Many things factor into preparing for a promotion board, whether studying Marine Corps history, brushing up on current events or just scrolling through an individually-generated checklist.
No matter one’s current rank in the Corps, at the end of the day, a “squared-away” Marine is in pursuit of getting selected for that next grade.
Some of the installation’s fellow Marines weighed in with suggestions, which may answer some questions on steps to improve one’s competitive edge when going before promotion panels or other boards.
According to Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Walters, company first sergeant, Headquarters and Support Company, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, although book-based knowledge is important, he advises Marines to “not get tunnel vision.”
“The first thing that comes to mind when a Marine starts thinking about a board is, ‘I’ve got to study, I’ve got to remember my knowledge, I’ve got to master all of it,’” Walters said. “That’s only one factor of the whole equation. Just like we do everything else, it’s the whole Marine concept. So, they have to look at the big picture. And, they can’t get that tunnel vision.”
When Walters, who was meritoriously promoted to his current rank, gives pointers to Marines on how to get the attention of many senior enlisted advisers sitting on promotion panels, he stresses “confidence” as one of the primary factors.
“That confidence factor not only shows how mature you are, but also it shows the panel how much room you have for potential growth,” he pointed out. “Your confidence, in how well you speak when you’re talking to a panel of senior enlisted advisers, speaks volumes about who you are as an individual.
“If you can go in there as a young Marine — whether you’re a young corporal or a young lance corporal — on a meritorious board and you can speak intelligently, with confidence to a group of sergeants major, it shows a lot about you and your character,” Walters emphasized. “(Confidence is) the key word; it’s key because that shows from the moment you walk into the room,” he added.
According to Walters, who has sat on numerous promotion boards, appearance, posture and how a Marine enters and exits a room is important; however, it is not the primary for some boards because many are video-teleconferenced. Local boards, on the other hand, require more attention to those details.
“When Marines report before the local board, they have to come in with their uniforms looking sharp and report the proper way,” Walters advised. “We do look at posture here – the way they sit down; sit up straight, left hand left knee; right hand right knee; head and eyeballs straight to the front and we teach them ‘no back on the chair.’”
Another Marine who has been through that rigorous Marine Corps scrutiny and evolved on the winning end is Staff Sgt. Johnnie M. Encarnacion, procurement specialist, Contracts Division, Marine Corps Logistics Command.
Encarnacion, who has been meritoriously promoted twice and was recently promoted to staff sergeant, offered some suggestions on the subject.
“First, seek self-improvement,” Encarnacion recommended. “Take a look at yourself, analyze your weaknesses and improve on them to be eligible for the board. It’s a big reflection before the initial preparation. You have to be true with yourself and focus on what needs to be improved on so that you can become competitive. Being competitive is not enough. You have to set yourself above the competition to be selected.”
Encarnacion continued his play-by-play advice to fellow Marines in steps he has taken to achieve his goals in front of sitting boards as well as promotion boards.
“Next, find out the criteria of the board,” he said. “For young sergeants, find out what you’re being evaluated on because you have years to prepare. (For starters), find out how fitness reports are being evaluated, the proper grading system. A lot of things that cause Marines to fail is (because) they don’t self-audit the information in their official military personnel file.
“The OMPF has all of your individual awards, your reporting sessions and, basically, it is 90 percent of the board; your master brief sheet is all that they see and what is reflected on your OMPF,” Encarnacion added.
In addition to self-improvement and familiarizing oneself with the board’s criteria, the staff sergeant gave suggestions for Marines to meet their education requirements as well.
“Be well-rounded in education, that includes professional military education and off-duty education,” he suggested. “Make sure to improve on all aspects — your firing capabilities with the pistol and the rifle; your mixed martial arts instruction; your physical capabilities; volunteering — showing that you are not only here to collect a paycheck, however, (to provide) service — because you joined to serve.
“So, again I emphasize, find out how you’re being evaluated,” he added. “Understand the process and at the beginning of each session. I recommend that you ask your officer in charge, ‘What do I need (to do) to become your No. 1?’ You have to have the courage to pursue becoming your OIC’s No. 1 as soon as you meet him or her. Give them that impression when you first meet them. Don’t just come to work and sit there (then) try to bargain with them on the day of trial.”
Finally, Encarnacion challenged Marines, “The best way to prepare for any meritorious board is to prepare before you are even being considered for a board.
“What I mean by that is — don’t just develop yourself as a Marine because you want to get promoted; develop yourself as a Marine because you want to be the No. 1, period. You want to be that one percent of the Corps. And, if it so happens that you’re recognized and they put you up on the board, you’re prepared for it, regardless.”