The Army is in the process of restructuring its noncommissioned officer promotion system, by placing merit and experience above seniority, explained officials from the Human Resources Command during an NCO Professional Development Summit at the Fort Hood Community Center Friday.

Hosted by the 120th Infantry Brigade, the summit was a post-wide NCOPD, meant to provide NCOs on the installation with the information they need to be prepared for fiscal year 21, when the NCO Evaluation Board takes effect. The NCO Evaluation Board is meant to achieve four objectives – improve readiness, professional development, leader development and professionalism of the NCO Corps.

“It is no longer called the Promotion Board. It’s called the Evaluation Board now – it’s a total Soldier board,” Sgt. Maj. Eurika AdamsBeaty, chief of Evaluation, Selection and Promotion Division from HRC at Fort Knox, Kentucky, said. “This is something a lot of you have been asking for a long time.”

AdamsBeaty explained the evaluation board will no longer be just about promotion – it’s a fight to stay in the military. Instead of keeping in Soldiers who are just biding their time until retirement, she said the evaluation board will allow the board panelists to rate the NCOs and determine whether or not they should even be in the Army.

She said that all NCO records will be evaluated annually, without the option of opting out of the evaluation. The panel will review NCO’s records and score them based on the findings, with “1” being the worst and “6” being the best. All the panelists’ scores are then compiled to determine the overall rating of each of the NCOs within the branch they are scoring.

For example, if a panel of five board members all score an NCO six points plus, the NCO will have an overall score of 30 points plus five and the NCO would be first on the order of merit list. If, however, the panel of five board members all score an NCO one point, the NCO will have a score of five and will be at the bottom of the OML and discharged from the Army, pending future policy approval.

The great thing about this system, AdamsBeaty explained, is if an NCO is placed on the list for promotion, he or she will be promoted on the first day of the following month, as long as he or she has been school-trained for the next rank.

If NCOs have not been school-trained yet following the board, AdamsBeaty said those who are high on the order of merit list will be sent to school first. If a Soldier cannot attend school, he or she will be skipped over. She said if Soldiers start receiving emails about attending school, they need to go.

“Leaders, allow them to go to school. I can’t stress this enough,” AdamsBeaty said, adding that she realizes some Soldiers are held back. “You are stopping this Soldier from being pinned on.”

Another big change that will be implemented in FY21 is an NCO can be evaluated at 18 months in grade, instead of the current 24 months, AdamsBeaty said.

“Prepare yourselves now,” AdamsBeaty said. “The board is coming for you – they’re looking for you.”

Adding to what AdamsBeaty discussed, Master Sgt. John Grant, Department of the Army secretariat at HRC, explained the upcoming NCO Evaluation Board process.

Grant said along with the name change of the overall board is a change to the individual board names. For example, what is currently called the Sergeant First Class Board, will be called the Staff Sergeant Evaluation Board, because it is evaluating staff sergeants.

The results of the boards will determine promotions, assignments, continued service and school attendance, but said Soldiers should be aware that policies change because they are conceptual in nature.

“The Army does not want to break the NCO Corps or break the promotion system, so a lot of the policies may morph over time,” Grant said. “We’re trying to help the NCO Corps and make it better.”

Grant said board members are selected based on their branch, their race and their gender, to make the panel as balanced as possible. The day before the panel meets, they are provided with a copy of the memorandum of instruction, which outlines what will happen throughout the process. He said it does not tell the board members how to vote, does not say to promote younger Soldiers and does not say Soldiers with specific badges are better than those without.

“The MOI is generic in nature,” Grant said. “The board members are voting based on their senior leader experience and judgement.”

Board members are provided with a copy of the U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Guide, DA Pamphlet 600-25, which is supposed to be used to determine if the NCO does not meet, meets or exceeds the qualifications of the next rank.

Grant urged the NCOs in attendance to prepare now and make sure their noncommissioned officer evaluation records are correct. He said things come up missing from records all the time – missing or incorrect badges and awards appear, etc. It is ultimately up to the NCO to review his or her records to catch and correct those errors.

He also warned the NCOs that the board members have the right to go as far back into the records as possible to determine if he or she is good enough for promotion. For example, if a Soldier received a negative NCOER 15 years ago, a panelist may use that to make a determination.

“The board members can go back as far as they want and look at all your NCOERs,” Grant said. “They have full access to your entire performance.”

Soldiers in attendance were positive about the news, believing the changes will be good for the future of the NCO Corps. While it may take some adjustment time, Master Sgt. Makehava Perry, 2nd Battalion, 393rd Brigade Support Battalion, said the change will ultimately be best for the Army.

“It’s an eye-opener for going forth in the military,” Perry said. “We’ll be picking up better Soldiers and will be retaining quality over quantity.”

Grant said the NCO Evaluation Boards will meet once per year for each of the NCO ranks. The first board is expected to be held in November 2020, with the Sergeant First Class Evaluation Board, followed by other boards every quarter.

For more information about the upcoming changes to the boards in FY21, visit https://www.hrc.army.mil/content/Boards%20and%20Selections.