Looking out for No. 1

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- We've all heard a lot of talk recently about preserving combat capability. Well, I just spent a huge amount of time trying to fix records that were incorrect at my promotion board. Luckily, all the effort turned out to be worth it; however, but I would have preferred to be in the vault studying tactics or at the bar celebrating my promotion instead of writing letters to boards to straighten everything out.

Hopefully, you can learn from my lesson and save yourself the pain.

Lesson one: Every part of your records count. One missing commendation medal was the whole difference in my getting promoted. When I reviewed my records prior to my primary promotion board, I was surprised to find that my last two Officer Performance Reports were not in my records.

Happy that I'd taken the time to do a records review, I didn't spend enough time looking at the rest of my records. I did look at the awards and decorations page, but failed to pay attention to the numbers of each I'd received. It turned out I was missing the commendation medal that I'd received upon leaving Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, back in 1997. I only realized this after I was non-selected for promotion and a counselor at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, pointed that out as the most glaring problem with my Promotion Recommendation Form. I was surprised by the news of the missing medal, since I was pretty sure I'd received the medal.

Lesson two: Keep copies of your records in one place. An example 6-Part Binder is included at the end of this article. This is how I have mine organized now and a similar standard has been instituted recently in our squadron. Supervisors should ensure everyone has one. As you might guess, I had my records strung out amongst files and boxes at home and in the office. I did an extensive search and couldn't find the record.

Lesson three: The Military Personnel Flight (now, MPS - Military Personnel Section) system updates hundreds of records a month. Sooner or later, one is going to fall through the cracks. Since this incident, two other medals of mine have not shown up in my records and I needed to take the documentation back to the MPS. The other tracking problem of most medals is they happen while PCSing, so they're easy to forget and can be tough to track after you've moved. When I tried to track down the medal at Osan AB and AFPC, the people I talked to could not find any record. I later learned that bases keep copies of awards and decorations for two years and then transfer the documents to a staging area where they are held for 35 years.

Of course, I found the commendation medal in an unopened box back in my garden shed when I went to my next assignment. Perfect.

To make a long story short, I updated my records at the MPS office and then requested a correction to my PRF through the AFBCMR (AFI 36-2603, Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records). This is not a short process and they eventually denied my request quoting the regulation that states military members are responsible for ensuring their records are up to date. I thought I was out of luck at that point, but realized later if the personnel system had filed the record correctly, they should have been able to find the documentation and it would have at least been corrected for my above-the-zone board.
So I wrote another request for a correction to my records for that board and this time, the board agreed and forwarded my corrected records to a Special Selection Board. These boards are scheduled several times a year to review cases like mine where records need to be rechecked. It's my understanding that they reviewed my records against the bottom ten records that made the cut at the original board to see if it should have made the promotion list.

There were some other issues in the whole case, but it all could have been avoided by a careful review of my records in the first place. If I were you, I'd make a thorough record review a priority on my list of things to do this week. Make sure your awards and decorations, duty history, education history, etc., are all exactly as they should be. Making changes takes time and documentation, so waiting until the week before your next promotion board is not the answer.

It's nice to know that the Air Force has a system that works to correct errors in records. However, you can save yourself a lot of time writing a newspaper article if you just never test that system. Check your records, check your records, check your records.

You can make a request for your records via, mail, fax, phone or e-mail to AFPC using the information below:

Mailing:
HQ AFPC/PBR4
550 C St. West, Ste 5
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4707
Phone: DSN 665-2998, Comm: (210)565-2998
Fax: DSN 665-2693, Comm: (210)565-2693
E-mail: Records.Review@randolph.af.mil

Sample 6 Part Binder Contents:
Duty History Information
Record of Emergency Data (vRED)
Copy of all Awards - Citation and Special Order
Copy of all OPRs/EPRs
Copy of PRFs
Miscellaneous Documents (I kept all the Correction of Military Records documents in there)

Editor's Note: Capt. Chris Anderson, 52nd Force Support Squadron, checked the facts from the personnel side of the house.