Board and panels demystified: A peek behind the curtain

How to ensure your record is ready for Promotion Year 2018 (PY18)

Written by Lt. Baron Rickenbaker and Lt. Toni Pehrson

Boards and Panels Staff are pictured outside Coast

Boards and Panels Staff are pictured outside Coast
Guard Headquarters: Petty Officer 3rd Class Curie Park, Lt. Baron
Rickenbacker, Petty Officer 3rd Class Antonio Gonzalez and Lt. Toni Pehrson. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Getting selected by a board to the next higher pay grade or selected for assignment, advanced education or other programs by a panel can seem like a perplexing endeavor. Who manages the boards and panels process? Who sits on the board or panel as membership? How do you ensure your best chances of selection? These are just a few of the questions that surround one of the most important missions of the Reserve Personnel Management (RPM) division at the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center.

The boards and panels staff consists of four individuals to include two lieutenants and two petty officers. Each promotion year the staff is responsible for the successful screening of over 900 candidate records for various selection boards and panels; 400 candidates for promotion, 77 candidates for Senior Command positions, 100 candidates for retention on the Inactive Status List (ISL) and 120 candidates for post graduate opportunities. In a few short months, Promotion Year 2018 (PY18) will kick off. Currently, the RPM Boards and Panels staff is wrapping up PY17 and working diligently to ensure the successful execution of PY18.

Often times the board and panel process is perceived as secretive and mysterious. Therefore the following questions and answers are intended to help demystify the board process and give you a greater understanding of how to ensure that you and your record are properly prepared for the upcoming PY.

How do I know whether/if I am in zone during the PY?

Before convening a promotion board, the Secretary (delegated by the Commandant) determines the total number of active duty officers to be selected and promoted to that grade the following year. Once the number is determined, a promotion zone is set consisting of that grade’s most senior officers on the Active Duty Promotion List (ADPL). What does this have to do with Reserve officers? Reserve officer promotions are dependent upon the active duty zone due to the “running mate” system. Each Reserve officer is assigned a running mate based on their date of rank and position on the Register of Officers. Reserve officers are then required to go in-zone when their running mate does. To assist the fleet with determining whether they are in-zone during a particular PY, RPM-1 releases a promotion year kick off message with zone estimates as well as a 30-day candidate announcement message prior to a promotion board. It is important to remember candidate lists can change up until the board/panel convenes based on a member’s status on any given day.

Who makes up the composition of a promotion board?

According to 14 U.S. Code 730, Reserve promotion boards are required to be a composition of no less than five members, of which 50 percent must be Reserve officers. All officers on the board must be senior in grade to any candidate being considered for promotion. Board members are screened for board/panel membership based on their records. This screening process ensures candidate records are being reviewed by high performing officers who represent our diverse Coast Guard and who understand the complex nuances of the Reserve workforce.

What items are presented to boards and panels?

Boards and panels are presented with multiple items to assist in making their selection decisions which include; a list of all candidates to be considered by the board, the “board/panel view” of the candidate’s Employee Summary Sheets (ESS), Reserve point balance statements from Direct Access, any applicable candidate application packages, communications to the board/panel (if applicable) and candidate’s Electronically Imaged Personnel Data Record (EI-PDR). COMDTINST 1410.2 provides a complete list of items viewable by selection boards/panels which include items such as OERs, educational transcripts, disciplinary documentation, and awards. Items not viewable by a board/panel include medical information, security clearance documents, and family documentation, such as birth and marriage certificates.

What makes me a competitive candidate?

There are a couple of ways to remain competitive for promotion. The best way is to have a complete and accurate record. This includes ensuring you have an up-to-date OER, have no missing OERs, have an updated ESS, and an accurate Reserve point balance statement. You can get a copy of your EI-PDR to make sure it is accurate. Instructions on how to get a copy of your EI-PDR can be found at http://www.uscg.mil/psd/mr/. Another way to remain competitive is to know what each board or panel will be looking for. Each Spring, the Commandant publishes specific guidance and expectation to board and panel membership. That document is, fittingly named, the “Commandant’s Guidance to Officer Selection Boards and Panels” and is located at http://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Human-Resources-CG-1/Personnel-Service-Center-PSC/Reserve-Personnel-Management-PSC-RPM/RPM-1/B-P/. This guidance includes the basic characteristics of successful officers and serves as the foundation for board/panel membership to use while building their selection criteria in which each candidate’s record will be evaluated. Selection criteria are neither published nor disclosed to any person who is not a member of the board or panel. Recommendations for selection can only be made from matters of a candidate’s official record. A selection cannot be made on rumor, hearsay or an opinion of a candidate. Per COMDTINST M1000.3 (series), Article 6.A.3, boards/panels are directed to use four pillars to establish criteria; performance, professionalism, leadership and education. Both documents mentioned above are great tools in helping you prepare for any board or panel. Ultimately, to quote famed NFL coach Bill Parcells: “You are what your record says you are.” So make sure your record is accurate because in the end, documented and sustained high performance is the best way to remain competitive.

