How to get a stratification


Chief Master Sgt. Coy Crowe, 50th Operations Group chief enlisted manager. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)

Now that I have your attention, I will take a few moments to highlight what is truly important; how to be the best you can be. I have had the opportunity to review numerous records through the years. 

When you review an entire record in a short period of time, an Airman’s story quickly emerges.

For board or stratification purposes, record comparisons are actually easy. Sustained superior performance is obvious.  A dip or uptick in performance is also easily extrapolated. Standard bullets, phrases and statistics that are used repeatedly with that member while holding the same job or among those who have held similar jobs or in similar units jump out at you.  This is not to say these aren’t important; they should be documented. What the reader is looking for is how the Airman made themselves, something or someone bigger, better, faster and/or stronger. 

Take a moment to review your records and bullets to see what they say about your performance. Are they just highlighting a general statement of fact? Could the Air Force have inserted any Airman in that position and the same accomplishment, impact and/or results occurred?  A records reviewer can quickly get to the top 25 percent of a group.  Once among those top performers, how do the truly elite separate themselves?

This is where I contend the difference comes down to individual experiences. What leadership and management qualities does that member bring to the next higher grade?  How can those experiences be used to make their current or next organization better?  Or better yet, how can those experiences make their subordinate Airmen better? 

We gain those additional experiences through opportunity.  A good leader identifies talent and grows Airmen through opportunity.  A good follower embraces opportunities and also seeks them out.  Over time, these Airmen begin to slowly build their toolbox of experiences, or in the promotion world, discriminators.  They begin to set themselves apart from their peers. 

For example, one volunteers to be a line or full-time instructor or evaluator. They become executive officers, volunteer for staff jobs or joint positions, cross train or seek special duty assignments.  With a 30 second scrub of a SURF, an Airman’s experiences tell me the organizational levels they have worked, the jobs their leadership has entrusted them with, and progression both within an organization and within the Air Force.  They are all interconnected through performance which leads to opportunities which builds an Airman’s toolbox of experiences separating themselves from their peers.  Without a doubt, I am a chief today because of opportunity.

In 2005, I was offered an opportunity to be an Air Education and Training Command instructor. I accepted the job and felt I performed well.  After a couple of years, I was offered an opportunity to move up to be the squadron superintendent, as a master sergeant select, ahead of pinned on master sergeants. 

The Commander saw something in me, talent, and he wanted to advance. 

Both my instructor and superintendent experiences made me a better Airman.  More importantly, it opened other opportunities that got me to where I am today; one opportunity leads to another.  Without question, if I wasn’t offered those opportunities, or more importantly had I not accepted them, I would have never made chief master sergeant.  On the flip side, while out recruiting as the superintendent, we had a difficult time getting Airmen to volunteer.

When I would ask Airmen why they didn’t want to be an instructor I almost always got the same answer, “I don’t want to stand in front of a classroom and speak.”  How can you expect to be an effective superintendent, flight commander or commander and not be a good oral communicator? The earlier you build those experiences, the earlier you will have yet another discriminator in your toolbox. 

If you want to be the best you can be, I challenge each of you to be hungry for something more than what you are doing now and to step outside your comfort zone. This begins with performance in your primary duty.  Make your organization and people better.  Build your toolbox through civilian education, private organizations and volunteer opportunities. Remember, you start as a follower gaining experiences and building trust, leadership opportunities will follow.

When force distribution or stratification occurs, and you can say you are the best you can be, then that is all any leader could ask of you.

 Are you the best you can be right now? What are your plans to get better?