“Ma’am, remember my NCOER is due soon.”

…one week later.

“Ma’am, did you write my NCOER?”

…two weeks later.

“Ma’am, were you able to do my NCOER.”

“Damn it. That’s right. I’m sorry, Sergeant. I’ll start this week, I promise.”

Has anyone ever seen that episode of Spongebob where he has to write an essay for boating school class, and all he comes up with is “THE”.

Sitting at my computer, watching the icon flash on the HRC website, I was Spongebob. I felt like I didn’t even know where to start. I recently entered the unit, and a month later I was writing a complete year’s review of my first platoon sergeant. My first NCOER was one of the most awkward, difficult pieces of Army writing I completed.

And even when I completed it…as I proudly presented my finished product to my platoon sergeant, his voice cracked a little bit as he replied,

“um…Ma’am, it needs more quantitative data. Here are some examples.”

And EVEN THEN, even with the examples he gave me, I ended up editing the NCOER draft he wrote for himself. Pathetic.

With this story in mind, this platoon sergeants helped me with some advice and an NCOER example. Thanks SFC Hemphill!

SFC Hemphill’s Words of Advice 

I felt this was my best NCOER because of all the things I accomplished during that rated period with the training of units to deploy to CENTCOM, applying my expertise, and I had earned my degree.

The 3 points for writing bullets for their NCO’s
– Make sure the bullets are written in past tense and straight to the point.
-What you write for that NCO has to be quantifiable and not fluff
-Try to write at least 3 bullets for each block.

Advice for writing an NCOER for a not so great NCO
– Be honest and truthful when writing that NCOER. If that NCO really didn’t perform great then the counseling you do quarterly should help you write that NCOER. If the NCO deserve one-line bullets it’s because no one held him accountable and help him strive to his potential.

Ive’s (that’s me!) Words of Advice

-Scrutinize little administrative things on the NCOER such as the Duty MOSC. Include the level (i.e. 20 level, 30 level, etc.)

-Make sure everyone is signing at the appropriate time. The order is: rater, senior rater, and rated Soldier.

– If you don’t have a great NCO, be honest. “Has potential” or “requires strong senior leadership to accomplish tasks” are some ways of communicating that who you are rating probably doesn’t need to get promoted any time soon.

-Under “Leadership” you must include that the NCO supported Army SHARP and EO programs

Ok, guys, this one was more short and to the point, ironically, like an NCOER! Happy writing! And remember ask your PSG or 1SG for help if you’re at a loss 🙂


Initial Counseling










“Oh! And Sergeant!”

“Yes Ma’am?” My first Platoon Sergeant never paused between the two words. He always said “yes ma’am” like he was calling me to attention.

A little too excitedly, I said, “We still need to do our initial counseling!”

My platoon sergeant smirked a little as he left the office. “Yes. Roger, Ma’am.”

I had to build myself up to this. My first big girl initial counseling with my first Platoon Sergeant. I waited four years for this one moment. I would finally assert myself as a leader with my fearless PSG by my side.

The day finally arrived. I wrung my hands together…was that sweat?

“So…this is the initial counseling.”

I smiled nervously as I usually do, trying to counter balance friendly anxiety with my deeper and more serious Platoon Leader voice. You might know the kind. The one where you don’t want to sound too feminine, but you also don’t want to sound like you’re compensating for the estrogen running through your voice box. Just me? Ok. I digress. 

I read through it, sounding a bit robotic.

“Duties and Responsibilities of an NCO. Check.” 

“SHARP and EO. Check.”

I finally tired of hearing the sound of my voice and just set the counseling aside.

I look up at my Platoon Sergeant. “I know you can read this. I just want to let you know that I want us to be a team. I want us to be able to work together. “This is what I’ve noticed so far in the platoon…” I continued on to explain my observations over the last month and we discussed possible improvements.

Although at first, my first Platoon Sergeant and I did not share many commonalities, we did possess these mutual traits: we had a kind of weird, sarcastic sense of humor; we were both rather open-minded people; most importantly, we cared about our Soldiers. Despite any differences between us, the initial counseling established a foundation for our relationship and a reference point during some minor disagreements. Sure, my counseling probably did not reflect the poignance or eloquence of Colin Powell’s first initial counseling, but I attempted to create a culture of open dialogue, team work, and mutual respect within the platoon through the ever mysterious 4856.

During your first initial counseling, you might feel a little silly or redundant. Your platoon sergeant likely endured many counselings with many different characters. Put your hesitation aside! These counselings show that you maintain the proper standard. They allow you to set your expectations so no confusion remains about how you want operations run within your platoon.

Now, without further ado, below are a few stellar initial counseling forms** from friends of mine who were kind enough to donate to the cause! Mine are not here because…they’re on the share drive at my old unit. Sorry, guys.

**Personal Identifiers and organizations were removed from some forms

Also, for the record, I have never read any of Colin Powell’s initial counselings.

1LT Michael Zuniga 

Michael’s MFR and 4856 serve as XO counseling examples. Although different from a Platoon Sergeant initial counseling, it follows a similar format for you to use for any LT Senior Rater counseling.

