A Bit Confused


So, today I was quietly called into the commander’s office here on the flightline, offered a seat, and quietly told that the results were in and that I had been considered but not selected for promotion to Major.

“Well, that’s a relief,” I thought, “for a moment I thought I was in trouble or something.”

I then explained to my CO that I hadn’t expected to be promoted – in fact, I had been assured that my name wasn’t even going to be considered by the promotion board this year.

If this sounds confusing – and it is – allow me to explain:

Due to my prior service in the Marine Corps, when I transferred over to the Army (first the Reserves, then the Guard) back in 2006, I came in with the rank of Captain.  And, for the next 5 years, while I went through seminary and worked on getting ordained and completing Chaplain Officer Basic School, I was accruing time in grade.  So, in the course of things, I was finally “assessioned” by the Guard as a chaplain in June of 2011, but the Federal Recognition of said selection was not completed until October of that year.  So far, so good.

Except that I learned in August that I was now in zone for Major, and would I be so good as to complete my packet and make sure that everything is shipshape for the DA Board which will be convening on 29 Nov 11.  Having read through all the relevant “Prepare For Your Board” documents, I realized that I didn’t stand a chance.  Not only did I not have a single Officer Evaluation Record (or OER), but I hadn’t completed the Military Education (MilEd) requirement – attending the Chaplain Captain’s Career Course.  If you don’t have your MilEd complete, they won’t even consider you – you just go into the stack of packets with those other poor souls who obviously don’t care much about their future careers.

Now, the astute readers here will no doubt realize that all of this is a bit silly:  of course there was no way I could complete the Career Course in the month between receiving my Fed Rec (and being “officially” recognized as a cross-wearing chaplain) and the convening date of the board.  There’s simply No. Way.  And even though I tried to at least register for the course, the system kicked my request out because – to them – I was still a chaplain candidate.

Please don’t think I’m pissed off because I won’t make O-4 this year.  I’m not.  Even if I did, I probably wouldn’t pin it on for quite some time.  And even if that happened, I’d still have to give it up to “Go Navy” here in the future.  No, what really chaps my hide is the fact that the system seems to be set up – albeit unintentionally – to punish prior service officers who elect to become chaplains.

You see, here’s how the system was “designed” to function:  Jody Schmuckatelli is a new seminary student.  A recruiter tells him about serving his country, and his God, as a chaplain, and he decides to sign up for the chaplain candidate program.  Now, 2LT Schmuckatelli continues with his education and drills with a local Guard unit, and all is well and good.  A few years later he gets promoted, and is now 1LT Schmuckatelli.  He cannot be promoted to CPT until he 1) completes his education; 2) gets ordained by his faith group; 3) finished Chaplain Basic School; and 4) successfully passes the assessioning board.  If he does all that successfully, he now finds himself as CH(CPT) Schmuckatelli, and has the next 5-6 years to learn the trade, make a deployment or two, complete his career course, get 4 or 5 OERs, and maybe get a few baubles on his chest before he’s ever in the zone for Major.

In my case, it’s complete all of the above steps, get a single 4-month OER, and go directly to the Major’s board.  Which is told to select those officers “who have best demonstrated leadership, effectiveness and potential for service at higher levels.”  Keep in mind that all the OERs (we called ‘em Fitness Reports) I received in my previous Marine Corps career are unseen by the board – they don’t care what I did or who I was as a Jarhead.

So if you were a board member, who would you select?  CPT Schmuckatelli, who has 9-10 years in the Army, and 5-6 as a chaplain?  Or CPT Harvey, who is still trying to figure out which side of the uniform the cross goes on?  And hasn’t even had a chance to do, well, much of anything just yet.  One brief OER. No schooling. A whopping 30 days of “official” chaplain experience.  I know who I’d pick.

What rankles me further is that this was supposed to have been taken care of before I left.  I submitted the requisite Letter to the President of the Board requesting an exemption to the MilEd requirement, due to my circumstances.  But then, five days before the board met, I received this email:

Sir/Ma’am,

As verified by the last four digits of your Social Security Number ending in ‘XXXX’, you have been removed as a candidate from the FY 2012 MAJ CH (ARNGUS) PSB.”

Problem solved, right?  Score one for common sense, right?  Wrong.  Hence today’s little episode.

Oh, our S-1 and the good folks back at our Joint Force HQ are all over it, of course.  National Guard Bureau will no doubt be involved.  Hopefully, they’ll get this overturned and I won’t have a 1-P “passed over” on my record.  But the future doesn’t look a whole lot brighter, because I’m still “uneducated,” and it’s not like they’re going to send me home from the sandbox to go to school now, are they.  No. No, they’re not.  So when the board convenes this fall, I’ll be in a marginally better situation than before, but still will fall far short of all the Shmuckatellis out there, who may have more years as a chaplain, but still – in many cases – lack the practical experience that comes from having 6 years of enlisted and 12 years of combat arms officer experience under their belt.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Reactions?

