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Brown bag seminars held at 120AW

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith discusses Enlisted Performance Report stratification with Airmen during a brown bag lunch held in the wing dining facility Feb. 24, 2016. Col. Smith plans to have a brown bag lunch event held on base at least once a month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith discusses Enlisted Performance Report stratification with Airmen during a brown bag lunch held in the wing dining facility Feb. 24, 2016. Col. Smith plans to have a brown bag lunch event held on base at least once a month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith discusses Enlisted Performance Report stratification with Airmen during a brown bag lunch held in the wing dining facility Feb. 24, 2016. Col. Smith plans to have a brown bag lunch event held on base at least once a month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith discusses Enlisted Performance Report stratification with Airmen during a brown bag lunch held in the wing dining facility Feb. 24, 2016. Col. Smith plans to have a brown bag lunch event held on base at least once a month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith discusses Enlisted Performance Report stratification with Airmen during a brown bag lunch held in the wing dining facility Feb. 24, 2016. Col. Smith plans to have a brown bag lunch event held on base at least once a month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith discusses Enlisted Performance Report stratification with Airmen during a brown bag lunch held in the wing dining facility Feb. 24, 2016. Col. Smith plans to have a brown bag lunch event held on base at least once a month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- 25 members of the 120th Airlift Wing attended the first brown bag lunch seminar hosted by 120AW Commander Col. Lee Smith in the wing dining facility Feb. 24.

The lunchtime event provides wing leadership the opportunity to share new information and their insight with Airmen.

The topic of the first lunch concerned the stratification process used in the EPRs (Enlisted Performance Reports), how the 120 AW will implement them and how it will impact the careers of Airmen.

"My personal philosophy is that strats are not something to be afraid of," Col. Smith said. "It's not going to be a huge career impact."

Col. Smith said the reason the Air Force changed the enlisted evaluations was due to a preponderance of Airmen receiving "firewall 5s" (highest rating) EPRs.

"The assumption was everyone starts out at a 5 and are marked down from there, as opposed to everyone starting out in the middle and going up or down," Col. Smith said. "It became very difficult to distinguish your top performers from your middle, and even bottom performers."

He said that the active-duty WAPS (Weighted Airmen Promotion System) placed more emphasis on time-in-grade and time-in-service, rather than work performance.

"That caused the Air Force to reevaluate how they do WAPS, how they evaluate Airmen," Col. Smith said. "That's what drove the changes."

The Air Force has since changed the promotion process to place more emphasis on performance and less on the seniority of Airmen.

He said the Montana Air National Guard promotes its Airmen differently than the Air Force.

"We don't even use EPRs in promotion boards," Col. Smith said. "Whether or not you get firewall 5's or whether or not you get a top 10 or 20 percent strat as a senior or a master sergeant doesn't impact your promotion opportunities at all, so that should relieve a lot of stress in that regard."

He said the MTANG may place more weight using EPRs with future promotion boards as the organization gains additional experience with the system. 

Strats are currently used in MTANG EPRs to identify the top 20 percent of senior master sergeants and the top 10 percent of master sergeants. This information is only gathered for use by the wing commander and not used at the squadron or group level.

Col. Smith highlighted the promotion differences between the Guard and active duty. He said an Air Force technical sergeant will be scored against all other technical sergeants in the active duty service, irrespective of their Air Force Specialty Codes. The guard promotes to a position vacancy, which means only the technical sergeants in the given shop will compete for the master sergeant position. Stratification will likely not impact someone's ability to receive a promotion.

"I think from a commander's perspective or a shop supervisor's perspective it's good to have a strat list so you have that communication with your Airmen," Col. Smith said. "Strats are a tool to access an Airman against their peers."

Col. Smith plans to continue the lunchtime meetings on a monthly basis or to have additional meetings as necessary. He encourages individuals with suggestions for future brown bag lunch topics to send them to the Wing Executive Staff Officer, Maj. Maureen Maphies.
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