8 Myths About HRC Assignment Officers

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.

HRC Assignment Officers

The U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC) has completed its Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) move to Fort Knox, Ky. Currently, HRC’s new home in the Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude Complex employs about 3,300 military, civilian and contract workers. The nearly 900,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility is the largest office building in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Photo by Robert Stevenson, Fort Knox Visual Information. Link to photo.

“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?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Bruce Sacerdote

    Dear Military Leader, great post. I want to learn more about the assignment process for enlisted personnel. Are you the author of this post and if not, could you put me in phone contact with the author? THANK YOU Bruce

  • AwesomeSibe

    Branch has a reputation for a reason. They’ve earned it. About a year ago I got my last choice, Korea, because I apparently needed to reset my dwell time, that day marked the end of my marriage as my husband began to spiral down a depression he would not recover from. Both sections I worked for at the time, O6 positions contacted branch to get me pulled out of the assignment because of what was going on with my husband. Their response was they would pull me from Korea and immediately send me to another dwell reset assignment. With my husband in counseling I figured Korea would be easier in case of an emergency. Three months in my husband lost it and is now missing. Branch manager is selected BZ for LTC. So yeah they earned their bad reputation.

    • Leah Zanoni

      How rough. I hope he is found and safe. Good luck. Sucks on Korea.

  • LaRoux Stone

    Thank you for the information. For newbies it is very helpful and also for the spouses of soldiers. Often spouses, even when we know the lingo feel out of the loop on these decisions. My husband (and I vicariously), have been in long enough to heat both good and bad stories and to experience a little of both ourselves. It is our experience that it really comes down to the unit you are assigned to. I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes, this is just what our background has been. Thank you again!

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  • Stephen Fast

    Mostly curious is there is an automated “smart” system that takes an officer’s preference, past tours and experience, education, etc. and applies some smart mathematical algorithm to optimally place people with upcoming positions?

  • Michael Beasley

    my branch manager wont answer my emails and im in a time crunch to find something out what to do should I go to their higher ? or wait I know they have received my emails I did the read receipt.

    • Hello Michael,
      Did you make a phone call to them yet?
      If so and still no answer, I would send him/her one more email and tell them that you’re going to contact the branch chief in 24 hours if you haven’t heard anything back. Be professional about it, but you also want to let them know that your situation is a priority for you. You could also try calling one of the other assignment officers to try to reach yours.

      Good luck

  • disqus_adJ5Cz00Rt

    You know I’ve never seen anything like this posted for the enlisted side. I know my assignments person ended up getting relieved because she couldn’t seem to tell the truth. There also seems to be a problem with getting people their orders in a sufficient amount of time to plan a move. I got orders in October of 2010 with a report date of January 3rd 2011. I asked my assignments person to extend the orders out until March so that I have sufficient time to take care of my house and prepare my family for the move. She said ok that she would work with me on it and then turned around and sent me orders the next day. Keep in mind that between the order date and report date I had to deal with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. I’m retired now so it doesn’t affect me anymore but it would help others in the future.

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  • Very successful member of my branch? Really? My last assignment officer was a former platoon sergeant that got busted for a DUI coming through the gate at 0200 one morning. That was his last assignment (Branch manager).

    • Thecritic89

      I’d say it’s a safe assumption this discussion on assignment officers actually centers on officers. What with the mention of General’s Aide positions, post-command officers being the HRC assignment officers. Branch Chiefs as opposed to Branch Managers. I would like to believe the other side of the house is run the same at HRC, but I don’t believe the author is making that claim.

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  • Mike

    Great post that at least
    gets a discussion going, as I’m sure we could all use a little more fidelity on
    the process. However, I’m skeptical of
    the total picture mainly because of dealings with my branch over the years. One
    factor that I think needs to be considered is the personality of the person
    sitting at the desk at HRC.

    One of myths you mentioned above solidifies my point,
    though I will admit I’ve never called anyone outside of my branch simply because
    I never thought the Finance branch AO would be able to place me in a job in
    D.C.(just an example). However, you stated that since you all work in the same
    office separated by cubicles, you made it sound like there is a vindictive
    strain at HRC as well. By writing “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”. Is in
    not a good technique because it will enrage the particular AO that an officer
    is not following the directives given to him/her, and make it easier to send
    that person to a place they don’t really want to go? Why is it so bad?

    I’ve had both good and bad AOs in my career. The good ones were the ones that took the
    time to reply to my emails and engaged me when there were circumstances I
    needed addressed, as I have a family member that is in the EFMP program and has
    specific needs that can’t be accommodated in certain locations, and worked to
    get assignments that fit our needs. The
    bad ones were the ones that could care less about my family (or sure as hell
    make no effort to be empathetic to their needs), barely replied to my emails or
    only replied when they had a snide comment to make with the note “call when you
    have a chance”, or told me that (this is verbatim) “we think the assignment to
    Afghanistan is the best one for you because of tour equity” and I hadn’t deployed
    in 3 years. In that particular case,
    there were 2 jobs in Korea that were perfect for KD time and stabilized my
    family as well, and were what I wanted to do.
    The funny thing was, the AO hadn’t been to a combat zone since 2004 for
    his one 7 month deployment-and to add to it, the year of this assignment was
    2011. So much for the tour equity line
    of reasoning.

