What it takes for promotion or retention

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Steven Mys
  • 343rd Reconnaissance Squadron, commander
Have you wondered what it takes to get promoted? Or with Air Force retention at a 17-year high and current manpower exceeding what has been authorized by Congress, what it takes to be retained during the drawdown, reductions in force and selective early retirements?

The Air Force is full of highly qualified individuals deserving of promotion and retention, and it takes commitment to the Air Force, learning from others mistakes and striving for excellence to set you apart from the pack.

First, be committed to the Air Force. This includes seeking out and completing your professional military education and advanced academic degree. These are within your own control whether you accomplish them or not, and demonstrate a level of discipline required of our future leaders.

Completion shows a potential board that you have an interest in your career. On the contrary, failure to complete these sends a message that you do not care about your own career and makes it difficult for the board members to see your commitment to the Air Force. While not the primary focus of a board, lack of completion can often be a tie breaker for records that otherwise show equivalent performance.

Second, learn from others mistakes. I would like to believe that if I made a mistake I could learn from it and move on without jeopardizing my career. However as I've developed as an officer, some of the best lessons I've learned have been through experience. When I've made a mistake that embarrasses me, the memory of that blunder is so vivid that I do not ever repeat the same error.

But some mistakes are too egregious to make ourselves, and we need to learn from others. For example, driving under the influence of alcohol and offenses resulting in a letters of reprimand or an Article 15 immediately come to mind. Having these on your record are definite discriminating factors a board will see and use to differentiate between otherwise equally competitive individuals.

Third, strive for excellence. Be the best in your career field and become the subject matter expert for your Air Force Specialty Code. Thoroughly study and understand all the details and nuances of your weapon system and be able to employ it for maximum mission effectiveness and accomplishment; and demonstrate a depth of knowledge and experience in order to upgrade to an instructor and an evaluator. These are positions of leadership and are not just given out freely; they must be earned and cannot be expected just because you believe you're next in line.

In addition, a failure to reach the highest level of accomplishment available in these positions may give reason for pause to a board. Ultimately, boards will score your record against your peers based on performance and accomplishments.

Whether you are being considered by a board for promotion or retention, remember that your records must accurately represent who you are. Make sure your records show commitment to the Air Force, are void of any mistakes that others have made and they fully capture the impacts of your contributions to mission accomplishment.