All of My Fitrep Writing Resources
Someone recently sent me a blog comment asking for more resources to use when writing their fitness reports. Here is one blog post that has everything in it that I’ve created so far:
BASIC ANATOMY OF A FITREP
This video lecture has been watched 690 times in less than a year and a half:
How to Find Out Your Reporting Senior’s Fitrep Trait Average
LCDR Fitreps – Language for Writing Your Block 41
Tips to Improve Your Concurrent FITREP
The Top 5 Critical FITREP Mistakes
NAVFIT98 Block 41 Word Spacing Template – I didn’t create this one, but it is very useful. Thanks to whoever did!
Fitrep Instruction – BUPERSINST 1610.10D – Navy Performance Evaluation System
How to Find Out Your Reporting Senior’s Fitrep Trait Average
One of the most important markers of a good fitrep is that your trait average is above your reporting senior’s trait average. Since most officers initially write their own fitrep and create their own trait average on the first draft, it is important to find out your reporting senior’s trait average so that you can try to be above it. Here are a few ways to find out what it is.
First, in order to have a trait average, your reporting senior has to have served as the reporting senior for officers of your same rank from any corps. If they have not done this, they’ll have no pre-existing average. For example, if you are a LCDR, your reporting senior does not have to have ranked LCDR physicians. If he/she has ever ranked a LCDR of any kind (nurse, Medical Service Corps, line officer, etc.), then they will have an average.
If they have an average, here are the ways I know of to find it:
- If you’ve already received a fitrep from them in your current grade, then you can look at your Performance Summary Report or PSR, which you download from BUPERS On-Line. The number in the lower right in the “AVERAGES” column (circled below) is their average for that rank.
- If you haven’t received a fitrep from them, maybe you have a friend in the same rank who has received a recent fitrep from them. You can look at their PSR if they’ll let you.
- You can ask your chain of command or command fitrep coordinator. They often know because they are trying to make sure that all of the fitreps being done don’t change the reporting senior’s average in ways he/she doesn’t want.
- You can ask the reporting senior. They just may tell you.
The bottom line is that if you are drafting your fitrep, you want to try and find out the average and grade yourself above it. In the end, the ranking process may move you below it, but by submitting the draft with an above average grade you may increase the chances you stay above it.
LCDR Fitreps – Language for Writing Your Block 41
LCDRs all over Navy Medicine are busily writing their fitreps, so I wanted to offer some assistance. Keep in mind that when you write your block 41, the narrative portion of your fitrep, you are writing it for the promotion board. Many LCDRs struggle to find the right words to express all the things they’ve done, but it shouldn’t be that hard. If you read the fiscal year 2017 promotion board precept and convening order, you’ll find the things promotion boards are looking for explained in the language they want to hear. To facilitate your quest for the perfect block 41, here is some assistance:
- Here is the board precept: FY-17 AC RC PRECEPT
- Here is the board convening order: FY-17 AO5S CONVENING ORDER
- Here is a link to the video podcast that will help you write your entire fitrep: Basic Anatomy of a FITREP
- Here is a cheat sheet to use when drafting your block 41 on Word: Block 41 Word Template
- Here are all the relevant quotes pulled from these documents. Take your accomplishments, read these quotes, and use this language to put your accomplishments into verbiage that will be easy to brief at your own O5 promotion board. For example, maybe the opening line of your fitrep will borrow the first quote from the convening order below and read, “LCDR Smith is already performing his duties at the level of a seasoned Commander!”
From the precept:
“a broad spectrum of experience, background, perspective, innovative talent, and a depth and breadth of vision, drawn from every facet of the society it serves and understanding of the world within which it operates. The Navy needs innovative and bold male and female leaders to lead, think creatively, challenge assumptions, and take well-calculated risks that maximize effectiveness.”
“rich diversity of experience, backgrounds, perspective, innovative talent, and depth and breadth of vision”
“demonstrated potential to lead large organizations in a complex world composed of men and women coming from widely varying backgrounds.”
From the convening order:
“capable of performing the duties of the next higher pay grade”
“leadership, professional skills, integrity, management acumen, grounding business practices, and resourcefulness in difficult and challenging assignments.”
