New EPR challenges status quo

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The enlisted performance report is going to drastically change. These changes seek to combat inflated ratings, which have been a prevalent complaint from Airmen over the years. The change is right around the corner and many Airmen are asking themselves, "How will it affect future promotions, and what can I do to prepare my Airmen and me?"

The new system will increase the number of EPR points while reducing the number of points accumulated for time-in-grade and time-in-station. Additional changes include limits on how many promotion recommendations a commander may prescribe and a limit on senior NCO stratifications. With a limit on top performers, what can we do to prepare ourselves?

For starters, we need to be honest brokers of performance. This should apply not only for our Airmen, but us as well. While this should be the norm in the current system, the new limitations and quotas will force difficult decisions. I encourage everyone to carefully read the new Air Force Forms 931 and 932. You will notice after each box there is a grouping in parentheses that gives the following options: few Airmen, majority of Airmen, some Airmen, and very few Airmen. Most Airmen will fall under the "majority of Airmen" which equates to a "3" or average rating on an EPR. This rating should be the new norm for most Airmen to receive.

Not satisfied with being in the average category? Here are some ways to excel.

First and foremost, know your job. Average wrench-turning or paper-pushing alone won't get you to the next level. Know what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and do it right the first time. Study and use Air Force Instructions, operating instructions and technical data to become the expert. Develop and maintain a superior work ethic, and inspire the same from your superiors, subordinates and peers. Maintaining a high standard not only improves your unit, but it's contagious both up and down the chain of command.

Do not wait for the next training opportunity to come to you. Go out and seek it. Study and finish your career development courses and seek out on-the-job-trainingopportunities. Step out of your comfort zone and learn new things. Share your gained knowledge and your experience with peers and inspire them to do the same. After you finish your upgrade training, aggressively pursue professional military education, or your Community College of the Air Force degree and post-secondary degrees. Avoid procrastinating.

Don't settle for the status quo. All too often we hear the phrase "That's the way it's always been." If you have an opportunity to improve a process or procedure, then do it. Get out from behind your desk and scrutinize processes first hand. Solicit feedback on ways to improve the unit. You may be surprised on what you find. Improvements don't always have to come from the top of the command structure.

Additionally, avoid simply seeking one easy volunteer opportunity just to fill a block on your EPR. Seek opportunities to organize and lead team-building exercises and community events. Be a part of professional organizations such as Top 3, Booster Club or the Air Force Sergeants Association. Certainly, Airmen work demanding jobs that require a great deal of time. Add into the mix needed relaxation, social or family time and it's seemingly impossible to find time to volunteer. It is up to you to find the right balance to make it work. The Air Force demands much from everyone, and becoming an effective time manager is the desired result required for the life in uniform.

Finally, the most important thing we can do as supervisors is hold our Airmen accountable and be honest with them. Hold supervisors accountable for accurate ratings. Trust me, giving them accurate valuable feedback and performance reports will help them see where they need to improve in order to become effective leaders.

The new promotion system can and will work. We just need to be honest with ourselves and our Airmen and be prepared to do what it takes to succeed.