Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Failure to select

 The O-4 results are out, and there are lots of high fives and "Good job, SIR!" going around for those selected.  But there are plenty of people that didn't select, and for many of them it was a punch in the gut. I'm not the only one saying it.  So for the folks that didn't select, what do you say?

Luckily, a fan of this blog sent me a letter that really summarizes it well.  I'm reprinting it here in its entirety, as there was no piece I could bring myself to cut out.  While it's Information Warfare centered, it's not hard to replace a few words and make it apply to any warfare area.

Failure to Select

I’m guessing that you are still not sure what just happened.  I know because I was in your shoes last year.  You’ve done everything that was asked of you (PCS afloat, IA, big NIOC, cyber, grad school, etc.) and were certain that you would be selected for O-4 this year.  Certainly there were a couple of questionable details in your record, but they were all easily explainable.  Anyone could see that you didn’t break out because you were competing against the DHs on your DDG or you had only been onboard your current command for 4 months.  You are confident that you should have promoted this year and the board has just made a mistake.  What do you do now?

1. Take a week to sulk privately.  By the time this is actually posted, your week will already be over.  The time to feel sorry for yourself is over.  Snap out of it and start working to improve.

2. Identify the shortcomings in your record.

a. Take your OCD, PSR, and all of your LT FITREPs down to your CO and have him/her review them.  Identify each piece of paper in your record that could have placed a question in the selection board’s mind.

b. Get a second and third opinion.  Your current CO likely signed your previous FITREP.  You need an unbiased opinion.  Contact another current of former IW CO, detailer, or OCM.  It needs to be someone who has seen lots of records and understands how yours stacks up to the masses. 

3. Start working to cover the shortcomings that are identified. 

a. Your next FITREP will cover any previous FITREPs at your current command.  It really, really needs to be an EP.  Talk to your CO, find out what their expectations are of a LT. Wildly exceed them.

b. Contact your previous COs.  If a FITREP now reads lukewarm (i.e. consistently below RSCA on your DDG), let that CO know of your current situation.  “Hey sir, I just failed to select.  I’m trying to write a letter to next year’s board, but I’m having difficulty with the wording.  I’d like to explain the situation I faced while onboard USS NEVERSAIL and why I was always below your RSCA.”  Their reply will tell you everything you need to know.  Mine penned the letter to the board himself.  (Obviously, you have to forward all correspondence to Millington yourself.)


a. Rumor has it that this is the first item in your record that the board sees.  My original photo was taken in Aft O-Country with another JO holding a white bed sheet up as my backdrop.  Clearly not my best effort.

b. Some people recommend cutting that awkward belt loop off the right side of your 36” trousers.  This belt loop doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose, other than to tell the board that you have a 36” waist.  My belt loop is still there, but you might consider it.

5. Demonstrate confidence that you will be selected next year by committing to something that will take you beyond next July. 

a. I chose the distance JPME program.  Commit to something that will be of little value outside of the Navy, and everyone will know that you haven’t given up.

6. Start preparing for the worst. 

a. If you don’t get selected next year, you will have seven months from notification before you are released from active duty. Count your terminal leave back from there. 

b. Start saving money.  You don’t have much time. 

c. What can you do now to make yourself more marketable? Network+, Security+, go back to school?  Navy COOL, Tuition Assistance, GI Bill: all of these benefits are still your friend.  Online MBAs are all the rage.

7. Warn your family that you will be busy for the next year. 

a. You no longer have the “leisurely” tour you expected while you wait to put on O-4.  You will wake up early, you will get home late, you will stay up late.  You must run at a sprint like you are staying in the Navy, and you must run at a sprint like you are getting out of the Navy.  As a point of reference, I’m writing this at 2 AM because I just finished my MBA homework for the night.  Tomorrow morning is going to suck.

8. Maintain your positive attitude.  Your Sailors need/expect you to be on your game.

a. 99% of them have no idea that you just got passed over.  They need you to continue looking out for them as their DIVO or DH.  You still owe it to them to be your best.

b. As next July approaches, 99% of your Sailors learn about your situation.  They’re looking for who you react.  Maintain your professionalism.

c. As a side note, the happiness expressed by my Sailors has been the best part about this whole experience. They were legitimately concerned about my future, and their happiness at my selection was genuine. 

9. Get back to work.  Go back to step 3.a above.  Remember that you need an EP.  You should be working circles around everyone else.  Be the leader that your command needs.  Be a problem solver.

For anyone who has other gems like this, always feel free to email me!