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Enlisted PERSCOM notes.

On behalf of the great staff here in Alexandria, Virginia, greetings from the Engineer Enlisted Branch. Having just arrived as the new branch chief, I am glad to have this opportunity to update you on the current health of the enlisted engineer force.

Health of the Regiment

The overall Engineer Regiment is very healthy. Today our Regiment is manned with 15 of 21 military occupational specialties (MOSs) at or above 100 percent with three more at 99 percent (see table).

Our biggest challenge is in the 12B MOS, particularly at skill level one. We underassessed this MOS during fiscal year (FY) 01 to correct a significant overstrength. The result of this and other corrective action is that the majority of units in the field are currently being manned below 95 percent at skill-level-one positions. Starting in October, we will bring in additional soldiers to increase our strength in this critical combat specialty.

Several actions taken over the past fiscal year have dramatically improved our low-density MOSs--00B, 52E, and airborne 62E/J. These should be healthy by the end of FY03. These MOSs offer very attractive reclassification bonuses under the Bonus Extension and Retraining Program. Call this office if you are interested in reclassifying into these specialties.

The shortage in noncommissioned officers (NCOs) continues to be problematic worldwide. While there are many reasons for the shortage, there really is only one solution. Soldiers in the field need to get scheduled for promotion boards. If you are eligible, ask your chain of command when you can go before the next promotion board.

Recruiting and retention have been well above historical averages across the Army and in the Engineer Regiment. All of our training seats were filled for FY02, and all the required seats for the first quarter FY03 have already been contracted. On the reenlistment side, all but one of our 21 specialties are well above the five-year historical trend. We expect this to continue, partly due to reenlistment bonuses, but most likely due to our ongoing campaign against terrorism.

The long-term projections for the Regiment are very good. We can expect our shortage MOSs (12B10, 00B, 52E) to improve dramatically in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, other specialties (51B, 51M, 51R, 51T) will experience decreases in overall strength to bring them in line with authorized manning levels.

The Assignment Process

The assignment process for enlisted soldiers is complicated, yet relatively simple. The complicated part is getting 15,000 soldiers properly aligned with so many priorities throughout the world for high-quality, trained, and ready soldiers. The simple part is that each soldier can have a direct impact on his or her assignment process.

There are many variables that go into the assignment process: exceptional family member program, married soldiers program, drill sergeant/recruiting nomination process, AC/RC, schooling, needs of the Army, deployment stabilization, and the all-important readiness of our field units. However, there is one thing that is not a variable, the soldier's preference. What has amazed me in my short time on the job is the number of both junior enlisted and NCOs who have not bothered to let Branch know their preferences. There are three methods to make this happen: You can submit a DA Form 4187, Personnel Action, listing your assignment preferences; you can go online through Army Knowledge Online and use the Assignment Satisfaction Key (ASK); or you can call your assignment manager and tell him your preference. If you do the latter, you will be asked to follow up with a DA Form 4187 to document your preferences. ASK is the preferred method because that process eliminates the middleman. Your preferences are automatically posted to your record as soon as you hit the enter key. While we cannot guarantee that we can meet your preference in every assignment, I can guarantee that when we do have a valid requisition for a soldier, the first thing we look for is those who have listed that location on their preference.

When should you talk to your assignment manager? Often! We do work assignments for E-4s through E-6s six to eight months out from their report date. So if you've been at one location for over 36 months, your manager is already deciding where you will PCS to next. For those on short tours, about the time you arrive in country, you need to update your preferences.

For senior NCOs (E-7s and above), we are attempting to work your assignments so we can provide 12 months notification of a PCS. We have been improving, but we will never get to a 100 percent solution on this due to soldiers coming off levy, school scheduling, and the like. Here at Engineer Branch, we intend to start posting on our Web page critical assignments that we need to fill for selected senior NCO key billets with AC/RC and other jobs that are seldom easy to fill. Assignments can range from North Dakota to Hawaii, Egypt to Australia, and I think it will be a good opportunity to match up soldiers who want a deal of a lifetime to go to select locations.

I know there are soldiers reading this who are thinking, "What is this guy talking about? I got my orders exactly 32 days before the truck showed up at the house." There are a lot of reasons for this happening. Sometimes, but not often, the needs of the Army demand that we do a short-notice PCS, and we do everything in our power to avoid this, Another reason can be that some headquarters, for whatever reason, has not done its job of downloading assignment instructions and then publishing orders. If it has been more than 30 days since DA has informed you that you have been placed on assignment instructions, you need to go to your installation personnel office and find out what is holding up your orders. Here's a little secret: We post assignment instructions worldwide every Tuesday morning. Once posted, they are available for your installation personnel office to act on immediately. The key words here are "assignment instructions." Just because an assignment manager has told you that you have been nominated fo r an assignment does not mean assignment instructions have been published. The nomination process can take several months as the packet is vetted though all of the offices that ensure that only fully qualified soldiers are sent to critical duties such as recruiting and drill sergeant.

