By Staff Sgt. Ian Safford
105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Kansas Army National Guard
WICHITA, Kan. ' The annual Enlisted Promotion System board, comprised of volunteer Kansas Army National Guard noncommissioned officers, convened at the Heartland Preparedness Center in Wichita Oct. 23-25. The purpose of the board was to evaluate the competencies, leadership potential, adherence to standards, past performance and evaluations of other NCOs to determine their fitness for promotion.
Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Harmon, senior enlisted advisor of the Kansas Army National Guard, briefs on how to evaluate promotable Soldiers during an Enlisted Promotion System board held at the Heartland Preparedness Center in Wichita, Kansas, Oct. 23-25, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ian Safford 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
The annual EPS board is actually several boards, one each for Soldiers who currently hold the ranks of sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant first class, sergeant major, and command sergeant major. The records of each NCO eligible for promotion are evaluated against the records of his or her peers by board members who currently hold the rank for which the NCO is being assessed.
The board was designed that way intentionally, explained Command Sgt. Maj. Steve Harmon, senior enlisted advisor of the Kansas Army National Guard, because Soldiers who currently hold each rank are best postured to understand what it takes to be successful in their positions.
'The sergeant first classes are being looked at by the master sergeants, for example' said Harmon. 'They'll be looking for the qualities that show the most potential.'
Before each board began, Harmon made it clear to board members that they will be utilizing the 'total Soldier concept' to evaluate Soldiers' promotion packets. The total Soldier concept considers attributes, competencies, leadership potential, adherence to standards, duty
performance and past evaluations that demonstrate each Soldier's ability to thrive in any capacity or environment.
This year, approximately 900 Soldiers were considered for promotion and continued service in the Kansas Army National Guard. To maximize efficiency and simplicity, board members used the Standard Installation and Division Personnel Reporting System Express (SIBx), a web-based reporting tool that provides Soldier data, to help them review packets.
'It's been a couple of years since I've been on a board,' said 1st Sgt. Mark Hanson, first sergeant of the 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. 'Of all the boards I've experienced, this one ran smoother than any I've ever participated in. Getting into the SIBx system and being able to access Soldiers' files electronically just made everything simple and easy.'
One of the most rewarding things about participation on the board, according to Harmon, is having the opportunity to see how much talent exists within the organization.
'There are a lot of policy changes at the national level to ensure equity, diversity and a fair look for every Soldier being boarded,' Harmon said.
While the primary purpose of the board is to evaluate Soldiers for promotion, it also accomplishes something more: it serves as an instrumental tool of career development for the board members themselves. Soldiers must be in good standing to participate as board members. Additionally, because their duties include evaluating hundreds of packets, board members get an in-depth understanding of how 'top-performing' Soldiers at each grade should look.
'Experientially, this was way more valuable than I anticipated it being,' said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Smith, marketing NCO of the Recruiting and Retention Battalion. 'I knew that it would be helpful to the Soldiers I would be reviewing, but what I did not anticipate was the personal and professional development that I received reviewing these Soldiers.'
Board members walk away with not only the tools to educate subordinate Soldiers on how to increase their chances of future promotions, but also with the knowledge of how they should prepare themselves for their own future promotions.
'If you have not sat [on] a board in the last two or three years, the process is faster, better and more thorough than it has ever been and will continue to improve thanks to the leaders in our nation and the Kansas Army National Guard,' said Harmon, encouraging all eligible Soldiers to serve as board members at least once in their career. 'We get a fantastic group every year to sit on the board,' said Harmon. 'It is a very positive experience and you are reminded as a senior leader of just how effective, productive and amazing our Kansas Soldiers are.'