By Master Sgt. Christian Michael, Air Reserve Personnel Center Public Affairs
/ Published November 20, 2013
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Promotion boards are a time-honored tradition and important function of senior leadership to ensure tomorrow's leaders come from the finest of today's middle management. To execute even handed decision-making, the process is detailed, thorough and mapped for each appointed board member. This keeps selection efforts as uniform and high quality as possible.
The Reserve of the Air Force Selection Board Secretariat at Air Reserve Personnel Center, here, works hard to provide consistent, reliable boards by focusing on adherance to guidelines and integrity.
TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION
Every board process begins the same way: all board members review the board authority and organization, whole person concept, scoring scale, selection record content, communication guidelines and other statutory and policy-driven board activities. Board membership is limited to colonels and above who are senior in grade to the eligible applicants. It is comprised of rated and non-rated officers from Regular Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve as required by Title 10, United States Code, and represents the populace being considered. At least half of the selection board includes a minimum of one officer from each Reserve component and competitive category considered. Air Force policy dictates membership will reflect a broad swath of factors such as command of assignment, career field, aeronautical rating, race, ethnicity, gender and status, such as Air Reserve Technician, Traditional Reserve, Individual Mobilization Augmentee and Active-Guard and Reserve.
After the training, the board president reads the secretary of the Air Force's memorandum of instructions regarding board proceedings to the board members before the board secretariat administers the oath binding them against prejudice and partiality.
Always a flag officer, the board president is assisted by recorders of the selection board secretariat, who are certified by the SECAF, to help ensure boards follow established laws, directives and secretarial instructions.
"During all promotion board activity - and that includes pre- and post-board activity - ARPC/PB works directly for the SECAF," said Col. Michelle Carpenter, director. "There simply is no room for mistakes when it comes to following law, policy and instruction in the promotion board process. If the Air Force or Department of Defense or Congress begins to question the integrity of a board, faith in the process can deteriorate. We can't have that."
The board then participates in a multi-faceted trial run, which allows members to see examples of a range in the quality of records. It exposes them to situations they might come across during the assessment and allows each member to establish his or her own scoring standard. After the exercise, secretariat officials debrief members to discuss Air Force considerations that may assist them while scoring the records, such as the various categories of Reservists and the different points associated with each category. Finally, they confirm the members' comfort with the system before they begin.
"After the exercise, secretariat officials facilitate a debriefing for board members to collectively discuss Air Force considerations that may assist them while scoring the records," said Lt. Col. Amy Boehle, chief of operations. "An example of this could be discussing various categories of Reservists and the different points associated with each category. Before the board members can score their first live record, they must acknowledge they understand the process and their role in the process, and are comfortable with the scoring scale and content of the selection records."
Board members have specific do's and don'ts they must follow, to include what can and cannot be revealed about board procedures and processes. At no time are board members, recorders or administrative staff ever allowed to reveal details of specific board proceedings.
"We encourage board members to talk to their units and mentor their communities about how the process works," Carpenter said. The office wants potential future board members to be familiar with how selection is completed, but information on specific boards and selectees is to remain confidential. "What is prohibited are discussions about what goes on in the board room while a board convenes. Board members and PB staff are prohibited from talking about conversation they might have during "split discussions;" or sharing opinions about fellow board members for instance. By law, all communication during a board is between the board members and the Secretary of the Service. Board members need to know that the process they are going through is confidential."
Only the SECAF can inform an Airman about what happens regarding his promotion process. Members are briefed that they are not allowed to engage freely in conversations with other members in regard to any particular officer or record. Additionally, they cannot introduce or discuss information not found in an officer's record. A selection board secretariat recorder must be present for all board room discussions to ensure compliance.
Once the last record is scored, the board establishes a preliminary order of merit. Records close to the promotion quota cutline fall into the "gray zone." The board then conducts a series of quality reviews to resolve that gray zone. Afterward, they rescore all those records to establish the final order of merit to assign the remaining available quota.
At this point, the board has a preliminary list they must verify are "fully qualified" in accordance with Title 10, U.S.C., Section 14308. This step allows the board to acknowledge that all members recommended are not only the best qualified, but are also fully qualified for promotion.
Once the verification is complete, they will finish any remaining board actions, such as selective continuation. They will then certify that the board complied with the SECAF's instructions and then adjourn. Boards typically last one week, but may run longer to ensure members have enough time to give each record fair and equitable consideration.
PREPARING FOR THE BOARD
Lieutenant colonels and below who are preparing for a board should review their electronic officer selection on the vPC-GR Dashboard. Errors left uncorrected could have a negative effect on promotion opportunity. The eOSR vPC-GR application provides 24-7 online self-service to access, review, and submit documentation to correct and/or update records. Officers should not wait until the last minute to fix a discrepancy. Failure to take timely corrective action for an error or omission could prevent consideration by a future special selection board.
"The SECAF determines what are 'mandatory' documents for a promotion board," Carpenter said. "If those docs are not in order in a member's record, the board members notice. It is the member's responsibility to ensure records are in order."
Colonels interested in participating as board members should contact the Air Force Reserve Senior Leadership Management Office, AFRC/A1L, at (478) 327-1212, DSN 497.
For more information on the board process, refer to Air Force Instruction 36-2504, Officer Promotion, Continuation and Selective Early Removal in the Reserve of the Air Force.
Jon Hanson, Air Force Personnel, Services and Manpower Public Affairs, contributed to this article.