In some cases, and in some MOSs, the number of available worldwide billets and the number of soldiers to fill those billets can dramatically impact the amount of time a soldier can expect between PCSs. It is not uncommon to move soldiers with only 24 months on station to ensure the operational readiness of forward-deployed units. Many NCOs are also moved early when they are selected to recruiting or drill sergeant duty.

The bottom line to all of this is my charter to man the force with the soldiers we have available. My goal is to treat each of you with respect and to provide as much input as possible to your career. Periodically you need to contact your assignment manager or professional development NCO to review your assignment eligibility, preferences, and family circumstances. Keep in mind that there are restrictions about where we can send you. First, your MOS has to be authorized at the desired location. (Sorry, but there are no combat engineer slots in the Bahamas.) Also, if you have managed to avoid overseas duty for many years, we need to send you there, so step up and enjoy the scenery. We also attempt to avoid repetitive TDA assignments. If you are an NCO, you will need to do drill sergeant, recruiting, and/or AC/RC assignments at some point. These are nominative assignments that our best NCOs are asked to fill. They are challenging assignments and recognized by selection boards as being career-enhancing.

To the staff sergeant 1 2B ranks, we have a great career opportunity coming available this next summer. Our authorizations for 12B30 soldiers assigned to the Special Forces Civil Affairs Company will increase from 6 slots to 24. Get your packets together now if you want in on this great chance to serve your country on the edge.

Promotions and Training

This is one topic that has the interest of almost all soldiers. The single biggest item that stifles the process is the in ordinate amount of board-eligible E-4s who are never given the opportunity to go before the promotion board. My philosophy is quite simple: If you have an E-4 in an E-5 or E-6 billet, then how can you possibly claim that the soldier is not ready for the promotion board. If he is already doing the job, he should already be getting the money. The promotion orders state only that the soldier has demonstrated "the potential" for the next higher grade. Sometimes it appears that some units want the soldiers "fully qualified" for the next higher grade. It takes about 10 years to get 10 years of experience that our great NCOs possess. Let some of the experience occur with the requisite increase in pay and rank.

Conditional promotions have been on the street for some time. Remember, they require attendance in the requisite NCOES course (PLDC, BNOC and ANOC) within one year of the conditional promotion. Failure to meet this requirement can result in a demotion. There are exceptions to policy for operational and hardship reasons; however, it is imperative that you attend the NCOES courses as soon as possible. Do not hesitate to contact this office if you have questions about NCOES attendance or conditional promotions.

For information on pending selection boards, visit the PERSCOM Web site (www.perscom.army.net) for the latest news. It's up to you to review your Official Military Personnel File. You can obtain a copy by following the procedures posted at our Web site.

Contacting Us

The sole function of Engineer Branch is to support soldiers and commanders in the field. I encourage you to contact your assignment manager PDNCO, Branch sergeant major, or me with any questions about assignments or professional development. The PERSCOM Web site has all the information on how to contact us. Remember, the only thing in the assignment process that does not have to be a variable is your preference. Take the time to let us know your preference.
Personnel Action

Engineer Enlisted Operational Strengths (as of 4 September 2002)

 Authorized Strength
 MOS Strength (percent)

 12B 8,161 99
 12C 659 105
 12Z 229 99
 00B 138 99
 51B 881 121
 51H 434 104
 51K 115 106
 51M 241 99
 51R 128 155
 51T 116 99
 51Z 116 103
 52E 185 85
 62E 1,342 105
 62F 279 100
 62H 99 98
 62J 686 100
 62N 459 104
 81L 245 113
 81T 460 101
 81Z 19 105
 82D 110 114
Total 15,243 98.5


Lieutenant Colonel Smith is chief of the Engineer Enlisted Branch in the U.S. Total Army PERSCOM. Other assignments include commander, 44th Engineer Battalion (Brokenheart), Camp Howze, Korea; war plans analyst, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; and executive officer 20th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. He has a master's in nuclear engineering from Penn State, a master s in military science from the Advanced School of Military studies, and a master in strategic studies from the Army War College.
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Author:Smith, Jack F.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Geographic Code:1U5VA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Words:1907
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