“adaptability, intelligent risk-taking, critical thinking, innovation, adherence to Navy and DoD ethical standards, physical fitness, and loyalty to the Navy core values.”
“capable of leading personnel from widely varying backgrounds and mentoring a diverse workforce while executing the Navy’s strategic diversity initiatives.”
“Proven and sustained superior performance in command or other leadership positions in difficult or challenging assignments”
“successful performance and leadership in combat conditions”
“officers with relevant graduate education, experience in specialized areas, and Navy and Joint Professional Military Education (JPME).”
“completion of graduate education and development of a subspecialty. Degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School, the Naval War College and equivalent Service institutions, and civilian education programs that result in assignment of a subspecialty code or award of Additional Qualification Designation (AQD) codes are desirable. Proven expertise from an experience tour utilizing that subspecialty is fundamental to the development of Navy Leaders.”
“opportunities to broaden their cultural awareness through experiences and education and to enable better communication in a global operating environment.”
“innovation and efficiency to ensure that we retain an adaptive, flexible, and effective spectrum of conflict.”
“ability to successfully change and to manage for efficiency.”
“think creatively, develop new ideas, take prudent risks, and maximize capabilities through sound management practices.”
“demonstrating innovative thinking, efficient management skills, prudent risk taking, and effective business practices”
“ability to operate effectively with the other Services”
“leaders with knowledge and experience in a variety of settings including operational medicine, joint medical operations, and current peacetime health care delivery initiatives.”
“exceptionally high professional operational, clinical, and business competence and intellectual capacity who have the ability to think analytically and express themselves articulately.”
“energy to create and communicate the organization’s vision”
“build and motivate teams to accomplish that vision”
“calculated risk-takers, inclusive in decision-making, and trusted by subordinates.”
“courage to stand on principles and demonstrate a clear potential to lead the Navy of the future.”
“recognize talent, mentor, coach, and develop juniors, and build the environment in which they can thrive”
“understand and use the best clinical practices and business tools in managing our military population’s health.”
“clearly understand Navy Medicine’s obligation to support the fleet and Marine Corps and demonstrate the capacity to meet the challenges of our commitment to maritime superiority.”
“broad knowledge necessary to support the operating forces and are acknowledged leaders within their operational, clinical, scientific, and business specialties”
“demonstrated exceptional managerial skill and professional competence in executive and staff roles both in the support of the fleet and Marine Corps and within the naval shore establishment.”
“served in a broad spectrum of assignments requiring expertise in diverse functional areas.”
“broad military and medical perspectives beyond the Department of the Navy.”
“demonstrated superior performance in the clinical, scientific, and/or operational settings.”
Tips to Improve Your Concurrent FITREP
Yesterday an officer e-mailed me and asked for tips on improving his concurrent FITREP, which I thought would make a nice blog post.
A concurrent FITREP is most often received when you are deployed. It is “concurrent” because not only are you getting a FITREP from your deployed command/unit, but you are also getting one from your home/parent command. For example, I just returned from a deployment. I was gone from September 2015 to June 2016. I received both a periodic FITREP from my parent/home command and a concurrent FITREP from my deployed command.
Tips to improve your concurrent FITREP include:
- Realize that operational commanders often know very little about medical/Navy FITREPs, so you want to do everything you can to make sure that none of these critical FITREP mistakes happen to you.
- Try to get a strong soft breakout where the commander compares you to all officers of the same grade under his/her command either now or during his/her entire career. For example, “In the top 10% of over 200 O4 officers I’ve rated in my entire career.”
- Make sure your most important title/duty is in the box in the upper left of block 29. For example, don’t put “PHYSICIAN” but “OIC” or “SMO”. You can often score some titles that sound very important on a deployment, like “MEU SURGEON” or “GROUP SURGEON”. You don’t want to waste them.
Otherwise, general FITREP advice can be found in the Basic Anatomy of a FITREP.
