CPI team streamlines enlisted to officer commissioning process

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Bob Jennings
  • 442d Fighter Wing Public Affairs

For many Airmen, whether on initial entry, or separation from active duty, one of the primary selling points of the Air Force Reserve is the ease with which an enlisted member can gain a commission and become an officer. Often, it’s simply a matter of building an application package and appearing before a Deserving Airman Commissioning Board when an officer vacancy is announced.

In the early 2020’s and late teens, however, the process at the 442d Fighter Wing here started to slow down for a few reasons. As a result, Airmen selected by the board ended up waiting sometimes for years before they went to Officer Training School.

As the enlisted corps is one of the primary sources of officer recruiting for the wing, something had to be done.

So, in November 2022, the wing process manager, Mrs. Shallyn Troutman, put together a continuous process improvement event to address the issue. She gathered a team of sharp company-grade officers who had been enlisted themselves and thus been through the DACB process before.

The first step, at the request of wing leadership, was to create business rules for the commissioning board. The rules lay out who should make up the board, including which group should provide an O-6 to serve as the chair, and provide a rubric by which to judge the applicants.

Step two: create an Enlisted-to-Officer Committee, the function of which is to serve as mentors and sponsors for prospective DACB applicants. When an Airman expresses interest in gaining a commission (more on that below), they’ll be contacted by a member of the E-O Committee within a week, who will provide guidance and assistance in building their package.

But how does a member express interest in commissioning? Through the USAF Connect App, available for Android and iPhone. In the 442d Fighter Wing Favorite, there is a module called Commissioning. Inside that module a member can request to be mentored through a simple contact form. Additionally, the module contains a list of the members of the E-O Committee; a calendar showing when the next board is scheduled; and a comprehensive list of package requirements, the order in which they should be arranged, and PDF copies of required forms.

The final steps were to create a package tracker by which the 442d Medical Squadron and the Career Development office could monitor applicants and ensure packages flow as smoothly and quickly as possible, and to build a schedule for yearly commissioning boards.

“We wanted to have a standardized battle rhythm,” said Troutman. “And it needs to be a battle rhythm, every year, that’s exactly the same, so the enlisted know exactly what’s coming.”

The battle rhythm starts with the announcement of vacant officer billets in January. Applicants then have seven months to prepare their package using the resources available on the USAF Connect App and to speak with mentors from the committee who can help pre-vet their work and ensure they put the best possible foot forward when the board convenes each August.

“I think in the past, commanders have always said, ‘How do we do a board when we have vacancies that we’d like to fill?’,” Troutman said. “So, usually it’s been kinda thrown together haphazardly, a little bit, where somebody’s just like ‘I think I just advertise,’ so they call career development and they toss it out there. And people usually have a couple of months to get ready, nobody’s been mentored properly, and so… Hopefully we fix all that, and give each individual their best shot.”

The aim of the CPI event was to smooth out the wrinkles in the entire process. The new battle rhythm is intended to provide commanders with a set structure on how and when they hold boards, ease the burden on the career development section by creating multiple touchpoints and providing mentors to applicants, and provide applicants with a standardized timeline for when they should be ready to meet the board.

The initial test of the new program is set to run in 2024.