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When preparation meets opportunity

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla -- Recently I was asked to serve as an action officer for the Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs Development Team, at the Air Reserve Personnel Center, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado. What is that other than a bunch of spelled out acronyms? Well it’s an opportunity for you to communicate with the public affairs leadership about your career goals and aspirations through your R-ODP (Reserve Officer Development Plan).

I’m sure everyone has seen the emails imploring you to fill out your R-ODP and if you’re like me you’ve thought, “I’ll get to it when I have time.” It’s one of those things you fill out and you’re not sure where it goes or who reads them, so I’m here to give you an idea of what goes on behind the curtain at ARPC.

The team I was part of included nine officers, Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels, one civilian and five senior enlisted members to evaluate both officer and enlisted records. The group of officers represented all Reserve statuses including ARTs, IMAs, a civilian and one active duty member, to provide a diverse group when evaluating the records.

In my group we spent the first day and a half evaluating the 65 majors that filled out their R-ODP. The panel looked at everything including deployment history, recent awards or decorations, military and post graduate education, and the supervisor stratifications on OPRs. The panel took this information and gave each individual a numerical rank, with the top 10% or so being placed on the Key Personnel List.

Once the evaluations conclude, the vectoring process begins. This is where the panel takes the information gathered during the evaluation portion, along with the member’s short, mid, and long term goals on the R-ODP, and provides suggestions on what schools to attend or different positions for which they would be a good fit. Typically those Citizen Airmen who land on the KPL are the ones recommended for command positions or senior level IMA positions.

From what I saw, this process was beneficial for both the command and the Reservist. It gives the command a good overall view of the strength of the career field and it allows them to offer those members looking for career advancement vacant positions throughout the command.

If you’ve ever thought, “Does anyone actually read these and take my goals into consideration?” I’ll tell you they do. If you have a goal of becoming a wing public affairs officer, or an IMA near your home town, there’s a good chance you will get there if you meet the requirements. If you want a career broadening opportunity in another career field or spend a few years on an active duty tour, those are options as well.

That’s the great thing about the AF Reserve in my opinion. They focus on the people, then the mission, and provide us with the flexibility and freedom to make our careers what we want them to be.

While I was inputting notes from a panel member as he recommended someone apply for the new Combat Camera squadron commander position at Joint Base Charleston S.C., I thought about a quote I heard a long time ago.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

This major he was recommending to apply for the job had great stratifications in her OPRs, deployment experience, PME completed, and all of the items they look for in someone who may be ready for a squadron commander position. I’ve known this major for years, and I can’t say if she really wants that position, but by completing those necessary requirements it has opened a lot more doors for her.

I also saw a few Citizen Airmen who had family commitments that required them to stay where they are for the time being and the team honored those wishes too.

It’s not an exact science, some people may look much more capable on paper than they are in person, but for the most part the process works. The biggest take away for me was to hit those milestones, work hard for your boss, and doors will open for you in ways you may not be able to see right now.

So the next time you see the email asking you to fill out your R-ODP, take a few minutes and think about what you want to get out of your time in PA and the Reserve. Commanders and PA directors come and go, so it’s up to you to make your own luck.