Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler (Army)
Soldiers recite the Oath of the Noncommissioned Officer during an induction ceremony. The Army is redesigning NCOs' performance reviews. (Spc. Terence Ewings / Army)
The new NCO leader development strategy supports a 32-year career timeline for most noncommissioned officers to make rank at these points:
4.5 years: Sergeant
8 years: Staff sergeant
14 years: Sergeant first class
20 years: Master sergeant
25-26 years: Sergeant major
Plans for a new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report call for several innovations that are sharply different from the current rating system, including three different NCOERs, according to Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler.
“There are some things we want to do with this report that we have never done before,” Chandler said Aug. 7 in an exclusive interview with Army Times. “As long as I have been in service, we either had an Enlisted Evaluation Report or the NCOER, and they were reports where one size fits all in terms of not having different versions for different ranks.
“With revisions that we want to put in place during the fall of next year , there will be three different NCOERs,” he said.
The NCO rating system will be aligned with leadership doctrine, similar to pending changes to the Officer Evaluation Report, which launches in December. The new NCOER will focus on three levels:
Tactical: At this level, the one report for sergeants and staff sergeants will be designed to evaluate a soldier’s ability to do his or her job and meet Army standards for performance.
“One of the things we have addressed in this report is counseling and ensuring that it has been performed by the raters,” Chandler said. “In our current form, we have four blocks that address counseling. In the new report, that soldier will be required to validate that. The soldiers will do that with a Common Access Card.”
Another significant feature of the tactical level report is that the senior rater will have to conduct at least two counseling sessions during the rating period. Senior raters normally are supervisors two ranks or two leadership levels above the rated soldier and are responsible for assessing the promotion potential of the rated soldier.
“These counseling sessions will be used to reinforce the potential portions of the report that the senior rater is responsible for,” Chandler said.
Another feature of the new report is a clear delineation between performance, a rater function, and potential, a senior rater function, Chandler said.
“The current report designates the senior rater to assess overall performance, but we’ve taken that out and given it to the rater (normally a soldier’s direct supervisor),” he said. “The senior rater will be strictly focused on potential.”
Sergeants will be rated under the new system, as they are now, but their E-5 reports will be masked when they are considered for promotion to sergeant first class, just as reports for lieutenants and junior warrant officers are masked when the officers are boarded for major and chief warrant officer 3.
Organization: The second-grade plate under the new system will be used to evaluate sergeants first class and master sergeants, leaders at the organizational level.
“These evaluations will be similar to what we’re doing now, but we do believe there may be enumeration for the senior rater, which is similar to the senior rater section of the Officer Evaluation Report, and which limits the number of people who can be given a top rating,” Chandler said.
The Army will continue to use the box checks of “excellence,” “success” and “needs improvement,” but they will be aligned with the leader competencies and attributes of Army Doctrine Reference Publication 6-22 (Leadership).
Chandler said the issue of enumeration will be looked at over the next year, “and we’ll decide if [it should] be used with this group.”
Strategic: The third-grade plate of the new rating system will be limited to sergeants major.
“This section will have enumeration, but the evaluations will be provided in narrative rather than in bullet comments,” Chandler said. “It is taking on some aspects of the old Enlisted Evaluation Report and the OER, and will focus on leadership competencies at the strategic level and actions relating to organizations, rather than some specific action at the tactical level.
“For example, a tank commander at the tactical level will be measured on how well his crew does in qualification gunnery. That would be a measure of both leadership and competence,” Chandler said.
“For the sergeant major, we are going to look at things like management expectations for Army programs and [Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention] in terms of whether or not there has been a decrease in sexual assaults and harassment in the organization during the rating period.”
Changes at the strategic level are being driven by comments from selection board members who have reported they have a hard time assessing what the current NCOER says about senior leaders.
Impact on professionalism
Chandler said the NCOER development team is following the work being done on the new OER, especially in enumeration, “because this is fundamentally different than what we have done with our NCOs in the past.
“This means that the brigade commander is going to have a profile to manage for the six or seven battalion command sergeants major in his formation in terms of identifying who is the best, who is average and who is not meeting the mark,” he said. “We believe this will help the board identify those people who will remain in the sergeant major program and go into the nominative program.”
Chandler said the new evaluation system will have a robust support form that will help raters set clearly measurable standards at the tactical and operational levels, and align standards with the leadership attributes and competencies of ADRP 6-22.
“I think that throughout the force, we still have some work to do in developmental counseling,” he said. “I think we have gotten a lot better at counseling, and I think that has played into some of the things we have done recently as concerns soldier separations for misconduct, unsatisfactory performance and failure to meet standards for weight control.
“You have to have sustained, quality counseling to support those types of actions,” Chandler said.