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Going before the board: Put your best foot forward

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"You never get a second chance to make a good first impression."

In this time of strategies for military downsizing and dropping promotion rates, the first impression you make on a promotion or selection board can make or break you, and it's made through My Board File. Soldiers have the power to manage their board files so their true merit is obvious to members of the board. Don't leave anything to chance.

Lower selection rates will drive boards to look more stringently at every aspect of your board file. Being without derogatory information, a referred report or reprimand on file just isn't enough anymore: You must manage your board file to prevent appearing least-qualified.

Understanding the board process will clue you into what to look for when you review your board file. To learn how a promotion board actually functions, watch the DA Secretariat's video walk- through of the promotion board process on the HRC website at

When you review your Board File in preparation for a board, focus on these four areas:

1. Certification -- Upon viewing the board file, each member of a promotion or selection board is provided with the status of your review in one of three types:

* "Date Reviewed" tells the board member that you have certified your file as complete.
* "Date Reviewed with working actions" tells the board when you viewed the file and that you had corrections to make at that time.
* "Blank Status" communicates to the board that you did not open your file.

To ensure that it doesn't appear that you ignored your board file, update your status as appropriate and press "Save" every time you open the file. Whether you have completed review or are reviewing with working actions, board file certification demonstrates that you are taking an active personal interest in your selection. If you don't review your board file, you throw away your last chance to affect what the board members will see.

2. Accuracy and completeness -- One thing candidates have the ability to communicate clearly to the board is their attention to detail. Ensure that your awards and badges are current and consistently documented throughout the file. Your photo, Officer Record Brief (ORB)/Enlisted Record Brief (ERB) and Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) should match. Assignment history needs to be accurate and shouldn't include "incoming" or "surplus" personnel positions. Assignment history dates on the ORB/ERB need to mirror evaluation periods documented in your OMPF. Ensure that your education and training data is current on your ORB/ERB and that matching transcripts for civilian schooling and certificates for military courses over 40 hours are filed in your OMPF.

3. Letters to the board -- Board MILPER messages clearly address what should and shouldn't be included in a letter to the President of the Board, but a good rule of thumb is to explain what the file is missing and why. Generally, letters to the board aren't necessary, but if you feel the need to submit one be sure you only address topics listed in the MILPER message and get it reviewed as many times as possible. Just as your file's completeness demonstrates your professionalism and attention to detail, poor spelling and grammar in a letter to the board is a direct reflection on the author and can give a bad impression to board members.

4. Photo -- In accordance with Army Regulation 640-30/Photographs for Military Human Resources Records, a DA photo is current if it is within five years and will be seen by the board. A professional, current photo is an opportunity for you to make a good impression. Ensure that hair, visible jewelry and uniform are within the guidelines of AR 670-1/Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. Awards and decorations must be properly worn and displayed, and, remember, they must match your ORB/ERB and OMPF. Photos must be taken at a DA photo lab and submitted through the Department of the Army Photograph Management Information System (DAPMIS); any photos you submit personally will not be seen by the board. Don't be tempted to neglect to update a DA photo because you are nearing the maximum height/weight allowance and think you looked better a few years ago. Failing to update your DA photo won't allow you to avoid the issue. Board members take note of photo dates and do review height-and-weight data.

Keeping your record up-to-date and preparing your board file are essential to ensuring your timely promotion. The Army Selection Board process is one of the fairest ever devised. Ensure that your board file is complete, and your performance will stand on its own merit.

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