The Top 5 Critical FITREP Mistakes
When I was a Detailer, I would review a lot of records for people who failed to promote. Over and over again I would see FITREPs that reflected poorly on the officer. A lot of the time they didn’t realize it was even an issue, and sometimes they did it to themselves. Here are the top 5 FITREP mistakes you want to make sure you don’t make:
- Getting anything other than an early promote (EP) when you are getting a 1/1 FITREP, also known as an “air bubble.”
If you are the only officer in your competitive category (meaning that you aren’t competing against anyone on that FITREP), make sure you get an EP. Just like a single air bubble, you should “rise to the top” and get an EP. If you don’t get the air bubble and get a promotable (P) or must promote (MP), it reflects poorly on you unless it is CLEARLY EXPLAINED in the narrative why you are getting a P or MP. Here you can see an officer who got a 1/1 MP in his/her last FITREP and how it would be noted at a promotion board:
For example, if your reporting senior doesn’t give newly promoted officers an EP, your narrative should say something like, “Newly promoted officers do not receive EP rankings.” Sometimes this happens because your reporting senior is an officer from another service and he/she doesn’t understand the “Navy rules” for FITREPs. Sometimes it happens because either you or your reporting senior wants to give you a P or MP so you can “show progression” and get an EP. If you want to show progression, do it on the overall marks, not the final promotion recommendation. For example, give yourself a 4.0 EP, then a 4.17 EP, and finally a 4.33 EP. DO NOT give yourself a P or MP if you are getting a 1/1 FITREP.
- Both officers in a competitive group of 2 getting a MP FITREP.
If you are in a competitive group of 2, your reporting senior should give 1 of you an EP and the other a MP. If he/she gives you both a MP, it reflects poorly on both of you. Most often this will happen at an operational command and/or when there are 2 officers who are competing but are in the same promotion year group. Make sure your reporting senior doesn’t take the easy road and give you both a MP. One of you should get the EP, and the other can get a MP with a strong narrative explaining why.
- Declining from an EP to an MP without changing competitive groups (or “moving to the left”).
Most often I would see this when a resident who was in a large competitive group was given an EP FITREP. Then when they graduate from residency, their competitive group shrinks and they don’t get an EP but are left with an MP. Here’s what it looks like on when projected at the promotion board:
If I was you, I’d fight this like a dog. If they can’t keep you at an EP and you didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this, make sure the reason for your drop from an EP to a MP is clearly explained in the FITREP narrative.
If this happens to you because you are changing competitive groups, like when you get promoted or move from residency/fellowship to a staff physician at the same institution, it is not a black mark in any way and is expected.
- Not getting a 5.0 in Leadership.
If you are writing your own FITREP, you can’t give yourself a 5.0 in every category, but of all the categories Leadership is probably the most important one. Make sure you give yourself a 5.0 in Leadership because that is what the promotion board is looking to promote, future leaders. Having less than a 5.0 can send a bad message to the board.
Sometimes you have no control over this, and sometimes you may deserve less than a 5.0 in Leadership, but do your best to get a 5.0 there if at all possible.
- Giving yourself an overall trait average less than your reporting senior’s average.
Every reporting senior has an overall trait average for each rank that includes all of the FITREPs that they’ve done for that rank. You want to try and find out what it is.
While a reporting senior can look up their average on BOL, you can’t. You can, though, see it on your Performance Summary Record if you’ve received a FITREP from them at your current rank. Although it changes every time they do more FITREPs, their average the last time they did a round of FITREPs can be found on your PSR and is highlighted below by the red arrow with blue text (this reporting senior had ranked 6 LCDRs and had an average of 3.50 at that time) on one of the slides from my FITREP video podcast:
If you have never received a FITREP from your reporting senior at your current rank, maybe your one of your friends has. The other way to find out their average is to ask your chain-of-command. Someone, usually the command’s FITREP coordinator, will know their average for your rank.
It is probably obvious that once you find out their average, you’d like to make sure you are above it. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to be above it because you are getting a P and/or you deserve to be below it, but make sure you don’t rank yourself below it if given the chance to write your own FITREP.
