Pathway to Promotion

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
The Malmstrom Big Sky Top 3 hosted their third Pathway to Promotion Program, or P3, March 17 at the Grizzly Bend, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

P3 provides non-commissioned officers the opportunity to sit down with senior enlisted leaders and have a one-on-one mentoring interview focusing on the factors that are assessed when selecting eligible NCOs on promotion boards. Each NCO was then teamed up with a senior master sergeant or chief master sergeant outside of their career field to get an unbiased, outside perspective on where they might rank when compared to their peers in other career fields.

"I created the program at Kadena (Air Base) when I was the mission support group superintendent and we had 1,200 enlisted Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Phillip Easton, 341st Missile Wing command chief. "I wanted to make sure that we provided an opportunity for someone outside of their functional area to look at their records, because a lot of times Airmen are not successful, not because we don't want to be successful, but because they do not know how to be successful."

The mentors thoroughly reviewed the promotion records of each participant and gave an honest feedback on their evaluation of their enlisted performance reports. During the feedback, the NCOs learned about specific factors that are helping and those that could potentially hurt career progression.

"The candid feedback I received from my mentor has reassured me that I'm on the right path and confirmed the fact that I still have my work cut out for me," said a P3 participant on a feedback form.

A common theme that the NCOs learned was that while someone might be earning great ratings and excelling in their career field, they might not stand out against their peers in other career fields.

"I'm so passionate about this because my first nine years in the military I didn't get a feedback and I didn't really know what I was supposed to do," said Easton. "I thought it was all about work, work, work and then when my first supervisor sat me down with a feedback and told me - hey you need to be great at your job but you also need to show self-improvement."

The idea behind the program was to help show enlisted Airmen that promotion boards look at the whole Airman concept and that diversity is important in all sections of their EPRs throughout the years.

The following are some of the senior enlisted leaders recommendations on diversifying EPRs:
- Try to do different things every year and make sure you are not volunteering for the same event every year. If you do an on-base volunteer event, maybe next year do an off-base event. 
- They look at the diversity in awards too. Reach further than just internal career field awards. Shoot for wing, major command and Air Force level awards.
- Be involved as an active member in organizations. Rather than just being a part of a group, try being on the committee, board member or something that reflects leading the organization.
-  If someone already has a degree then substitute self-improvement bullets with Air Force courses such as AFSO21 or John Maxwell.

In addition to learning about items evaluated on the boards for master sergeant, P3 participants got an insight on how to be a better supervisor to help start their Airmen on the right path.

"My mentor went through my EPRs, and taught me how to be a better supervisor," said Staff Sgt. Johnathan Hudock, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron hardened inter-site cable systems supervisor. "My biggest takeaway was how to relate everything to my subordinates and help them further their progression. After I went back to the shop I looked through my Airmen's records to identify what I need to do differently (as a rater) based on everything I learned."

When the program was opened to staff and technical sergeants the participation went up. Most senior NCOs already know what they need to do to make the next rank. Now that the process of selection for master sergeant has changed, more junior NCOs want to learn how to prepare themselves for the next tier.

"The new master sergeant board process looks at up to 10 years worth of records and are going to have EPRs that say senior airman or airman first class on it, so Airmen need to know that information a lot sooner than later," said Master Sgt. Rebecca Clark, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of the facilities maintenance section and member of the Top 3 leadership committee.

The program has never received any negative feedback. The most common and repeated feedback was that the program exceeded the participants' expectations and participants wish this mentorship program was offered to them earlier in their career, said Top 3 leadership in charge of P3.

Many of the participants walked away with new goals and a plan to get started on their pathway to promotion.

"My mentor was very knowledgeable in every aspect of each topic, helped me formulate a clear path for not only promotion but becoming a more well-rounded NCO in general," said a P3 participant on a feedback form. "It surpassed my expectations and instead of just gaining information I've formulated a plan for use and how to be a more diverse, useful NCO."

"I don't want our Airmen to suffer like I did," said Easton. "You shouldn't have to wait until you are a technical sergeant select, a couple of years from testing for master sergeant, especially now with the boards that are happening this year. You can't wait until late in your career to have somebody come into your life and mentor, mold and develop you."

The program is held quarterly and the next event is planned to take place at the end of the second quarter of the year. Individuals can sign up by reaching Master Sgt. Eric Greene at 731-2033 or Clark at 731-4234.