1LT Hannah Brueck

1LT Xavier Davis

Notice how these counselings state some form of Army Regulation, communicate an expectation, and designate a way forward. The counseling is not a one way street.  Not only should you establish yourself as the senior leader, you must act as such. Follow up, make a plan for quarterly counselings and exemplify standards you want your subordinates to follow. Most of all, be yourself! Authenticity and approachability are keys to any great counseling! You’re not knife handing your NCOs and telling them how to act. This an opportunity to discuss how to make each other better!

So don’t be lazy! Observe your unit for 30 days, and get to counseling, LT!

OER Support Forms!

Teach North Korean Refugees is a Non-Profit Organization dedicated to teaching North Korean defectors English. With  some help, I coordinated an event where five refugees shared their stories of escape to the Soldiers in our Battalion. If you find yourself stationed in Korea, look up this incredible organization! Also, this serves as a small example of what you can do to contribute to your unit and write on your OER Support Form 

I walked into my new commander’s office for my second initial counseling.

I guess we’ll see what this one has in store…

My first initial counseling proved standard at best. The gist of it: “Be accountable. Lead. Don’t mess up too much.”

So, in my attempt at optimism, I figured my next initial counseling could only improve.

My eyes widened as my commander placed a whole packet in my hand complete with a memo outlining his expectations.

“Ive, these are my goals and expectations for you. By the end of the week, I want you to start your OER Support Form so that you can set yourself up for success when the time comes for me to write your OER.”

I nodded my head, probably a little too enthusiastically.

“Roger, Sir. On it.”

In the meantime, my mind panicked. OER Support Form? What is that? Sounds like extra work.

Time for long inquiries over wine with my long-time friend and mentor, Google.

Actually, I first relayed all my questions with my real mentor, my dad. Then…I reconfirmed with Google. Who doesn’t like a good excuse for an evening of wine and research?

So. OER support forms. They are 20 percent pain in the butt and 80 percent extremely helpful, especially as a starting point for listing goals and accomplishments in your rated time.

The Officer Evaluation Report (OER) Support Form allows you to state your personal goals in your specific job position and your accomplishments. More importantly, it empowers you to write your own evaluation so that the supervisor can simply copy, paste, and edit your writing for your OER.

Below is an example of my OER Support Form…



For platoon leaders, notice that the Company Commander, a Captain, serves as the rater, and the Battalion Commander, a Lieutenant Colonel acts as your senior rater. On the OER, the rater annotates the comments and achievements for each leadership attribute (Character, Presence, Intellect, Leads, Develops, and Achieves). The Senior rater writes a “Senior Rater comments” paragraph outlining your potential and rates you against other same ranking Officers in the same position. Note that these are not located on the OER support form. You are the sole creator and editor of the support form!

“Part IV: Rated Officer’s Duties and Responsibilities” outlines the four Ws of your specific duty. For the past year, I served as a platoon leader in a Patriot Battery. This responsibility coincides with my MOS, 14A, Air Defense Officer. Your duty description or location, however, may not necessarily align with your MOS. A Chemical Officer, for instance, may be assigned to S3. Although that Chem O may work with operations and perform tasks with S3, her rated time should describe the duties performed as a chemical officer for the battalion if assigned as the Battalion Chem O. Accordingly, Part IV must define the actual duty, not perceived duties since the OER will focus primarily on the aspects outlined in the “duties and responsibilities” portion.

Ok! Now on to the fun stuff. The “Major Performance Objectives” refer to the personal goals you desire to accomplish within your rated time. I advise that you nest these within the battalion’s and the battery’s mission to provide a reference point. At the same time, however, tailor the goals to your leadership style and personality. Under “Character,” for instance, I understood that I soon would become the senior LT in my battery. My commander and other lieutenants would look to me for guidance and direction. Although aware of this new-found responsibility, I created a habit of remaining quiet in training meetings for two reasons: (1) lack of confidence in the face of extremely competent contemporaries (2) lack of self-control. I tend to get angry over certain decision making… While I mentally noted this goal, writing it in my OER support form allowed me to create a tangible and obtainable objective. Now, I don’t shut up. Yes, I might be considerably outspoken at times, but each time I voice my suggestions (or…educated opinions) I know I tried to make a difference. More significantly, I consistently attempt to stay true to my self and my values.

In line with those personal goals lie “Significant Contributions.” These contributions answer the question, “What did you do to make yourself, platoon and battery better with regard to each leadership attribute?” Consistently scoring a 300 on the APFT, for example, is a strong bullet that would transfer onto the OER.

Since the OER Support form is a living document, update this at least every month. By the time your OER is due, translate your bullets into a small paragraph so your rater can transpose your significant contributions on to the OER.

Thus, “LT Velez earned a 300 on her APFT” becomes:

“1LT Velez carried herself with confidence and professionalism at all times. She possessed the presence of a future Battery Commander while maintaining a high level of professional bearing. Demonstrated her presence by maintaining an impressive 300 APFT score and set the example. Displayed robust resiliency in the face of pressure, certified first time gos during two Gunnery Certifications.”

