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:
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?