 

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “A Bit Confused

  1. If you get passed over again, you run the risk of having to resign your commission, right? Is there any way for your name to stay out of the board’s consideration?

  2. I pretty much agree that someone in DA has played the Bozo here. Under the circumstances it really speaks very poorly of them, but it’s about what I expect from the current Army. Hopefully they will removed the 1-P. They shouldn’t consider you next board either as things will be no different. It will not, however, surprise if the 1-P remains and you get passed over again as they are looking for low hanging fruit to for the RIF coming soon. Company Grade Officers with low time in service will be fairly easy targets on that score.

    This stinks no matter which way I look at it.

  3. Byron

    Padre, I know it will sound trite, especially coming from a heathen like myself, but…Keep the Faith. You are following Gods path. You can do no wrong once you are on that path. Have faith.

  4. RetRsvMike

    Padre: agreeing with QuarterMaster as above, but STRONGLY urging you to pursue the administrative remedies at hand and exhaust them QUICKLY… that way you can get the issue in front of the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. you absolutely MUST get that first (erroneous) non-selection OUT of your records if you never should have been eligible for consideration. otherwise, that anticipated second strike pass-over is the one that hits the ejection button.

    RetRsvMike

    • Concur with RRM. Nobody cares about your records as much as you do. Hold their feet to the fire.

      Or tell them they’ll get a bad FitRep from you with the Big Boss!

    • Thanx RRM. I didn’t even think of pursuing admin remedies, and you are right about doing so aggressively. If they hit the eject button the Navy won’t touch him either.

  5. Grumpy

    Padre, as Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time for everything under the sun. Yes, there are times to be quiet, but there are times to take every possible administrative action possible. Sometimes, the people will say no, just to see if you will appeal *their* written decision. The question in their mind, is this, does this Padre want the position bad enough, to pursue it, at all costs. You have proven yourself to me, now they want you to prove yourself to them. I wish you the best. –Grumpy

  6. Mark Dunlap SFC Rigger (Ret).

    It is indeed unfortunate that “purple” ops begin and end in the field and not in administupid world. The most grating thing for me in reading this is the point that this (now) soldier has a wealth of sterling service from multi-sources but all that “time” only counts as years of service. Time alone is never the true indicator of skill. FIDO Chaplain, my pension is bet on you and that you will persevere. Kindest Regards

  7. MikeD

    One thing I will object to, your use of “Jody” for our hypothetical Schmuckatelli. “Jody” is that vile creature waiting at home to steal your girl while you’re away in the service. EVERYBODY knows the fine upstanding citizen who joins the military is “Joe” (or “Molly” as the case may be). I don’t know how they ran things in Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, but by all that’s holy, in this man’s Army, Jody is only ever the villain!

    • dgharvey

      I stand corrected. Joe it is.

    • LT Rusty

      And Padre, if you ever want to go Navy and be taken seriously, you’d best remember that SN Schmuckatelli’s first name is Timmy. People will look at you funny if you mix the names up. :)

  8. dgharvey

    Update: When this reached the National Guard Bureau, the response was that due to a glitch in the system at HRC, several Chaplains received erroneous messages stating they were removed from the board this year.

    Discussions are being held with J1 and the Officer Policy section to get this straightened out. I wouldn’t be surprised if an IG complaint will eventually become necessary. Which sucks.

    Also, I’ve realized a simple correction to keep this from happening in the future: any chaplain candidate who is already a CPT gets his or her time in grade zeroed out when they pin on the cross. Or, at their discretion, they may keep up to 3 year time in grade. This is exactly what happens on the active duty side of the house – and is there to ensure that this scenario is not played out. Why can’t the Guard do the same thing?

    • I quickly found the Guard is a different world when I was in back in the 80s. You make a very good point, but good sense has a lot of trouble penetrating skulls at the NGB. All I know is the problem has to be fixed or the Navy may not be in a position to talk with you later, combat deployment or no.

  9. Mark Dunlap SFC Rigger (Ret).

    I hated Jody the most when my dog would stand faithfully by his side….it’s the worst. Ditto last missive. The mental stress resulting from NGB (which is not a command authority), and what each state (read fiefdom) does or doesn’t do has led to many AC members of all services to wonder why they enlisted in the Guard. I wondered for many, many years that if one had to maintain a separate 2-1 file, why do clerks exist? Of course the answer is that Company Clerks (NG) don’t exactly exist any more but rather one has a Battalion level Personnel Clerk who manages multiple Companies. Out.

    • No one cares about your records as much as you do. As a recruiter, I used to insist my enlistees maintain a copy of every set of orders they received in a binder with document protectors (back before computers were invented). From their copy of their DD4, to their DD214.