Do not underestimate your contributions! You will become surprised at the incredible amount of work you accomplished in your time as a platoon leader. Whether you earn a first time “Go” on an evaluation or coordinate a battalion event, the sky is the limit. We just get so bogged down in work that nothing feels noteworthy by the end of a year. If you do not take responsibility for your achievements though, no one will. So go get started on that support form!

Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance!

I remember the first few days in my Battery, I scuttled around like an awkward penguin following Soldiers to their equipment. Mustering up my best smile, I asked them to show me around the motor pool.

A week into the unit, I learned about “PMCS” and maintenance. I watched Soldiers go through the “reader-doer” method where one Soldier reads from a list of checks on equipment and the other Soldier performs the check. I even greased a fifth wheel! I felt accomplished. Patting myself on the back, I thought, “This leadership thing is easy! I just follow my Soldiers around and ask them questions.” In the famous words of Donald Trump, “Wrooong.”

Two months into my time in Korea, and Table VIII certification week finally arrived. Although I proved myself tactically competent, technically, I could still use a lot of work. For those of you who are not artillery, Table certifications are the validation of your equipment and crews’ ability to fight in a war time situation.

I confidently carried something called “dispatches” into the commander’s office for signatures.

“Hi, Sir. Here are my…” I struggled to remember the name.

The commander glanced down at the first page of the dispatch.

“2LT Velez. What’s wrong with your dispatch paperwork?”

Oh, that’s what they’re called. Cadet Velez’s essence transferred into my body as I peered at my dispatches like a deer in the headlights. “Uhh…Sir, I’m not sure.”

My commander silently smirked. “Sit with Chief, here. He’ll explain everything.”

And so, my training began…

The only way to learn about your equipment is to go out there and do some maintenance, and know about the paperwork associated with it! You sign for your equipment, why not learn how to take care of it?

Generally, maintenance occurs every Monday throughout the day. In the afternoon, units will have a conventional maintenance focus such as: windshield wiper fluid check, generator checks, etc. Each day of the week, Soldiers will perform Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) prior to training.

PMCS is considered as a -10 and -20 task. -10 tasks are operator level, while -20 tasks are at the company level. If operators cannot fix a fault, their next step will be to utilize a mechanic for a -20 task. Soldiers are responsible for the services, inspection, detection, and correction of minor faults before these faults cause damage, failure, or injury.

Soldiers will go through the “reader-doer” method. Every vehicle will contain its own Technical Manual, or “TM” with a PMCS check-list. In order for them to perform a proper -10/-20 level PMCS, they must meet the following standards:

  1. The equipment is Fully Mission Capable (FMC) -Fully Mission Capable (FMC)

-On-hand parts installed/maintenance complete

-Required parts are on valid requisition

-Higher maintenance on valid work request

  1. All services performed
  2. All urgent Modification Work Orders (MWOs) are applied
  3. All Basic Issue Items (BII)/Components of End Items (COEI)

on-hand and serviceable or on a valid requisition (slide-10)


You can’t avoid it! You will look at a 5988-E! The more familiar you get with this elusive little document, the more you’ll learn about your million-dollar equipment.

I would say the 5988-E is the most essential part of your dispatch. Keep in mind that each unit has an SOP outlining what the dispatch contains. A basic dispatch will include a cover page with the operator and first line supervisor name and signature, the dispatcher’s signature (the PLL clerk who works for maintenance), the 5988-E (or 2404 for equipment that is not in GCSS Army) line dated, or annotated with faults. Each day, operators will close out the prior day’s 5988 with a line date. Dispatches will be completed and inside the vehicle prior to any movement off site.

What’s that green stuff coming from my truck?

Three classes of leaks can come from your vehicles. Stains and discolorations in your equipment can also denote a leak. Keep these in mind when you spot check your equipment because some leaks can deadline (X) your vehicles.

Class I. Leakage indicated by wetness or discoloration, but not great

enough to form drops.

Class II. Leakage great enough to form drops, but not enough to cause drops to drip from item being checked/inspected.

 Class III. Leakage great enough to form drops that fall from the item

being checked/inspected.

Some tips:

  1. Start with the basics. What’s your BII? What are the basic checks for vehicles? At least follow your Soldiers through PMCS on Mondays and close out on Fridays. Platoon leaders should walk through their equipment with the Platoon sergeant and perform spot checks on before closing out shop for the weekend.
  2. Check the air pressure tank for your breaks, especially in the winter time. Any extra condensation build-up can render your breaks inoperable because the liquid froze the breaking system.
  3. Find out which pieces of equipment can cause your unit to become non-mission capable. If your whole mission is air and missile defense, for instance, and the equipment that tracks missiles becomes inoperable, your battery is NMC.
  4. It’s not always broken! Soldiers love to call equipment “broken.” Go out with your platoon sergeant or squad leader and inspect the equipment yourself. Ask questions and get the operators’ gears moving. They can likely fix whatever was “broken.”

Final Thoughts?

I think not! Coming soon are more maintenance focused posts. There’s just so much! This post, however, serves as a basic introduction to maintenance.

Big thank you to the Central Army Agency and the Ordinance Basic Leader Course for providing a wonderful power point PMCS refresher course, and the 5988-E slides. I told you the Army has a lot of great resources!