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.
Below this message is the O5 promotion list. For those that were selected, congratulations. Now that you are a CDR(s), you should strongly consider mixing your career up a little. No matter what you do for the next few years as a junior CDR, you’re likely to get a promotable (P) on your fitreps if you are in a competitive group. This fact makes it a great time to PCS, moving overseas or to a senior operational role if you haven’t done those tours yet. It also makes it a great time to apply for a fellowship, go to a War College, take on a job that you will enjoy but will get you 1/1 fitreps that could hurt you later in your career, or pursue anything else you can think of that is rank appropriate. Then after you spend a few years doing this, you can return to a command, try to get a senior leadership role and competitive fitreps, and give it your best shot to promote to O6.
If you did not promote, it is time to regroup. See my June 21st post entitled “You Failed to Promote…Now What?” Keep in mind, that most physicians are offered continuation until year 20 as a LCDR, so you likely have a few more chances to promote.
Once I have some time to analyze the O5 board results and get some statistics, I’ll do a more detailed post with O5 promotion board takeaways.
My June 13th post that discussed whether CDR is the new terminal rank and other O6 promotion board takeaways has gotten the most attention thus far. I received some questions about what happens when you are passed over for promotion and are now “above-zone.” If you ever find yourself in this position, here is what you need to do:
- Realize that it is not the end of the world. As we’ve previously discussed, more and more people are getting passed over, and a good number of them eventually are selected for promotion. In FY15, 36% of LCDRs who were above-zone were selected for promotion to CDR. When it comes to CAPT, the above-zone selection rate was 11% in FY14, 10% in FY15, and 7% in FY16. While those promotion rates are particularly depressing for above-zone CDRs, you have to realize that there is a significant portion of CDRs who have given up and stopped trying to promote to CAPT but are still included in the denominator of the above-zone selection rate. Because of this, I think if you try to get promoted your chances are better than the aforementioned 7-11% above-zone selection rate.
- If you do nothing, you will continue to get looked at for promotion boards until you retire, resign, or are forced out of the Navy. There is no limit on the number of chances you get to promote and your record will be evaluated for promotion every year. That said…
- You need to try to promote. At a minimum you need to send a letter to the promotion board. What do you say in this letter? First, briefly state that you want to be promoted and that you desire to continue your career in the Navy. Second, briefly explain what a promotion would allow you to do that you can’t do at your current rank. Answer the question, “Why should they promote you?” For example, if you want to do Executive Medicine you need to be an O6, so tell them that you want to screen for XO. If you are a LCDR and you want to be a Department Head at a large MTF or a Residency Director (or whatever you want to do), tell them that you need to be promoted to CDR to be competitive for these jobs. The Navy wants to promote leaders. Make it clear to them that you are a motivated future leader.
- Try and get letters of support to attach to your letter. These letters should be from the most senior officers who can personally attest to your value to the Navy. In other words, it is probably better to get a letter from an O6 who knows you well than a 3 star who doesn’t. If you are not sure who to ask for letters, ask those more senior to you or your Detailer for advice. Your Specialty Leader is always someone to consider if he/she knows you well and can speak to your contributions to the specialty and Navy.
- Have your record reviewed by your Detailer. Because of promotion board confidentiality, you and your Detailer will never know the reason(s) you did not promote, but most of the time the Detailer can come up with an educated guess. They’ll often find things that you were not even aware of, like potentially adverse fitreps, or information missing from your record. My promo prep document will help you as well, which is available at the top of this webpage.
- Do everything you can to get “early promote” or “EP” fitreps. This is largely accomplished by continually striving for positions of increased leadership. You need to get a job that has historically led to promotion. If you are a LCDR who got passed over for CDR, try to get one of these jobs and excel at it:
- Assistant/Associate Residency Director
- Department Head at a small/medium sized MTF
- Senior Medical Officer or Medical Director
- Chair of a hospital committee
- ECOMS member
If you are a CDR who got passed over for CAPT, try to get one of these jobs and excel at it:
- Residency Director
- Department Head in a large MTF
- Associate Director or Director
- Officer-in-Charge (OIC)
- ECOMS President
- Division, Group, or Wing Surgeon
- CATF Surgeon
- Specialty Leader
These lists are not exhaustive and are not the only paths to CDR or CAPT, but they are a good start.
- Meet with your chain-of-command. After you’ve been passed over is not the time to be passive. You need to sit down with your leadership and get an honest assessment from them of how you’re doing and what they would recommend to continue to advance your career. You may not like what you hear, but it is better to find out early if they don’t think you’re doing a good job or that you are unlikely to break out on your fitreps. That way you can try and put yourself in a better situation by changing commands.
In addition to the above list of things you should do, there are a few things you should not do:
- Do not lie in your letter to the board. In other words, don’t tell them you want to do Executive Medicine if you don’t really want to. Your record reads like a book, and if it tells a story that is contrary to what your letter says, this is unlikely to help you and may hurt you.
- Do not send long correspondence. Promotion boards have to read everything sent to them, and a long letter may not be appreciated. Keep it brief and to the point.
- Do not ask your current CO to write you a letter to the board if they’ve done an observed fitrep on you. His or her opinion about you should be reflected on that fitrep, so they don’t need to write you a letter. If they’ve never given you an observed fitrep or there is some new information not reflected on prior fitreps, they could either write you a letter or give you a special fitrep. Ultimately it is up to them whether they do either of these or none.
- Do not discuss anything adverse unless you want the board to notice and discuss it. This issue comes up frequently and people will ask me for advice, but ultimately it is up to the individual officer. The one thing I can guarantee is that if you send a letter to the board and discuss something adverse, they will notice it because they will read your letter! If you think there is a chance the adverse matter will get overlooked, it is probably better not to mention it and keep your fingers crossed.
Those are my tips for those who find themselves above-zone. Most importantly, if you want to promote, NEVER STOP TRYING. I personally know of people who got promoted their 4th look and have heard of people who succeeded on their 9th try!