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News > Commentary - "If I had to rate you today, where would you stand"
"If I had to rate you today, where would you stand"

Posted 7/16/2010   Updated 8/12/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Cookston
571st Contingency Response Group chief enlisted manager

7/16/2010 - TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Throughout my career I've taken measures to ensure that my rating reflects my efforts. I facilitated honest discussions with each of my supervisors and knew exactly where I stood at all times. The only thing I've ever expected from them is honesty, and I've been fortunate to have good supervisors throughout my career. I always ask this simple question, "If you had to rate me today, where would I stand?" This requires the supervisor to be upfront and straightforward, and forces them to give meaningful feedback. If it's less than a "5", I would chart out a course for improvement with my supervisor. The time to ask this vital question is not when your EPR is about to close out. This implies that you did not care enough about your rating until it was too late. No Airman should ever be surprised at the rating they are given.

Are you talking to your supervisors? Feedback should not be limited to formal initial and midterm only. You need to do it every 60 to 90 days even if you believe you are the "golden child". Supervisors and subordinates must maintain that vital line of open communication. If this is not taking place then you may find yourself with a rating that is well below your expectation.

We live in an era where anything less than a "5" on an EPR tends to be viewed as nothing short of a death sentence. It's an unfortunate distortion of the rating system and I do not believe in that thought process. Yes, a "5" Airman by definition is "truly among the best" - one who far exceeds the standards. But remember that a "4" still identifies you as an "above average" performer, and still very promotable. If you are doing what is expected then you've just defined yourself as a "3" an "Average" Airman. Everyone starts as "Average", and it's up to you to prove otherwise with your performance. There are no quota systems and you will receive the rating that reflects your attitude and effort. Supervisors must not inflate the system by giving someone a rating they do not deserve, a disservice to those going above and beyond.

Yes, the system allows you to review your EPR before it goes into your permanent record. The intent of this process is to allow you the opportunity to point out major errors in fact. Not an opportunity for you to plead your case in the hopes of changing an overall rating. Your opportunity to change your rating existed well before the closeout.

At the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility for a member's career depends on each individual Airman. Take control of your future instead of leaving it up to fate or someone else. Supervisors have an integral role in guiding and mentoring their Airmen. Because we don't live in a perfect world, some do a better job than others. You and you alone must take the initiative to fill in wherever shortfalls may be. Have you made a difference?

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