Board out of my mind

I used to pity the infantrymen I saw studying for boards in Afghanistan. They would quiz each other: "What's the weight of an M-203 without magazines?" "What's the length of an M-240?" "What is the maximum effective range on a point target of the M-249? Area target?" Trivia. Nothing that actually helps them do their job, or demonstrates that they are more capable than the next soldier who may not be great at memorizing worthless information but who can plan and execute a house raid like nobody's business.

I've always wondered what boards for intelligence soldiers would look like. "How many scoops of coffee grounds go into a 12-cup pot?" (6). "In which MOS are you most likely to pay people to lie to you?" (was 97E, now 35M). "If Rain Man was in the Army, what MOS would he have?" (35P). "What if he became an officer?" (Trick question: he'd be a warrant.)

I say wondered because prior to today, I'd never done one. The Guard--at least my corner of it--doesn't do boards very often, and my promotions to SGT and SSG both were done with "paper boards"--people looked at my paperwork and decided that I was worthy. You can argue about whether this is a good idea or not. I have mixed feelings, myself, but the units should be acting as gatekeepers to ensure that the completely spastic soldiers have time and opportunity for a little more seasoning before their packets are even sent up. This doesn't always happen, but I don't think adding physical boards would make it any better.

My board today was for an application for an AGR position: Training NCO for my company. If I get the job, it will solve that pesky "what do I do NEXT year for a job" question for the next 14 years or so.

I was disappointed, but not surprised. A lot of the board questions centered on the significance and use of obscure DD and DA forms; I don't think I got any of those right. There were some acronyms, only some of which I knew, but most of which I could at least describe if not perfectly define.

I don't understand the value of such things; I really don't. If I need it to do a job, I will know what it is because I use it all of the time. It would be wasteful to memorize lists of forms and acronyms on the off chance that one of them would be a board question.

"But Sig," you're asking, "wouldn't it make sense to look up the things that you will use in the job you're applying for?"

Why yes. Yes, it would. But here's the kicker: all I have to go on in preparing is the one-paragraph explanation of job duties, most of which are vaguely described. Most of the job description involved things having to do with the unit status report (USR), governed by AR 220-1 (Unit Status Reporting). I looked up the AR, got a sense of the general flow of things (without trying to memorize form numbers, incidentally), and asked several other recent victims of the AGR hiring process about common questions and the format and how it worked for them. I took reasonable precautions. We don't have a training NCO whom I could question about their duties, so I did what I could, including asking my readiness NCO.

And it didn't do a lick of good, because as the president of the board freely admitted (in response to my what-would-I-actually-be-doing question), she didn't know what the job announcement said the duties would be. There were no questions about unit status reporting. There was only one question about ATRRS, the system we use to schedule schools and training. Short of knowing the exact questions that would have been asked, I'm not sure what I reasonably could have done to better prepare for the board.

There may be some value to seeing how much composure a soldier maintains while saying "Sergeant, I do not know the answer at this time" for the tenth time in a row, but I'm not sure what it would be. I honestly don't believe trivia questions help assess anyone's fitness to do anything except memorize and recite trivia, and frankly, we could do with a whole lot less of that in the Army. (I had a friend in junior high and high school who could rattle off the first hundred digits of pi. He was capable of a lot of amazing and useful things, but that was not one of them.)

The board process is a time-honored tradition, almost a pageant, but it's also supposed to be an evaluative tool. It seems to me--silly ol' inexperienced too-junior-for-my-rank Staff Sergeant Sig--that if you are going to be on a board, you should ask questions that help you evaluate the candidate's fitness for the position or recognition under consideration. It also seems to me that if you are going to evaluate a candidate for a job and expect him to know about what the job entails, you should have read the same job description the candidate did. Or at least have the decency to lie to him about it.

I do hope I get the position. I think it would be a good fit for me, and I think that I could do a good job serving the soldiers of my company, helping get them paid on time and get scheduled for schools so they can get promoted and be skilled in their fields. These are serious readiness and retention issues, and I care very much about the state of my unit generally and the soldiers within particularly. I have spent my entire military career within the same unit, have served with it in combat, and have supported it in training and every other way I know how. I would be happy to continue to serve my unit in a more permanent capacity, to be one of the day-to-day people that makes things happen behind the scenes such that we are ready when big Army calls us back to Afghanistan. And I think I would be good at it.

But you wouldn't know hardly any of that from the board I just endured.

Sig

Comments

Dedication

[quote]I think it would be a good fit for me, and I think that I could do a good job serving the soldiers of my company, helping get them paid on time and get scheduled for schools so they can get promoted and be skilled in their fields. These are serious readiness and retention issues, and I care very much about the state of my unit generally and the soldiers within particularly. I have spent my entire military career within the same unit, have served with it in combat, and have supported it in training and every other way I know how. I would be happy to continue to serve my unit in a more permanent capacity, to be one of the day-to-day people that makes things happen behind the scenes such that we are ready when big Army calls us back to Afghanistan. And I think I would be good at it.[/quote]

Did you tell them that at the board? It seems to me that would be a good thing for them to hear. :)

Well

It's a good deal easier after the fact in writing. They should have essay boards. I would rule those.

Sig