NCO Leads Vitriolic Social Media Dogpile After Valid EES Question


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When the Air Force’s new Enlisted Evaluation System (EES) was fielded, CMSAF James Cody reassured airmen it wouldn’t lead, as some fear, to careerist backstabbing.

“We value, and should value teamwork [and] teambuilding, leadership etc … and I’m confident leadership will apply that to the evaluation process,” Cody remarked during a Reddit session selling the proposed changes.

Looking back, his answer didn’t really say anything, and to the extent it did, it seemed to rely on commanders and NCOs in the field to prevent the new system from feeding a divisive culture. Many voiced concern at the time that superimposing new promotion recommendation quotas on an already ailing NCO culture would make things worse rather than healing existing issues. Any good done by better distilling performance would be dragged down by turning airmen against one another in a newly stark and explicit unit-level competition, it was argued. Cody and others met these worries with little more than talking points.

One suggestion was to completely eliminate the “whole airman concept” from performance ratings. This, is was felt, would help re-cage the underlying value proposition of promotions, steering them back toward a culture valuing performance and eschewing expertise at gaming the system. This too was ignored. The new EES rewards those airmen who check squares and put on a good show, just as the old system did. The difference now is the newly explicit zero-sum quota system, the incentive to game the system is even stronger. This risks making the promotion system a terrible engine for careerism.

Which brings us to today’s lamentable episode on the US Air Force NCO page, chronicled below. Apologies for the screenshots. An Air Force NCO whose profile shows her participating as a member of the Moody AFB Honor Guard, (or perhaps a page Admin) deleted her comment as this story was being written … but not before she racked up 51 likes and the cloying adulation of a toxic gaggle of like-minded trolls.

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This is right up there with some of the worst responses I’ve seen to someone asking a legitimate question. If this commenter is indeed an NCO and not a poseur, she failed in her basic duty here. Her job was to help, mentor, and guide. Or at the very least, to stay silent and do no harm. What she did was publicly excoriate and embarrass someone who asked a question confusing to half the NCOs in the Air Force. She then basked in the glow of approval from mean-spirited commenters cheering her on for denouncing the question. 

This is a crystalline display of exactly what NCOs warned Cody would happen. It’s a response that says, essentially, “if you’re not enough of a careerist to know the answer without asking, you don’t deserve to be promoted.” This is the sort of “I got mine” attitude that predictably develops when promotions are achievable as much by gamesmanship as by work ethic and mission results.

The pack mentality on display is even worse. Not one of these people bothered to offer an answer to the question … and this is a page that routinely speaks as if it is manned — or at least informed  — by experts at AFPC and A1.

The answer is provided below, and available here. Hat tip to noted internet sleuth Steven Mayne for finding the actual, constructive answer.

Not Ready Now: Not considered ready for promotion at this time based on the need for additional grooming in the current grade, or where Airmen may require specific attention with regard to performance of established AF standards and expectations.  NRN evaluations do not necessarily constitute a referral, provided the report contains no negative comments, derogatory information, or any performance assessment ratings of “Met some but not all expectations.”

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Yes, it’s facially absurd that a “Not Ready Now” recommendation still allows someone to test for promotion. No, it wasn’t a bad question.

Imagine being an airman in today’s system. You can’t get straight answers from your chain of command or from mouthpieces like CMSAF. The sources of official gospel are often encased behind opaque walls in a Byztanine electronic maze that is down for maintenance constantly and may not be accessible when you’re deployed.

And to top it all off, when you take to social media to ask a question on a page that has frequently helped AFPC and A1 get the word out, you’re likely to get dogpiled by careerist haters who refuse to help and seem gleeful that you’re confused.

This is the climate created by four years of leadership via visits, memos, and unidirectional strategic messages. Time for a new approach at the top.

You can find and participate in the original post here. Kudos to those who pushed back, and for one poster for accurately summarizing the state of affairs on display: “every airman for himself.”

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