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Board offers perspective on STEP II promotions

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKHURST, N.J. --

More than 250 Reserve Citizen Airmen tacked on another stripe Oct. 1 after being selected by the Stripes for Exceptional Performers II board.

STEP II is a commander's program designed to promote the most deserving Airmen, especially those who are blocked from promotion due to a lack of position vacancies common in Reserve units.

“The opportunity for promotion can become very limited in some communities,” said Chief Master Sgt. Erika Kelly, Air Force Reserve Command’s command chief master sergeant. “The STEP II program gives the deserving individual an opportunity to compete for promotion in front of a neutral panel.”

The board, which consisted of two separate panels of five senior NCOs, convened at the Air Reserve Personnel Center July 24-28 to consider individuals for promotion to the grade of technical sergeant through chief master sergeant.

Kelly said all of the units that submit nomination packages to highlight their Airmen have a good chance helping those Airmen earn a promotion.

“The strongest packages are the ones that will rise to the top,” she said. “And, in many cases, it is clear to the panel members who is deserving and who might not be ready yet.”

One of the panels focused on reviewing nomination packages for prospective technical and master sergeants.

Senior Master Sgt. Alphonzo Glover, wing inspections superintendent with the 513th Air Control Group at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, served on the panel and said he was looking for Airmen who demonstrate potential to excel at their next rank.

Glover said future technical sergeants should demonstrate that they are highly skilled technicians while exhibiting supervisory and training experience.

When evaluating future master sergeants, however, Glover said leadership is a much more important factor.

“I was looking for individuals who had mastered their craft and took strides to have more of a leadership presence in their organizations and in the Air Force as a whole,” he said.  

Glover said he also tried to look at each nominee’s entire body of work and take into account the opportunities or limitations associated with particular career fields.

Going forward, Glover said, he will advise promotion-worthy Airmen in his unit to demonstrate sustained success and job expertise while seeking opportunities to grow outside their primary career field.

“It’s a big Air Force, and there are some cool opportunities out there,” Glover said.

The panel that evaluated future senior and chief master sergeants had far fewer promotions to award, so they had to scour each nomination package in search of the key details and accomplishments that would separate the great from the very good.

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Safley, who is serving as the 301st Fighter Wing command chief master sergeant at Naval Air Station Ft. Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, served on the senior and chief panel and said he was impressed by most of the nomination packages.

“The Air Force Reserve Command is full of superstars,” he said. “It’s very humbling to sit on any board and look over what our Citizen Airmen are doing.”

Safley said the program is in place to promote exceptional performers, and that while there is no specific list of checkboxes that determine what is and what isn’t considered exceptional, he said certain accomplishments caught the panel’s attention.

The most competitive packages had multiple Community College of the Air Force degrees, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. He also said those Airmen who completed optional professional military education such as the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Leadership Development Course and Senior Enlisted Joint Professional Military Education, part I and II, helped separate the strong packages from the pack.

While education and development were important factors, Safley said he was looking for leaders who know how to take care of their Airmen.

“It's essential to show quantitative development of your people,” he said. “There are opportunities in each wing to lead and develop others.”

Kelly echoed Safley remarks and provided several examples of leadership opportunities. She said senior noncommissioned officers can demonstrate leadership by mentoring Airmen, participating in professional organizations, contributing to wing-level functions, taking charge of awards and decorations programs and helping Airmen develop and earn promotions.

As the STEP II program moves forward, Kelly said she would like commanders become more involved.

“It is extremely important for officers and commanders to understand how they can use the STEP II program better, how they can recognize Airmen in a different light, and how, as a team, we can make each other stronger.”

 

Tips for preparing for the STEP II board

Nomination Package

  • Meet all instructions as described in the STEP II guide
  • Ensure accuracy and consistency between bullets and personnel records
  • Ensure all records are current
  • Emphasize breadth of experience
  • Ensure latest decoration occurred within past three years STEP II board

 

Bullet Writing

  • Emphasize the leadership and development of Airmen
  • Maximize the use of space (eliminate white space and sub-bullets)
  • Describe a quantifiable impact
  • Stratification and senior-rater endorsement are recommended
  • Ensure best bullets are displayed prominently