FORT KNOX, Ky. — U.S. Army Human Resources Command has further expanded an online tool that enables active duty enlisted Soldiers in ranks E-1 through E-8 non-promotable to designate assignment location and broadening assignment preferences, along with the ability to nominate themselves for assignments that help shape their career.
The Assignment Satisfaction Key program has been in operation for 15 years, said Arthur Dille, a human resources supervisor with HRC’s Enlisted Procedures and Soldier Actions Branch. It was initially fielded to fill vacant positions in deploying units, but a redesign has transformed it into a career development tool for enlisted Soldiers across the Army.
Dille said the ASK redesign was executed by a team of specialists from HRC’s Enlisted Personnel Management and Personnel Information Systems Directorates, who went through the program, screen by screen. They analyzed and re-organized the structure to ensure it is both streamlined and functionally effective, collapsing multiple screens into one, making it easier to navigate.
“We wanted an improved look and feel, we wanted it to be usable. We cleaned it up and consolidated it so it is more user friendly,” Dille said.
“It allows for Soldiers to see requisitions, volunteer for them and indicate their preferences for assignments. The idea is to empower Soldiers in the assignment process,” Dille said.
ASK has been updated to ensure that Soldiers who log in see only assignments for which they are currently eligible based on MOS, rank, time on station as of report date and military education. The only possibilities for self-nomination are open requisitions organized by location.
“If there are no authorizations for your MOS and grade, that location is not offered to you as a preference option. It is so Soldiers can have realistic expectations,” Dille said.
Importantly, the available pool of assignment opportunities has expanded fourfold due to inclusion of lower requisition priorities. Once submitted, requests show up in the Army’s Enlisted Distribution and Assignment System within minutes. HRC assignment managers can immediately begin working the requisition.
“We’re looking at not only a bigger window, but a lot more requisitions. We want to have more Soldiers have more say in the assignment system with a corresponding increased approval rate. By having more options available, more Soldiers will want to use the tool,” Dille said. “This is an opportunity for the Soldier to become actively involved in the assignment process and take control over their future.”
Assignment managers review the Soldier’s preferences, military education, Married Army Couple Program status, time-on-station and other qualifications. If a nomination matches the Army’s requirement, the manager can contact the Soldier with the good news. If a manager wants to reject an ASK assignment, it has to be approved by a branch chief.
“Typically, rejection is going to be based on the strength of the losing unit or the Soldier’s professional development,” Dille said.
Soldiers can also indicate their availability for broadening opportunities such as drill sergeant and recruiter, or other special duty interests as Airborne or Korea assignments.
“While talent management is considerably more difficult among the enlisted ranks due to the scope and size of the force, engaging Soldiers through ASK in determining their own assignments and development helps the process,” HRC Commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, said.
“As the Army focuses more on talent management, the EPMD team knew we had to provide expanded capabilities for Soldiers to have influence and a greater voice in their career development,” Col. Alan Kellogg, director of HRC’s Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate, said. “This tool is not only designed to build unit readiness, but also support our Soldiers and their Families.”
“We want Soldiers to know about the opportunities that the ASK tool provides and we want Soldier to maximize usage,” said Sgt. Maj. Lynice Thorpe, EPMD senior NCO.
So far, the redesign is having a positive effect.
“We’re accepting over five times more than we were before. Almost two thirds of the assignments that Soldiers nominate for are being accepted,” Dille said.
Even so, ASK is not a guarantee of a particular assignment. There remain circumstances under which HRC personnel will have to ensure that Soldiers fill the high priority needs of the Army regardless of their preferences, Dille said.
Flexibility remains key to Soldiers finding their best next assignments, said HRC’s Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson. Someone who nominates themselves repeatedly for an assignment for which they are not qualified, and then complains the system does not work, is missing the point, and the power, of the ASK tool.
“That’s important too. There are requirements and priorities. There is a possibility you may get what you want, but there is also the need to have realistic expectations,” Jefferson said.
“Enabling enlisted Soldiers to influence the development of their careers is a plus for both the individual and the Army,” Seamands said. “When a Soldier who wants to go to Fort Hood gets to Fort Hood, that is a happier Soldier.”