How do I communicate with a board or panel and should I?

14 U.S. Code 730(d) gives officers eligible for promotion the opportunity to communicate directly to a board or panel, and PSC Instruction Note 1401 provides guidance on the allowable content of communications. Letters of communication must be received by RPM prior to the board/panel convening date. It is highly recommended the letters are received by RPM 14 days prior to the board/panel convening date to ensure legal review, if necessary, and are scanned electronically before the board/panel convenes. Keep in mind, the purpose of the Letter of communication is to address a specific matter within the member’s record. If the communication does not address a matter of record those parts of the letter will be redacted and not viewed by the board/panel membership. Most importantly, the submission or non-submission of a Letter of communication is not a deciding factor or tie-breaker when candidate records are evaluated.

The board is meeting next week. Can RPM put documents (OERs, college transcripts, awards, CG-4082s, etc.) into my record?

The short answer is no. To avoid the appearance of impropriety, the boards and panels staff will not add items to member’s records. You must follow proper procedures requesting any document to be added to your EI-PDR which can be found at https://www.uscg.mil/psd/mr/. Again, we recommend members request a copy of their EI-PDR from PSC Military Records Branch prior to any board/panel to ensure there are no missing documents. OERs for Reserve officers who are candidates for a scheduled board/panel shall not be delayed and must arrive at PSC RPM-1 no later than 14 days before the board or panel convening date per PSCINST M1611.1C. PSC RPM-1 will validate the OER and ensure it is sent to PSC Military Records for entry into the member’s EI-PDR. Other documents such as CG-4082’s, awards, college transcripts and qualification letters should be submitted by a candidate’s Servicing Personnel Office (SPO), marked “URGENT BOARD ENTRY”, which will then send the documents to PSC Military Records. Members who need college transcripts added to their records should follow the guidance provided by ALCOAST 043/16, “Degree Reporting Centralization and Validation of Current Degree Completions in Direct Access for Active Duty (AD) and Reserve (RES).”

Why did I go before the promotion board? My name was not on the candidate message?

Candidacy for Reserve officer promotion boards is fluid due to the continual changing of Reserve status and potential last-minute changes to the active duty promotion zone. Changes such as a movement from the ISL to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), a Reserve officer being released from Extended Active Duty (EAD), retirements, separations, or an ADPL officer being rehired into the Reserve could change the candidate pool up until the day the board convenes. If an officer moves into an active status whose running mate is in-zone for promotion, RPM-1 boards and panels staff will add that member to the candidate list. If the addition to the candidate list occurs after the 30 day candidate announcement message is published, RPM-1 will notify and work with the member and the member’s command to ensure a current OER or Letter of Communication is submitted/validated and presented before the board/panel.

I am a Reserve officer on EAD, why am I not a candidate on the Inactive Duty Promotion List (IDPL) board?

Candidacy on Reserve officer promotion boards is based upon a reservist’s status on the day the board convenes. Only Reserve officers in an active Reserve status (SELRES, IRR, or ASL) will be considered by a Reserve promotion board. If a Reserve officer is on EAD, they are considered to be active duty and are therefore placed on the ADPL and will compete with other active duty officers. Similarly, in-zone regular officers who have Reserve commission authorizations but have not been separated from active duty the day the board convenes will be candidates on the ADPL promotion board and not the IDPL promotion board.

How can I become a board or panel member?

Anyone may apply for board or panel membership as long as they are a lieutenant or above, have a complete and competitive military record and are not in-zone for the year in which the promotion board will take place. To apply to serve on a board/panel go to www.uscg.mil/rpm/rpm1/boards.asp. If selected for board/panel membership, members will be contacted via email by PSC RPM-1 staff. Applications for board/panel duty are retained for one year.

This article originally appeared in RESERVIST Magazine, issue 2, 2017. For more great content from RESERVIST Magazine, check out their website: http://www.reserve.uscg.mil/magazine/.

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