Career Management in MI Today
by Captain John T. Chenery
Today's military intelligence (MI) professionals encounter a wealth
of career opportunities. There are numerous avenues and
alternatives to achieving their career objectives. We must each
assume a leadership role in managing our own careers, thus enabling
ourselves to realize these goals.
The purpose of this article is to acquaint you with the United
States Total Army Personnel Command (PERSCOM), specifically our MI
Branch. It will also inform you of the career management process,
and give you some insight on how to influence this process. It will
delve into the roles of the various players in the assignment
business: the career manager (CM), the Personnel Service Center
(PSC), and you the soldier and leader. This article will address
your opportunities, boards and other important procedures, and methods to contact your CM.
The term "MI Branch" throughout this article encompasses the enlisted, warrant, and
commissioned officer ranks.
PERSCOM and MI Branch
PERSCOM is at the center of Army career leadership and
management. Many of you remember it as MILPERCEN (Military
Personnel Center), or simply DA (Department of the Army). By
whatever name, it is home to all the different MI Branch career managers and a
highly professional civilian workforce charged with caring for your
career management information files (CMIFs) and directing your many
military career moves.
If you are like many of us, you have never considered the
career management cycle, or even read the personnel section of the
Army Times. That stuff is for the S1 and the personnel guys. Most
of us do our jobs and go where the Army sends us. Well, this
attitude is not only unrealistic in MI today it could be downright
PERSCOM and MI Branch Mission. The PERSCOM and MI Branch
mission is to assign the right soldier to the right job in the
right place at the right time. Further, we advise MI soldiers on
their individual career needs. On the enlisted side our mission
To get the right soldier with the right grade and skill to the
right command at the right time with minimal turbulence and maximum
fairness to soldiers and their families.
means their charter is to support you by making your
assignments, assisting you in your professional development, and
assisting in preparing officer files for promotion and selection
boards. The bottom line is that mission of the CMs is to do what is
best for the Army while also adding the common sense and personal
touch to the bureaucracy of processing personnel transactions. As
fellow soldiers, MI Branch professionals take this charter very
Structure. Beyond the chain of command and structure
depicted in Figure 1, there are the unofficial and direct channels.
Commanders and G2s at all levels have direct access to the MI
Branch Chief and CMs. The open-door policy exists for all
soldiers. Whether one speaks to a professional development
noncommissioned officer (PDNCO), or the assignment officer, the
soldier can always make contact with Branch.
MI Branch Facts. To appreciate the mission of these CMs,
consider the number of soldiers for which the small handful of CMs
are responsible: 23,000 intelligence soldiers in 28 military
occupational specialties (MOSs) 11 warrant officer and 17 enlisted
MOSs and 6 areas of concentration (AOC). It can be a formidable
task to handle all inquiries directly since they receive hundreds
of phone calls and voice-mail, E-mail, and U.S. mail messages
daily. The CMs' goal is to match individuals to assignments and
opportunities, and to benefit both the soldier and the Army.
The Assignment Process
Assignments are first matched to the needs of the Army. At MI
Branch, the guidance is to then do what is right for the Army.
What this means, since you are the Army, is that they weigh all the
variables and factors involved, with care, compassion, and common
sense, but always with an eye focused on the overall mission of the
A primary concern throughout the process is the professional
development of the soldier, which encompasses numerous jobs and
training requirements at various levels and junctures during the
soldier's career. Tour equity (Continental United States (CONUS)
then outside CONUS (OCONUS), tactical then strategic, and so forth)
and getting branch qualified at various ranks are also important.
Figure 2 shows many of the variables CMs consider prior to making
an assignment. The sheer numbers involved with enlisted soldiers
necessitates a modified approach to the process, but the personal
touch of the CM is always there.
Understand that the CMs' cyclic process dictates working CONUS
rotations six months out, and OCONUS nine months out. Use these
numbers as a guide when calling MI Branch; sending the DA Form 483,
Preference Statement, is the way to achieve the best results. Yes,
they really do work.
The Career Manager's Role. The CM's role is to provide
that common sense and personal approach to the assignment process.
The Branch selects as CMs soldiers qualified at their present rank
with clear potential for promotion. Remember, it is an MI soldier
at the other end of the line who speaks your language. They care
about you, your career and your family's concerns.
After you have used your chain of command and feel you still
have significant issues that cannot be resolved at the local or
MACOM levels, contact your CM. These issues may include
compassionate reassignments, joint domiciles, and Exceptional
Family Member Program issues. A frequently requested, very
appropriate use of the CM is to give an officer a candid file
assessment prior to a promotion or selection board. This
information is available only to you, not to supervisors wishing to
screen their soldiers' personnel records. You must call MI Branch
to give authorization for the CM to discuss your file with anyone.
The continuity and depth of knowledge at MI Branch rests with
the civilian workforce. They provide the level of expertise which
is not possible for an assignment officer to develop in a 12- to
24-month tour at a CM desk. The civilians are authorized to provide
all the assistance one would receive from a CM, except file
assessments and actual assignment approval. Often when your CM puts
you on hold to find an answer, that answer comes from the
Personnel Service Center Role. The administrative functions of
file maintenance and personnel actions are the primary
responsibility of the installation PSC. After your unit S1, the PSC
is your link to both the Standard Installation Division Personnel
System (SIDPERS) and the Total Officer Personnel Management
Information System (TOPMIS). The PSC electronically updates your
file through this management system. Your local PSC has a better
capability to perform administrative updates to your files than
does MI Branch, and they are resourced to perform those functions.
However, after being notified the board will meet (a few months
before the board convenes), initiate direct dialogue with your CM.
