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9 Ways The Army's New NCO Eval Is Just As Flawed As The One It Replaced
On Jan. 1, 2016, the U.S. Army rolled out a new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report, or NCOER, to replace the one the service had used to rate enlisted leader performance since the late 1980s. Needless to say, it was a long-overdue upgrade. But it should have been only a first step.
The new evaluation was "designed to help better identify NCOs with the top potential, best talent, eliminate inflation, reinforce rating chain accountability and align the NCOER with current doctrine," according to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daley. The previous version — deemed “highly inflated and too generic” by the current head of the Army’s Evaluations, Selections and Promotions Division — was scrapped after a review found that roughly 90% of senior NCOs had been rated the “most qualified,” making it difficult to determine who should be promoted above their peers.
The changes looked good on paper. As a senior NCO who also believed the old evaluation system was deeply flawed, I figured that whatever the Army had come up with would be an improvement. But in the two years since the new system was implemented, it has become increasingly apparent that the changes were not enough. Like its predecessor, the new NCOER does not accurately measure job performance and leadership potential. And it can hardly be relied upon to assess an NCO’s eligibility for promotion. The NCO Corps deserves a lot better.
Here are nine reasons the Army needs to go back to the drawing board with NCO evals:
1. There’s not enough peer input.
We all know which of our coworkers pull their own weight and which are happy to let others pull it for them. But the new NCOER doesn’t provide a space for peer input, which means there’s only one person a ratee needs to impress: their rater. It doesn’t matter if everyone else hates their guts. Ranger School has long relied upon peer evaluations to help assess leadership potential. Why doesn’t the Army as a whole?
2. Bullet points don’t tell a soldier’s story.
Evaluation bullet points are no longer than a single tweet. Tweets, however, can be threaded. Bullets cannot. Each one must be a complete thought. It requires a lot of writing talent to convey the full impact and complexity of, say, planning and executing dozens of convoys through Iraq in 2004 in only 140 characters. Unless your rater is Ernest Hemingway, it’ll probably look something like this: “Successfully completed over 100 combat logistics patrols covering 3,000 miles during OIF II.”
3. NCOs are subjected to their evaluators’ limitations.
Nothing factors into promotions more than the NCOER, but no basic writing proficiency is required to be a rater or senior rater. A rater with strong writing skills can make a good NCO look great on paper. Sloppy writing, on the other hand, can make an exceptional NCO look unimpressive. The new writing requirements in NCO education might eventually help improve proficiency across the force, but a more efficient way to address this issue would be to offer courses focused specifically on bullet point writing at the brigade or battalion level.
4. Formal reviews have outlived their usefulness.
On that note: The Army is still stuck on an industrial-age annual evaluation system, but the latest research shows that, as the Society for Human Resource Management put it, “individual performance ratings have absolutely zero correlation with actual business results.” Cutting-edge private companies, such as GE, Accenture, and Microsoft, no longer use annual performance reviews. Instead, they rely on frequent informal reviews focused on nurturing individual growth rather than tallying accomplishments. The Army should follow suit. Nobody should have to wait that long to learn what their superiors really think about their job performance.
5. Counseling isn’t personal or honest enough.
Counseling sessions used to be face-to-face and could occur anywhere. With the shift from paper to digital forms, counseling sessions have become less personal. Under the previous system, sessions were had substantive and productive conversations with my rater as we developed my evaluation together. Now I just respond via email, a medium not conducive to the types of frank and honest conversations that leads to an evaluation all parties accept.
6. No clear standards exist.
What warrants a negative rating is clear: a DUI, a founded harassment claim, failing to complete an assigned task, and so on. Higher ratings are more subjective. For example, in many professional development sessions over my career, I’ve heard that earning the APFT badge as a sergeant 1st class nets you a high rating. But I’ve also heard that what the ratee does matters less than what their subordinates accomplish. Sergeants major enforce their own standards — and some standards are much lower than others. The rating inflations will continue until there’s one standard across the force.
7. Quotas blur honest evaluations.
Senior raters are prohibited from rating more than 24% of the individuals they senior rate as “most qualified,” the highest rating possible. A top-performing NCO may be denied the highest rating for no other reason than the 24% limit, in which case the NCOER is not an accurate reflection of their potential. Imagine winning Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and not being able to receive the highest rating from your senior rater. That is possible under the new system. Either remove the restriction or increase it to the old limit of 49%, which is far more reasonable and matches the limits on commissioned officers.
8. Evals force NCOs to tick a lot of boxes without proven results.
All evaluations must state how well the individual supported the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention program. All evaluations include generic bullets that are variations of “supported SHARP program.” This bullet replaces an opportunity to review the NCO’s actual performance. With such limited space, every word on the NCOER counts, and generic bullets such as these do nothing to convey an NCO’s true leadership potential. The SHARP bullet should be removed.
9. NCO evaluations under-emphasize actual job-specific knowledge.
Nowhere on the new form is a measure of the NCO’s job knowledge. NCOs are supposed to be technically proficient, but it’s hardly required as far as promotions go. Mission completion is valued more than actually being good at your job. A mechanic NCO may not know the difference between a starter and a brake drum, but if he was lucky enough to inherit a group of squared away soldiers who keep the fleet mission ready while he twiddles his thumbs, he’ll have a stellar NCOER.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.