Spc. Jordan McEvers (left), from Jacksonville, Ill., Company E, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, looks over his study guide with his sponsor minutes before participating in a promotion board, March 21, at Combat Outpost Carver, Iraq.
By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Official
COMBAT OUTPOST CARVER, Iraq – Their excitement and anticipation was high as Soldiers stood outside their battalion headquarters on March 21, awaiting their turn to participate in one of four boards.
The Soldiers attending the boards were from 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. The first group of six sergeants entered the conference room one-by-one. Their intentions were the same: demonstrating to the four board members sitting opposite them why they should be considered for promotion to the rank of staff sergeant.
The second group, 18 specialists, had the same intention of getting promoted. They were given the chance to show Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Moore, from Waverly Hall, Ga., 1-15th Inf. Regt., president of the board, and three company first sergeants that they have the confidence, knowledge and ability to join the non-commissioned officer ranks as a sergeant.
After a short break, five Soldiers and four non-commissioned officers competed for the titles of Soldier of the Month and Non-commissioned Officer of the Month respectively.
“I was so nervous my back was spasming,” said Spc. Michael Teems, from Ringgold, Ga., Company F, 1-15th Inf. Regt., who was the last Soldier to go before the promotion board.
“Once you calmed down and started answering the questions right, you did real well,” his sponsor, Sgt. Dustin Granger, from Jamestown, Ohio, told him.
Many Soldiers going before a board experience just that: The anticipation leading up to the board is many times more stressful than actually participating.
According to Spc. Andrew Camp, from Davie County, N.C., Company E, the more boards you participate in, the easier they become. Camp, who passed the promotion board, has won both the Soldier of the Month and Solider of the Quarter boards in the recent past. He said studying was merely a refresher for what he already knew.
“The most studying I did was today,” he explained. “Once you know it, it sticks. If you study too much, you’ll mess up.”
Study habits that work for some Soldiers may not work for others. Sgt. Phillip Edwards, from Moss Point, Miss., a petroleum supply specialist in Company F and a board sponsor, said he gives his Soldiers three weeks to prepare.
“It’s important to hit them up early with studying,” he said. “I want my Soldiers to learn and retain the information instead of just cramming the night before or the day of the board.”
Edwards’ Soldier, Spc. Dariu Rowser, from Demopolis, Ala., explained he studies everything in the U.S. Army study guide until he gets guidance from the board members on what topics they will be focusing on. A memo describing approximately four subjects is distributed to the participants about one week before the board.
“I went to the mock board and study groups to get me ready,” Rowser said. “I also went to my squad leader (Edwards) for help.”
“In the mock board, he did well,” Edwards said. “In the promotion board, he did outstanding.”
Both Camp and Rowser agreed that answering the questions and reciting their biographies are the easiest parts of the board.
“You already know the answers,” Camp said. “After they judge you on your facing movements, you sit down, and you’re good. And my bio, well, it’s my bio. I know my life.”
Memorizing the study guide will help in the board but quick answers are not the only things board members are looking for when choosing who will be promoted or receive the title Soldier of the Month or Non-commissioned Officer of the Month.
“Self-confidence is the main thing I look for,” said 1st Sgt. Arvento Collins, from Wilson, N.C., Company B, who was a member of the board. “Boards show a Soldier’s character. They should demonstrate their leadership instilled in them. What is most important is that Soldiers know the Soldier’s Creed and for NCOs, same thing, the NCO creed. They are like our bibles. From the first to the last paragraphs, it’s how we, as Soldiers, live.”
Staff Sgt. William Fields, from Chicago, Company E, who sponsored Camp, said he stresses the importance of confidence and knowing the Noncommissioned Officer Creed and the Soldier’s Creed, two requirements on almost every board.
“NCOs have to show confidence,” he said. “If you don’t have confidence, Soldiers are not going to follow you. I also quiz my Soldiers on why they want to be an NCO. That’s important.”
Collins said boards are like real life by presenting stressful situations and the Soldier is being judged on how they react.
“If you can’t maintain your military bearing in a board, how are you going to act out in real life?” he said.
Agreed on by leaders like Collins, Edwards and Fields, demonstrating confidence is extremely important when going to the board; however, some Soldiers say it is the most difficult.
“Being confident in the board is the hardest part,” Rowser said. “There are a lot of high-ranking people in there, and they are all looking at you. You don’t want to be nervous ‘cause then your legs start shaking. You have to keep your military bearing.”
Collins said that’s where most Soldiers mess up.
“Some Soldiers have strayed completely away from military bearing,” he said. “Boards are like first impressions on basic soldiering.”
Although many of the subjects at the board are still the same from when Collins and Fields were participants, the Army has adjusted to the times.
“Some of the subjects are the same, but the focus on certain areas has changed,” Fields said. “When I went to the board we were still doing Cold War tactics. Now, we are in Iraq and the techniques and tactics have changed.”
“Today’s Soldiers use more technology than when I was going to boards,” Collins said. “These new technologies and equipment make better Soldiers and leaders.”
Of the 24 Soldiers and non-commissioned officers who participated in the promotion boards, all were promoted to the next rank.
Spc. Deesta Sheldon, from Negley, Ohio, Company F, and Sgt. Monuete Baskin, from Phenix City, Ala., Company E, walked away with the titles of Soldier of the Month and Noncommissioned Officer of the Month, respectively.
The 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment is assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, from Fort Benning, Ga., 3rd Infantry Division, and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.