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Big changes coming for NCO assignments

Career managers contact senior NCOs prior to changes

May. 6, 2013 - 09:04AM   |  
Senior noncommissioned officers who are pending reassignment routinely will be contacted by their career managers to discuss assignment options.
Senior noncommissioned officers who are pending reassignment routinely will be contacted by their career managers to discuss assignment options. (Staff)
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FORT KNOX, KY. — Senior noncommissioned officers who are pending reassignment routinely will be contacted by their career managers to discuss assignment options under new procedures launched here by Human Resources Command.

The new procedures, a first for enlisted soldiers, apply to sergeants first class and master sergeants of all career management fields. However, officials are hopeful that the NCO Contact Program will be extended to staff sergeants and below as the enlisted career branches refine methods for communicating assignment information.

The direct contact system has long been used by HRC’s Sergeant Major Branch as part of the reassignment process for E-9s, and those procedures will not change.

Soldier preferences frequently are determined by special considerations, such as membership in the Married Army Couples Program, the Exceptional Family Member Program or the need for a compassionate reassignment.

It is just such issues that prompted HRC to implement the NCO Contact Program.

It has been common practice for years “to dialogue with officers before making an assignment,” said Col. Bob Bennett, HRC’s director of enlisted personnel management, who previously has served as an assignment officer and branch chief in HRC’s officer directorate.

“We have had a certain level of professionalism when dealing with officers regarding reassignments, and we should be doing the same for noncommissioned officers,” said Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mustion, HRC commander. “We need to engage our NCOs and make sure we are sending the right person to the right place.”

As an example, Mustion said that if career managers have identified an NCO for a possible assignment to South Korea, they need to talk to the soldier to determine whether that is the right thing to do.

“Maybe the soldier has some family problems or other issues that should be [factored] into the reassignment process,” he said. “I think it’s unlikely we’ll ever get to the point we can contact every private in the U.S. Army about their assignments, but as we work our way forward, maybe there are some things we can do in this regard.”

Under one proposal being considered, HRC officials would work with brigade command sergeants major in engaging junior enlisted soldiers on reassignment matters.

Bennett said the Army has not routinely contacted enlisted soldiers before putting them on assignment instructions primarily because the ratio of soldiers to career managers is so much greater than with officers.

“For example, with CMF 13 Field Artillery, there might be one sergeant first class serving as a professional development NCO for 3,800 soldiers,” he said.

Bennett and his staff, with the support of Mustion, launched a three-month pilot this year to assess the feasibility of increasing communications between enlisted soldiers and career managers early in the assignment process.

The 90-day pilot focused on 4,100 sergeants first class and master sergeants in the aviation and transportation career management branches.

Within CMF 15 Aviation, one professional development NCO serves as career manager for about 1,900 sergeants first class and master sergeants.

Within CMF 88 Transportation, about 2,800 senior NCOs are served by one professional development NCO.

Over a 90-day period, career managers in these two branches generate about 400 reassignments for sergeants first class and master sergeants.

“HRC and [the Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate] had become too reliant on virtual communication, sacrificing the point-to-point and face-to-face communications,” Bennett said of the previous assignment procedures.

Under the new program, and its April 1 extension to sergeants first class and master sergeants of all career branches, “the initial and critical first step in the assignment process is to contact NCOs, either by telephone or email,” Bennett said.

“This will be the defining moment in the soldier’s perception of having a positive or negative assignment experience,” he said. “One of the things coming out of that pilot was how appreciative soldiers are to be contacted regarding their assignments.”

Another important finding from the pilot is how possible problems can be identified before assignment instructions are issued.

As an example, Bennett cited the case of a requisition to fill a sergeant first class instructor position with Training and Doctrine Command.

“Previously, we would have just issued an assignment instruction to a particular soldier, and that would have been that,” Bennett said. “Under the new program, the career manager telephoned a candidate for the position and determined that the soldier had a speech impediment that did not make him a good fit for the TRADOC job.”

The soldier and the career manager then looked at more appropriate reassignment options.

“Our big challenge now is getting to the staff sergeants and below,” Bennett said.

The combat arms and logistician branches will be particularly challenging because of their large populations, he said

“What I am trying to do is a better job educating and informing staff sergeants and below about assignment opportunities that are out there,” Bennett said. “For example, every career division now has quarterly newsletters that address how big issues going on in the Army are affecting specific [military occupational specialties].”

Bennett also noted that HRC is working on an upgrade to the Assignment Satisfaction Key, which will provide specific assignment option information to soldiers.

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