Some officers serve half their career before speaking with their Assignment Officer at Human Resources Command. Commonly heard beliefs include: “If you get on Branch’s radar, they’ll send you to Korea”; “Just lay low and let your commanders speak on your behalf”; and “I plan to stay with troops as long as I can, so I don’t need HRC’s help.”
I’ve worked as an Assignment Officer for almost a year and I recommend against holding on to such beliefs. Further, I think most people hesitate to engage with their Assignment Officer because they really don’t know who is on the other end of the phone. Hopefully this post provides you some clarity about who is helping you navigate your career.
“My Assignment Officer isn’t even in my Branch.”
This misconception occurs mostly in the junior officer years but rest assured, your Assignment Officer is an experienced and very successful member of your Branch. And the civilians who work in the Branch offices have years of experience, sometimes decades, and were often active duty themselves, so they know the deal.
Lieutenants and Captains are all managed by post-company command Captains. The Major and Lieutenant Colonel populations are managed by senior Majors and promotable LTCs who will likely go on to command battalions following their HRC assignment. Finally, the Branch Chiefs are successful post-command LTCs, most of whom have prior HRC experience.
“You guys sit on the promotion boards.”
Not true. Assignment Officers have no role in promotion boards or selection panels for fellowships and such. We do receive professional development instruction on the board process and participate in mock boards, which gives us insight into how to better prepare the population’s files for consideration. (Example: we recently found out in a class that promotion board members cannot see whether a considered officer has verified his/her file in the MyBoard system. Of course it’s wise of you to look at your file before a board, but if you don’t verify it officially, the board won’t know.)
“My assignment officer is a buddy and can tell me if I made the promotion list.”
Not legally, he can’t. We only get access to the promotion lists a short time before they’re made public and sign confidentiality agreements not to release the information outside the building. In fact, asking your Assignment Officer to reveal protected information puts him in a bad ethical position, please don’t.
“Branch can really send you to any job in the Army, they just save the cool jobs for the people they know.”
Unfortunately, the Branches have control over very few of the jobs they receive for each rank. Just because there’s a job to serve as Executive Officer for the language school in Monterey, CA, nobody’s going there unless big Army validates it as a required position…and in today’s shrinking Army, that’s happening less and less. Check out the Army Career Tracker if you want to research assignment types and locations.
“As long as I get a By Name Request, my Assignment Officer will send me just about anywhere.”
BNRs have lost favor in recent years because that they wreak havoc on the ability to predict the number of available jobs for each Distribution Cycle. No longer can a Brigade Commander Colonel (or even a Brigadier General) sign a BNR memo and expect Branch to automatically fulfill it – we don’t have the authority to do so. Only if the BNR is received well in advance of the Distribution Cycle, the gaining unit is authorized the billet, and the assignment makes sense for the officer, will Branch have a case in honoring the request.
“If you work at Branch, you get a sweet assignment after you leave.”
Without knowledge on every follow-on assignment that Branch officers have taken, this statement is tough to believe. But further, consider this fact: folks who work at Branch are very competitive for promotion and command, which means they’re also competitive for the cool jobs like fellowships in Garmisch, Germany and aide jobs for General Officers in Spain. It’s a fallacy to think that a duty position at HRC automatically equals a good assignment afterwards. I can tell you that Branch Chiefs take particular care to ensure the follow-on assignment process is fair and equitable.
“If one Assignment Officer doesn’t give you the answer you’re looking for, you can just call another one.”
I didn’t know this before coming to HRC, but each Branch’s Assignment Officers work in the same office. We share cubicle walls and talk to each other constantly. The experienced Assignment Officers share vignettes with the newer guys to teach them about the job. And when an officer calls someone other than his particular Assignment Officer trying to get what he wants, we all know about it. Not a good technique.
“My Assignment Officer could have cut my RFO weeks ago, but he’s just lazy.”
As with every other system in the Army, the Request for Orders process expands well beyond one person’s desk. Each RFO requires anywhere from 5 to 20 administrative actions and must be staffed through 3-12 other sections before releasing it. This process helps ensure that each assignment complies with federal law and Army personnel policies. Believe me, your Assignment Officer wants to release it as much as you want to get it.
Questions (leave comments below)
- What other questions do you have about life at HRC?
- What has been your experience with your Assignment Officer?
- What is your approach with HRC? “Head in the sand” or “Transparent engagement”? What does your engagement method communicate to your Assignment Officer?