He Said, She Said: Soldier frustrated over career advancement opportunities Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 August 2015
By Shaun and  Pamela Collins
Special to GUIDON
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I am a commissioned officer but due to my assignments, I haven’t deployed. Now I am in a position where I should be considered for company command, I am finding that one of the factors keeping me out of command is my lack of downrange  experience.

I have volunteered to go with other units, but I am being told I am “too valuable” here to be released. I suspect that it’s not about me being so valuable as it is if my position is vacant, the unit could lose the authorization in cuts. I want to be competitive, and I read how the lack of a combat patch is not supposed to be a discriminator, but you know it is.

What can I do? I am even considering transferring branches to something that can get me in a more competitive role.  Any thoughts on what to do or how I should proceed?

HE SAID:  When teaching career management in our advanced course during my last assignment before retiring, I reached out to our branch manager, obtained and presented trends from the past several boards in an attempt to show students how widely the discriminators often vary from one year to the next.  

The one discriminator that never seemed to vary was “performance.” If you have top-notch OERs, you are much more competitive than someone with advanced degrees or multiple deployments who has a diminished history of performance. I found that if you do the right things for the right reasons, your paperwork typically take care of themselves.  However, if you work for your paper (take credit for everything good, blame others for everything bad and always look out for number one), you will likely get exposed and your progression will suffer (not always, but these “leaders” don’t tend to survive mistakes – as everyone is gunning for them in the end).  

I am sure you will eventually get your opportunity to serve down range, but until that time, dedicate yourself to ensuring you are competitive and well rounded in all other areas — complete your advanced education, ensure you’ve had both leadership and staff positions … look at 600-3, ensure you have met as many milestones in your career progression model as possible and sit down with your leadership to let them know what your concerns are and see what they are willing to do to help you fill any voids.  

It’s been my experience that officers (all leaders actually) who are willing to ask for guidance will catch the watchful eye of their superiors … if they are stellar performers, they will stand out more than those who avoid the additional scrutiny.  At the end of the day, I’ve seen the Army get it right, and I’ve seen them get it wrong; so, understand, you are in charge of managing your career within the constraints of what you can control.  

Ensure you attend all of the professional military education you can, keep yourself well rounded, ensure your ORB, Photo and E-file are all congruent with one another and never shy away from the hard jobs.  

It’s okay to worry, that keeps you focused, it is not alright to allow your worry to blind you to the things you could control by focusing all of your attention to the things you cannot.

Make yourself a leader who is respected by superiors, peers and subordinates alike, the Army generally gets it right.  Despite the constant deployments over the past couple of decades, I’ve seen a good number of leaders rise to very high levels – even without combat experience.  

When it comes to mid-level promotions, such as the transition from captain to major, there are a lot of folks who have not been deployed who get promoted, generally because they just didn’t have the opportunity and the members of the board are well aware of this fact and can typically tell by reviewing a packet how switched on the officer is.  

As far as transferring to another branch, that might be a great idea, but you should also consider that you will then be competing for the command billets and promotions with officers who have done that job five to 10 years longer than you have; so I would make sure it is a branch that has a lot of mid-level officers transfer into it so you don’t do more harm than good.

I hope this helped — but you really need to find a mentor you can trust to tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. They are the mentors who will ensure you are ready for whatever comes next.

SHE SAID:  With the downsizing of the military, boards will likely use a number of discriminators for promotion.  My suggestion would be to get in touch with your branch manager and find out what you should do to make yourself competitive.  There are a number of things that you can do in your current position and within your control.  Good luck.

(Editor’s note: Shaun and Pamela Collins were both career Soldiers with a combined history of military service spanning over a half of a century. They have been where you are, so if you are facing a difficult situation, ask them. Send your question to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it This column and other original content from Mr. and Mrs. Collins can be found at http://militarysuccessnetwork.com. The opinions expressed are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office or the GUIDON.)
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 September 2015 )