By Chief Master Sgt. Steven Lynch, 120th Airlift Wing Command Chief Master Sgt.
/ Published January 06, 2017
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Another year in the books! Last month Col. Smith summed up all of the outstanding accomplishments you achieved throughout the year. I am truly in awe as I reflect back to the same time last year. It seemed like a large mountain to climb yet I had no doubt as a team we would meet and exceed all the objectives. We flew through the end of conversion right into our first deployment in support of OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE.
As I look forward to this New Year I find myself asking, "What could we improve as an enlisted force within the wing?"
The first is PME, specifically SNCOA: Consider this: we had zero candidates for STEP II promotion to senior master sergeant (for the last two cycles) which was directly attributed to the lack of SNCOA. These are folks who had satisfied CCAF (or other secondary degree), Time In Grade, Time In Service and who would have been deemed ready for increased responsibility by their leadership. They had met all requirements except completing SNCOA.
What is the impact? You may be holding up others when you are not promotion ready. Negatively impacting your career is one thing, but a subordinate's career progression is another. This limits the depth of our bench; those available to replace us as we move on in our careers or into retirement.
A wide talent pool is not only healthy but important to ensure that the right individual is ready at the right time. An important note is that our ability to accomplish the mission could be at risk if we struggle to fill our deployment requirements due to manning shortfalls.
I challenge you to get enrolled in SNCOA as soon as possible. Take advantage of the two year timeframe and be ready when you become eligible.
I recently spotted a bit of billboard wisdom as I was driving around last week which read: "If you want to get ahead, get started." This really hits home.
The second issue relates to EPR's: we see it as a new requirement when it is something the ANG should have been doing all along and we owe our Airmen true feedback. We've learned much in the journey so far yet we struggle with the ability to accomplish them in a timely manner.
I believe the biggest limfac to timely completion is largely self-imposed. When we started down this road we brought in bullet writing experts, hosted classes, etc. Everyone tried to write the best bullets they could but the reality is this: as we strove for perfection we also held ourselves hostage. It seemed our expectation was centered on the "perfect bullet", but we got stuck in a repetitive churn within groups and squadrons.
EPR bullets never seemed quite good enough to closeout. Over and over they were returned to the raters for a re-hack not easily closed out without much repetition. In essence we were wasting a lot of precious time or missing a narrow window of opportunity especially if the rater, ratee etc. was a Traditional Guardsman.
I'd like to offer some helpful guidance: bullet writing is not an exact science, it's very subjective, and we are not PhD-level bullet writers. Let's not have that be the expectation, yes we should strive to improve over time and we've got to get ahead of the game.
This is where squadron CC's, group CC's, chiefs and first sergeants can help, please don't drive unrealistic an expectation for the writing level of bullets, as long as they are honest and accurate that's all that should matter.
I will caveat for those EPRs coming to the wing for stratification or Senior Rater Endorsement as the EPR should be written commensurate to that level.
Lastly, I would add that returns from the Total Force Service Center continue to challenge us. Better quality control from everyone in the approval chain is the only thing that can improve this. Take seriously your role as reviewers. There is no other agency at this time that will do this for us as we simply are not resourced.
Errors mostly involve shell or header data so let's take the time in our reviews. The learning curve will continue, some frustrations with changes in the latest rewrite of AFI 36-2406 are expected, so take the time to brush up.
Our goal must be to get in front of the static closeout dates and not let them exceed 30 days past the closeout date.
EPR's will continue to challenge us, again I ask group CC's, squadron CC's, chiefs and first sergeants to help your Airmen with this message let's make it achievable, remember it's your process.
In the December edition of the Big Sky Flyer Col. Smith challenged members to "Take the opportunity to reflect on your professional and personal success in 2016 with an eye toward elevating your aspirations for 2017." Aspiring to better prepare ourselves for future roles by enrolling in and completing SNCOA is indeed a great way to start the New Year!
Again, I thank you for everything you accomplished in 2016. You are all truly the best of the best! May you and your families have a blessed New Year!