With reenlistment rates extraordinarily high and attrition historically low, Navy leaders are counseling Sailors to take a more active role in their careers. Submarine Sailors have always known that a successful career requires superior performance over the long term, but in today's competitive Navy, it is also important for Sailors to take an active role in making sure their performance is well documented.
"Sustained superior performance—it's almost a proverb, but it is true now more than ever," said Master Chief Kevin Sullivan, a fleet counselor for U.S. Fleet Forces Command. "[There are] more Sailors wanting to remain on active duty than the Navy has billets for. Documenting positive performance, whether on a performance evaluation or by specific recognition will enhance a Sailor's ability to stand out from his or her peer group when requesting rating designation, rating conversion, a Perform to Serve (PTS) quota, or calculating an advancement examination final multiple score."
The need for competitive performance now begins the day a Sailor enters the Navy. "Every action has a consequence," Sullivan noted, "some positive and some negative." Performance is something an individual Sailor has a lot of control over. Sailors can increase their chances for good evaluations by focusing on doing their best and improving their skills.
"Perform your job as if everything depended on it—for your shipmates, it might; for you, it does," said Sullivan. "Gone are the days when a Sailor can get by with marginally satisfactory performance and expect to make the decision to reenlist three days before the end of active obligated service (EAOS). PTS requires first-term Sailors to make long-term, often life-changing decisions earlier than ever before while just getting started into their Navy career."
Jim Price, director of the Performance Evaluation Division at Navy Personnel Command (NPC), adds that high performance alone is not enough. It is just as important for Sailors to make sure that their performance is correctly documented. "The Sailors must realize that they are responsible for the accuracy of their official record," Price said. "They must get in the habit of periodically checking their record and not waiting until just prior to a selection or promotion board."
Sailors with Command Access Card (CAC) access can check their record at any time on BUPERS Online (BOL) at https://www.bol.navy.mil. On BOL, they can review three key records:
• The Performance Evaluation Continuity Report: Sailors can access their individual continuity report to see the continuity of all performance evaluations submitted on them going back to January 1996. The Performance Evaluation Continuity Report also identifies breaks in continuity, rejected reports and selection board convening dates.
• The Official Military Personnel File (OMPF): Sailors can access their OMPF to view the documents a selection board would review.
• The Performance Summary Record (PSR): Sailors can also access their PSR, which summarizes their professional and performance history. Selection boards use the PSR along with the OMPF.
Sailors without CAC access can still go to BOL on the Internet and use it to order these records on CD.
Of course, the increasing need for Sailors to review their own records doesn't mean that supervisors have less impact on a Sailor's career. The role of supervisors remains as critical as ever. They continue to be responsible for understanding the process and making sure it remains fair and effective.
"The supervisor is the link between the Sailor and the rest of the command," said Master Chief Sullivan. "Perception is not always reality, but if the supervisor perceives that a Sailor is a sub-par performer, the Sailor will have a difficult time convincing the command otherwise. Supervisors need to be fair and consistent, show no preference based on anything other than performance."
"Deckplate supervisors need to be well-versed on the PTS business rules. Leaders definitely need to understand the evaluation ranking business," said Master Chief Laura Paquian, a career counselor for the Naval Surface Force. "Is your last 'must promote' really as good as your first one? Are Sailors truly of the same quality? Are we grading them on long-term potential for continued service or just trying to increase our advancement numbers? Grade the Sailors on what they earn!"
More broadly, supervisors are responsible for mentoring Sailors in setting and achieving career goals that will enable them to realize their full potential. For example, the Navy encourages Sailors to take advantage of education services and courses such as those available through Navy Knowledge Online at https://www.nko.navy.mil. "It is imperative as leaders that we [command teams] are staying fully engaged in our Sailors' futures," wrote Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick D. West in a recent edition of his "Bottom Line: Up Front" newsletter (available at http://www.navy.mil/mcpon).
Navy career counselors support both Sailors and supervisors in career development. "Our responsibility is to ensure that every Sailor is 'brought to the table,'" said Master Chief Sullivan. "This means providing proper sponsorship to get the new Sailor off on the right foot, conducting a thorough command indoctrination to establish expectations, performing career development boards (CDB) on schedule to ensure our Sailors have the latest career information and are moving in the right direction, entering our Sailors into PTS on time to ensure that they receive maximum 'looks,' and conducting proper pre-separation counseling for any Sailor electing to separate or being directed to do so."
Cmdr. Thomas "T.R." Buchanan, commanding officer of USS Albany (SSN 753), congratulates Chief Petty Officer Robert J. Mueller after presenting him the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer)
CDBs let Sailors know how they are doing, where they can improve and what leadership expects from them. They also provide an opportunity for supervisors and Sailors to map out long-term objectives.
"CDBs are more critical now than they've ever been in the past," wrote West. "It is our responsibility as leaders to ensure we are conducting CDBs and providing our Sailors with all available information and options in order to keep them on a successful naval career path. It is also the responsibility of our Sailors to ensure they've weighed all their options when making their career decisions."
A Sailor's career history should demonstrate his or her job scope, leadership and a trend of increased responsibility and performance. Sailors should begin looking toward the future as soon as they sign on.
"A promotion recommendation of 'Progressing' or 'Significant Problems' mid-way through an initial four-year hitch may eliminate any chance of receiving a PTS quota for reenlistment," said Sullivan. "With the PTS window opening 12 months prior to EAOS, and the two previous regular periodic evaluations being used to determine a Sailor's PTS eligibility, a 'Progressing' evaluation one-and-a-half years into a first hitch may still be with the Sailor at the time of PTS application."
But as essential as advancement is, it is not the only thing a Sailor needs to build a good career history. A clean record is also important. "From the E-1 to the O-10, we are being held accountable for our actions," said Chief Petty Officer Jayne Epaloose, an immediate superior-in-command career counselor based in San Diego. "One non-judicial punishment (NJP), no matter how minor the infraction, can end a Sailor's career before it starts."
"Get a mentor that will be brutally honest with you," she counsels Sailors. "Your mentor is there to make you a better Sailor, not coddle you."
At the other end of the behavior spectrum, awards and qualifications are also important in building a career. Supervisors need to keep in mind the emphasis Navy leadership puts on recognizing a Sailor's accomplishments as quickly as possible. "Recognition in anything other than a timely manner cheapens the act, whether it is a simple, 'Nice job, shipmate,' or an award that counts as points toward an advancement exam," said Sullivan. "Delivery on time can make the difference between Sailors knowing that their efforts are appreciated or deciding that 'this Navy thing' just isn't for them. An award delivered late can adversely affect selection for advancement, with the resulting impact on morale, PTS selection and, ultimately, retention."
However, it is the Sailors themselves who must make sure their award information is accurate and up-to-date. The Navy has a couple of websites to help them do that. To make sure that their award data is complete, they can visit the Navy Department's "U.S. Navy Awards" Web page at https://awards.navy.mil. To reconcile and update awards, they can visit the Naval Personnel Command (NPC)'s "Awards/Decorations/Medals" Web page at http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/career/recordsmanagement/pages/AwdDecorMedal.aspx.
The challenge of building careers in today's competitive Navy demands close collaboration among Sailors, supervisors, and career counselors, but the ultimate responsibility lies with each Sailor. In the end, it is the Sailor who must demonstrate the will to excel, the wisdom to make good plans, the self-discipline to avoid pitfalls—and diligence in making sure the official record reflects the resulting achievements.
For more information about performance, visit the NPC website at www.npc.navy.mil.
Wm. Cullen James is a writer and editor with Navy Personnel Command's public affairs office.