Also, send a backup photo directly to your CM. Use registered mail
so you can be sure it arrived.
Your Role. You must be the leader in your overall career
management and become involved in your assignment process. No one
is as interested in, or concerned about, your career as you. Be
proactive. You can stay abreast of our profession's trends and
issues by reading the Army Times, Military Intelligence
Professional Bulletin, NCO Journal, MI Branch Career Notes, and the
recent issues of the MI Branch Newsletter, which is now on-line on
the Internet. Proactivity also means keeping your records up to
date at your local PSC, and ensuring Branch has a current photo and
DA Form 483 on-hand. As far as selection or promotion boards are
concerned, soldiers are responsible for keeping their records
current. Leaders need to work with soldiers prior to the CM's
promotion board scrub. Leaders are encouraged to use CMs as
sounding boards prior to counseling sessions when planned topics
relate to professional development issues and trends.
For officers, it is critical to understand exactly where you fit in
your Senior Rater's Profile. Once you receive your officer
efficiency report (OER), call your CM to check the profile. If you
wait until the board convenes to appeal your OER, it is too late.
Professional Development Opportunities
Numerous opportunities exist for MI soldiers at all rank levels,
MOSs, and AOCs. For the latest information on professional
development options in your particular MOS, check the latest
editions of the MI Career Notes, the MI Branch Newsletter, and the
Warrant Officer Newsletter. Then, if you are interested in a
program, see your chain of command, and contact your CM or PDNCO if
you have any unresolved questions
Options on the enlisted side are far too numerous to address here.
However, the basic plan is to allow the soldier opportunities for
a variety of jobs with increasing levels of responsibility.
Commissioned officers must strive for Branch qualification at
various grades as they move up throughout their careers in
accordance with Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-3, Commissioned
Officer Professional Development and Career Management. We talk
also of branch competitiveness which goes a bit further. As an
example, company grade officers are competitive after both
successful company command and service as a unit intelligence
officer, primary staff S2.
For warrant officers, there is no formalized branch qualification
at each grade. However, to prepare warrants to become successful
Chief Warrant Officers Four and Five (CW4 and CW5), we must ensure
the correct mix of assignments and positions within the MOS at
different echelons. Warrant Officers One (WO1s) usually start at
the division level and progress through their careers to grade CW5
generally assigned at the major command (MACOM) and joint level.
Boards and Special Actions
Two factors make it extremely difficult for boards to select
individuals for schools, special assignments, and promotions the
Army's drawdown and the truly high caliber of soldiers in the Army,
and particularly in MI today. In the brief amount of time board
members have to review your file, they are looking for that one
discriminator; that is, something that identifies you as not
making the mark. Although that discriminant changes from time to
time and from board to board, you can be sure that the board that
reviews your records will be consistent and fair. This is a
strictly regimented process with extensive oversight, conducted by
professional senior leaders from a mix of career fields. The
methods used to ensure selection of a soldier for that next move up
the chain are clearly established and straightforward. To the
board, your file is you. It must tell the board in a clear,
professional voice, I am a soldier select me! If it conveys that
you have served well and faithfully, and your photo shows a true
soldier, you should be promoted. It really is that simple.
Contacting MI Branch
Remember, at Branch they are still MI soldiers and are not experts
in all Adjutant General functions. However, they will do their best
to handle your assignment questions and career-related issues and
Procedures. There are several ways to contact a CM. If you do not
feel satisfied with one way, try another. They will respond to your
inquiry just remember to allow them time to do so.
E-mail or U.S. mail. This takes minimum time from the CM and they
can take it home or answer it from home. It also allows you to
compose your thoughts, include all pertinent information, retain a
written record of contact, and allows the CM time to consider a
Voice mail. You can leave it at any hour (provided you are one of
the first 30 to get in before it fills up). Definitely make notes
on what you are going to say before you call, and speak slowly and
clearly. A routine message should contain your social security
number (SSN); rank; name; commercial work, home, and DSN phone
numbers; and a brief summary of the issue.
Telephone. Write down your questions and leave room to jot
responses. If the issue could not be resolved at your installation
or MACOM, provide your CM names and numbers of the points of
contact so he or she can work back through them. Start out with
your rank, name, and SSN (so the CM can pull your file up while you
talk). Give a concise synopsis of your issue. Remember your Army
effective writing class: bottom-line-up-front!
Visits. You should coordinate with your CM if you plan to make a
visit to 200 Stovall Street. This allows the CM time to prepare a
new officer record brief or DA Form 2-1, and to order a new
microfiche for you.
Frequently used telephone numbers.
MI soldiers today have a great career path ahead. There are
numerous routes and junctures along the way, and for those who look
ahead and plan accordingly, it will be a full and rewarding career.
You should understand the assignment and professional development
process, where you are in this process, and how you can influence
the system. Soldiers who take the leadership role in their own
careers will clearly be "Always out front!"
The author wishes to thank the following individuals
for their invaluable assistance with this article: Chief Warrant
Officer Four Gerald A. Walters, Master Sergeant John L. Mense, and
Master Sergeant James M. Newlan.
Captain Chenery is currently the US Army's Active
Component Support to Reserve Component (AC/RC) Distribution
Officer, PERSCOM, and was previously the MI Lieutenants' Assignment
Officer. During seven years with the 187th Infantry, 101st
Airborne Division (Air Assault) Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he served
as a brigade and battalion S2, and Headquarters and Headquarters
Operations Company Company Team Commander. He is a graduate of the
OCS program and has a degree in Criminal Justice from Murray State
University, Kentucky. Readers can contact Captain Chenery at (703)
325-0145, DSN 221-0145, and via E-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information is available
through PERSCOM Online on the Internet at