Friday, July 20, 2012

Airman of the Quarter Board

The results are in from the Airman of the Quarter board, and rather than make you wait until the end of this post, I'll tell you now that I was not selected.  After receiving some initial feedback and waiting a week, I was gearing myself up for this, so I wasn't upset.  I am genuinely happy for the winner.  He met the board after me and seemed really nervous.  He had even less notice than I did that he was even meeting the board.  He really must have worked some magic in that room, and for that I say kudos to him!  I have faith in my abilities and what I have to offer as an Airman.  My military career is only just beginning, and I know I will do great things in my time!

I wanted to write this post for you to pass on what I learned, as well as tell about my experience.  Read on!

Background
The board I met was for the Airman of the Quarter for the wing.  I won at the squadron and group levels as well, but those ones were judged by the commander strictly off of my nomination form.  My supervisor asked me to send her some bullets of things I'd accomplished since I'd been back from tech school.  This information was used to complete AF IMT 1206, Nomination For Award.  My understanding is that one of the executive officers in my squadron completed this before sending it over to my commander for final review.  The bullets on this form addressed "Performance in Primary Duties," "Significant Self Improvement," and "Base and Community Involvement."  It ended with my commander's endorsement and his signature.  This got passed up to the group commander, and then was used as part of my packet for the board itself.

The Package
When selected by the group to meet the board for the wing level, the Military Personnel Section (MPS) puts together a package of your information.  This included my 1206, a printout of my last PT evaluation, my personnel file (which details my service, civilian education, and pretty much my entire life in the Air Force), and a printout of the medals and ribbons I've received.  I was not allowed to view this package, so this is the best understanding I have about what was in it.  

The Board Members
The board consisted of five members, one of whom was designated as the president.  The members of my board included MSgts down through SSgts.  I don't believe there were any SMSgts, and there were definitely no Chiefs.  The president acts as the facilitator, explaining the process and calling on each member to ask their question.  All of the board members wore service dress.  In some instances, you may have an officer as the board president, which affects your reporting procedures.

The board will be assisted by a proctor.  Ours was the Personnelist who handles awards and decorations in our MPS.  This individual will let you know how and when to enter the room where the board is seated.  They will also collect the evaluation sheets.

Dress and Appearance
Service dress is required for meeting the board.  Your uniform must be impeccable, to say the least.  Break out the sewing scissors to trim threads, have a lint roller with you at the ready, starch, press, shine, you know the deal!  I had AFI 36-2903 open for reference and you'd better believe I was measuring multiple times with my ruler when I was attaching my rack and name tag.  I was originally planning to wear a skirt, but saw the recommendation to wear pants and it made sense.  The idea was to avoid the board questioning your skirt length, but I realized that if I sat at attention my knees would be open - not appropriate for the board!  As much as you love wearing those heels, break out the low quarters, since you'll have to do facing movements.  I had been cautioned about wearing my princess blouse, since it might ride up under my service coat, but it worked out fine.

Preparation
If you can, as a supervisor or a Chief in your squadron to do a mock board with you.  That was helpful in both preparing me mentally for the questions I'd receive, good practices during the board, as well as helped me feel more at ease.  One of my Chiefs had two MSgts join him, and they took turns asking me questions.  I worked on eye contact and the delivery of my answers to the questions.  They gave me feedback after each one, letting me know how they'd score my responses.

Preparation also entails knowing your stuff, BMT style!  Make sure you know the mission of your wing, the chain of command for your wing and MAJCOM, as well as the Air Force at the uppermost levels, and the duties and responsibilities of your AFSC.  Be prepared to be asked questions about your personal accomplishments, your future plans, etc.  It's all fair game for the board members.

The Morning Of
Prior to meeting the board, I assembled a bag of last minute items I might need, almost like an emergency kit for a bride.  I had hairspray, extra hair pins, sewing scissors, tweezers (for pulling threads), and a lint roller.  I made sure that my makeup was toned down, with little to no shimmer.  I applied a ton of product in my hair, so that it'd meet the strictest standards.  I didn't wear my service coat in the car, but brought a hanger.  Prior to walking over to the meeting location, I had my supervisor and the executive officers give me one last glance-over, to inspect my uniform.

