the supervisor is “Hot Garbage” then the Soldier attending the board is already one step behind the game. Leaders are developed, and if the Supervisor isn’t squared away, the immediate thought through my mind is that the Soldier coming to the board is going to be nothing more than a reflection of his leadership.
After the supervisor is done and answers any questions we as board members have, we have the Soldier report to the president of the board. The Soldier which is nervously standing outside the room raps on the door three times loudly and is told to enter. He enters the room, walking straight towards the President of the Board, stops a couple paces in front of the table, and renders a salute while announcing “Sergeant Major, Specialist Joe Snuffy reports to the President of the Board.” Depending on where the promotion board is held will dictate what uniform he is wearing. Back in Garrison the Soldier wears his Dress Uniform and while deployed they wear their full kit.
The Command Sergeant Major has the Soldier conduct some facing movements and maneuvers the Soldier in front of each of us 1SGs so we can get a good look at the set-up of their uniform. After each of us has had the ability to get a good look at his uniform he instructs the Soldier to take a seat. The Soldier is to take the most direct route to the chair and sit at a modified position of attention. The first question is normally “Tell us a little bit about yourself”. What the board is looking for is a brief description of your military career. It needs to be rehearsed and well thought out. We want to know, starting with when you joined the Army, all the highlights of your career. It should sound something like this:
“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. 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.”
You would be surprised how many Soldiers come in and haven’t rehearsed or even thought of their biography. It’s easy, and sets the mood for the board if you have a well thought out, rehearsed, and logical bio. Usually, after the bio is given, the Command Sergeant Major orders the Soldier to recite the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer. The NCO creed is a three paragraph “guide” for us NCOs to live by. I know from experience, that if a Soldier recites the creed, connects with the board members, and recites it with feeling and conviction, they may be dismissed right away without having to answer a single question us 1SGs have. Soldiers need to lock eyes with each of the board members as they recite it! On the other hand, if they don’t know it or cannot make it all the way through, they will probably be kicked out of the board to come back the following month. The Soldier is to snap to the position of the attention and belt it out.
“THE CREED OF THE NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER!”
“No one is more professional than I. I am a Noncommissioned Officer, a leader of soldiers. As a noncommissioned officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as “the Backbone of the Army.” I am proud of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the military service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself. I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit or personal safety.
Competence is my watch-word. My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind — accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers. I will strive to remain technically and tactically proficient. I am aware of my role as a noncommissioned officer. I will fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that role. All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership. I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own. I will communicate consistently with my soldiers and never leave them uninformed. I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment.
Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine. I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my soldiers. I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers and subordinates alike. I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders. I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage. I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Noncommissioned Officers, leaders!”
The CSM will have the Soldier sit back down and will ask some questions about current events and the unit’s history. When the CSM is satisfied he will turn it over to us 1SGs. Each of us 1SGs are tasked by the CSM with a few subject areas that include, but are not limited to: Physical Fitness, Weapons, Drill and Ceremony, Maintenance, Army Programs, Land Navigation, Leadership, Regulations, Evaluations, Counseling, and vehicle capabilities. Each of us tries to limit it to a few questions per subject area and then move onto the next one. Depending on the amount of questions the Soldier gets correct, or how he answers them, will decide whether or not he gets my vote. After each 1SG is done questioning the Soldier, the CSM will dismiss him from the board. The Soldier snaps to attention, renders a salute, and sounds off with the Squadron motto. The CSM returns the salute and the Soldier leaves the room.
Once the Soldier leaves the room, the 1SGs vote by filling out a Promotion Board Worksheet. If the Soldier gains a majority vote amongst the 1SGs they are then considered “Promotable”. The Soldier is brought back into the room and is told the news, either good or bad.
Today, I had the privilege of telling three of my Soldiers good news. Each of them did very well. Even though one was sweating so bad that his glasses fogged up and we had to have him remove them because we couldn’t see his eyes, he still answered enough questions correctly to pass.
I’m really looking forward to my birthday. It’s no coincidence that we are having the board on that day. Coupled with the promotion board will be a Soldier of the Month board where Soldiers compete to be the best in the Troop. Although the board proceedings are similar, it is a little less formal. It gives me a chance to tighten down the screws and put them in some challenging positions to see how they react. I may start yelling at them for no reason, play some music while they try and recite the creed, or something else to try and distract them. No matter what I do, the Soldiers that attend my Soldier of the Month board will be well prepared for the Promotion Board, if and when they get the chance.