In summary, those are the top 5 FITREP mistakes I often see. If you are interested in learning more, grab a copy of your FITREP and watch this video podcast. In 45 minutes you’ll know everything you need to know to write effective FITREPs.
FY16 O5 Promotion Board Takeaways
Now that the FY16 O5 promotion board results have been released and I’ve had a chance to review a number of officer records, here are my O5 promotion board takeaways. If you’d like to review the statistics, click here:
Promotion Board Takeaways
If these things happen to you, you are very likely never going to promote to O5:
- Any PFA/BCA failures.
- Legal issues, such as a DUI or any other legal trouble.
- Failure to become board certified.
There are other things that could happen to you that make it difficult but not impossible to promote. They include:
- Coming into zone while in GME. There were people who promoted while in GME, but those lucky few broke out in large competitive groups before or during GME. Those who have non-observed (NOB) fitreps before the board, such as those in full-time outservice training, tend not to promote.
- Spending too much time in the fleet as a GMO, flight surgeon, or UMO. This is mostly because it causes you to come into zone while you are still in GME, and is worsened if your residency is long.
- Never getting a competitive early promote (EP) fitrep. Many officers who fail to select for O5 have never had a competitive EP fitrep as an O4. This can be because they are stationed places without competitive groups and get 1/1 fitreps, or it can be because they were in a competitive group and did not break out and get an EP.
- Receiving potentially adverse fitreps. This most commonly happens when you are at an operational command and your reporting senior is not someone who is used to ranking medical corps officers, although it could happen for other reasons (like your reporting senior felt you deserved this type of fitrep). The most common thing would be if there is a competitive group of 2 officers but both are given must promote (MP) fitreps instead of 1 getting an EP and the other the MP. When both get an MP, it reflects poorly on both officers unless the reason for this is CLEARLY explained in the fitrep narrative, which it often is not. The other thing that happens is that a reporting senior gives you a 1/1 MP instead of a 1/1 EP. If you are ever getting a 1/1 fitrep, make sure you get an EP. You should consider getting a 1/1 MP an adverse fitrep. If there is no way around this, often because the reporting senior has a policy that they don’t give newly promoted officers an EP, make sure that this policy is clear in the fitrep narrative.
- Having a declining fitrep. Mostly this happens when you go from getting an EP to an MP on your fitrep under the same reporting senior. If it is because you changed competitive groups, like you went from being a resident to a staff physician, that is understandable and not a negative. If you didn’t change competitive groups, though, make sure the reason you declined is explained.
- Making it obvious to the promotion board that you didn’t update your record. The most obvious ways a promotion board will know you didn’t update your record is if you don’t have a photo in your current rank, your officer summary record (OSR) is missing degrees that you obviously have (like your MD or DO), or if many of the sections of your OSR are either completely blank or required updating by the board recorders. Remember that although promotion board recorders will correct your record for you, anything they do and any corrections they make are annotated to the board. While a few corrections are OK, you don’t want a blank record that the recorders had to fill in. It demonstrates that you didn’t update your record.
So who actually promotes to O5? In general, the officer who promotes to O5 is:
- Board certified.
- Finished GME early enough that they had time to break out with a competitive EP fitrep as a staff physician.
- Has a demonstrated history of excellence as an officer. In other words, whenever they are in a competitive group, they successfully break out and get an EP fitrep. Being average is just not good enough anymore.
- They have no PFA failures, legal problems, declining fitreps, or potentially adverse fitreps.
- They have updated their record, and if they previously failed to select they reviewed their record with their detailer and actively worked to improve it.
Basic Anatomy of a FITREP
There is a HUGE knowledge deficit in the Medical Corps about FITREPs, which is sad when you consider that they are probably the most important document in our Naval careers. To address this deficit I created this video podcast. In 43 minutes you’ll know just about everything that you need to know about FITREPs. This material is based on about 10 lectures I collected over the years and is consistent with the 2015 update of the FITREP instruction that was just released a few months ago.
Grab a FITREP to look at or start up NAVFIT98a and write your FITREP as you watch the video because it will be much easier to follow along this way. In addition, here are the slides to download and view and the FITREP instruction:
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