Procedures for Meeting the Board
While I waited for my appointment, I took the time to take deep breaths and calm myself down.  When it was my time, the proctor let me know that the board was ready for me.  I was instructed to give one loud knock and wait to be acknowledged.  Once given permission to enter, I was to march forward directly in front of the chair (the board was to my left, the chair to my right).  Once I reached the chair, I would left face and then give my reporting statement.  As the board president was not an officer, I didn't have to salute.  My reporting statement was, "Ma'am, Airman Carpenter reports to the Quarterly Awards Board as requested."  At this point, I was given commands to make four right facing movements, with pauses in between, so that the members might inspect my appearance.  After that I was seated, but never told to sit at ease.  I was seated at attention for the duration of the meeting.  At the end, I stood up, thanked the board, made a left face and exited the room.

The Points
Each board member had an evaluation sheet to complete during my appointment.  Board members do not consult with each other during the process, and judge the Airman independently.  These scores are averaged to reveal the final total, after completion of the process.  Your wing may score things differently, keep that in mind.  The score breakdown was as follows, to the best of my recollection:
  • Package - 7.5 points
  • ??? - 7.5 points
  • Dress and Appearance - 15 points
  • Presentation and Delivery - 20 points
  • Question #1 - 10 points
  • Question #2 - 10 points
  • Question #3 - 10 points
  • Question #4 - 10 points
  • Question #5 - 10 points
As you can see, I'm not entirely sure, since I really wasn't allowed to examine these evaluation sheets in advance.  The questions were definitely worth ten points a piece, and I remember being surprised to see that the package was worth very little points.  Don't quote me on the other three things.  Ultimately, you get the idea.  Your responses to the questions are almost everything.  Each evaluator is allowed to write comments as well.

The Questions
The questions used at a board are usually pre-determined/pre-written, and ours were given to the members on the day of the board.  Each member got to ask one question.  When responding, make eye contact with the member asking the question, then move your gaze to meet the eyes of the other members, ending on the original member.  It is essential to avoid any fidgeting or use of the word "uh" when responding to questions.  It's okay to ask a member to repeat a question, and taking time to think before answer is also acceptable.  Answers shouldn't be too short, but they also don't want you to be overly wordy.  Be mindful of how your nervousness may be affecting the speed or volume of your speech.  My Chief told me that they expect people to be somewhat nervous, and some members may be lenient with points because of that fact.  If you do not know the answer to a question, it is acceptable to say that you don't know the answer, but that you'll get back to them with the answer or that you'll look into it.  A previous winner actually came back and made arrangements to tell them the answer later, which reflected really well on her.  My questions were as follows:
  • What is the mission of the wing?
  • What are your roles in your AFSC?
  • Why did you join the Air Force Reserve?
  • What do you consider your biggest accomplishment in your Air Force career so far?
  • What leadership quality do you find the most important?
My questions were easier than I imagined.  I was prepared to be hit with a chain of command question, and I had also been told to review current world events in relation to the Air Force and our mission.  I felt really strong in my responses to these questions.

After the five questions had been asked, the board president asked if I had any questions for any of the members.  Prepare a question before you go!  I cited the number of people in our wing who had been there for 20+ or 30+ years, and asked the board what they felt the biggest contributing factor was to a lengthy career in the Air Force Reserve.    

The Results
I was initially told I might hear later on that same day, or no later than the next morning.  I found out almost a week later.  The results were tabulated, then presented to the Command Chief of our wing, who forwarded them onto the Wing Commander, who signed off on them.  After that, the results flowed down the chain of command.  When I heard that the group commanders had been given the results, I sought out my group commander to hear the news from him.

That's all, folks!  That's the rundown.  It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster leading up to that day, and that weekend, but after that I let go of shouldering that anxiety.  I felt strong in my performance and I know that I gave the best of me that day in front of the board.  While I wasn't good enough for them on that day, I know that I have so much to offer the Air Force and my fellow Airmen, and I look forward to the journey that my career will take me on.         

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