    One other disturbing thing is the review of the
    communications history that you note. What
    does that have to do with the process?
    If a tense conversation occurred between an AO and an officer, does the
    AO write that officer’s name in a black book to ensure they are perpetually
    sent to the worst locations? Does the AO
    pass that book to successive AOs to ensure the cycle is continued? Has anyone else heard about the blacklist
    maintained at branch or am I the only one?

    I probably sound a little bitter, and honestly I am, because
    there is obviously more going on behind the scenes at HRC than anyone is
    willing to let on. I understand as a
    Soldier I joined an organization where a mission needs to be done, and we have
    an obligation to fill those needs. I
    also want to embrace the paradigm that the Army does care about me and my
    family, as I tell it to my Soldiers all the time. I just find it hard to believe that during a
    period of two wars, several of my peers were able to stay in places like Spain
    and Germany and not have to ever walk the streets in Kandahar or drive the
    roads in Iraq and achieve the same tour equity that others of us have had. That can’t be all about timing.

    My last assignment manager was the best yet. She would send emails to the field on an
    almost monthly basis, reply to emails (or tell you via auto reply that she
    would get back to you within a certain time span and actually reply), and most
    importantly, would answer the phone when I called. I feel as if she even bent over backwards
    with my upcoming assignment to help accommodate my child’s EFMP needs.

    Finally, I have to agree with “my own career manager”;
    there is no stated process for an individual getting selected to serve as an
    AO. How is it executed? I’ve wondered this for years, as it can’t
    just be the best and brightest: an individual I knew had some challenges early
    in their career at the 82nd.
    I lost contact with that individual, but 4 years later where did they
    end up? As the junior CPTs AO. To add insult to injury, they were also
    selected double BZ to MAJ when those boards started.

    This is a good start to open the discussion, but there
    are still great deal of unknowns that exist.
    If you want to make the process more transparent to the field, and
    especially the junior officers, then there should be a new perspective introduced
    or a directive that allows officers a few days of permissive TDY (or a pass) to
    make an appointment and fly to HRC to meet face to face with a branch manager-something
    that opens the doors to the location and enables the junior individuals to see
    what it’s like there instead of branch managers going TDY to selected locations
    several times per year. It might be a
    good experience for everyone.

  • Ryan

    When the branch manager recieves everyone’s slate for upcoming jobs, how do they go about selecting who goes where? What does the branch manager look at when deciding who to place where? It seems sometimes there is no rhyme or reason.

    • Ryan,

      Legitimate question!

      1. Call your assignment officer and ask that question. See if he/she answers it to your satisfaction. There is enough latitude at HRC for your assignment officer to shed light on the process. In fact, there is a tutorial video on the HRC website about how the Distribution Cycle works.

      2. Actually, I’m working a post right now that will illuminate processes like assignment slating, nominative assignments, etc. There’s a lot that assignment officers can share with the field and it actually benefits HRC to be transparent with the process (just as it benefits YOU to be transparent with HRC about your “life situation” and concerns).

      Speaking from my perspective, there is a very deliberate, methodical process to assigning who goes where. It’s based timing, file strength, dwell time, deployment history, EFMP/MACP status, officer preference, and several others. We scrub ORBs/OERs, review the communications history with branch, and engage in constant conversations to ensure we understand the officers and their situations. I take it as a personal responsibility, not just a duty.

      The tension between the population and HRC comes from the dissatisfaction that follows when the “needs of the Army” outweigh officer preference. I can tell you that in a shrinking Army, officer preference is decreasing in importance. It’s a numbers game, to some extent; there are too many “critical” jobs to fill and officers don’t always want to go to them.

      That’s the point where it pays to have an assignment officer who is personable, empathetic, and understanding…even when delivering unwanted news.

      Let me know what your assignment officer says when you email him/her!

      And thanks for commenting!

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  • My own career manager

    Here’s the thing: most of us get that an assignment officer at HRC is trying to do a job that has a lot of requirements. The problem is the other myth, the one that I am my own best career manager. I have heard this countless times. So what happens when I try to take my career into my own hands and go to SMU selection? On one occasion, I was denied a release by branch to go to selection. A year later, when I was still in my window, I re-applied and was permitted to go to selection. I passed. I was selected. When I returned and waited for PCS orders that never showed up, I contacted SMU branch. They told me there was a problem with my basic branch and I contacted them. They told me that I wouldn’t receive a release because there were too many priority assignments and not enough KD complete officers in my branch. Where did they send me? To a non-priority assignment where I didn’t deploy.
    I know you’re going to say that there are sob stories out there for every Soldier, and HRC does it’s best, and it was probably a communication problem between SMU and my basic branch, but the fact is, this happens more often than it should. In the sense that actions speak louder than words, the message to the field is not the one that each Soldier is his or her “own best career manager”.

    • My own career manager

      Also, as far as being a “very successful” member of my branch, this is way too objective. The assignment process for getting the HRC job isn’t transparent. There’s no MILPER message for application requests. My guess is that ORBs and OERs are used. Okay, fine, but this is even more objective for Captains and Majors, the majority of which have held the same jobs. How do you know if the officer’s senior rater is just good (or bad) at writing OERs? Especially with Captains, where you’re looking at what, one, maybe two command OERs and couple of staff position OERs? The rest are Lieutenant OERs, which again, are extremely objective based on the person looking at them and writing them. A Lieutenant isn’t going to go to his or her Battalion Commander and ask for different verbiage based on what HRC is telling them, and if they did, it would be poorly received.

  • Rather have a choice

    The branch managers are not the problem with HRC. The problem is that as the Officer have very little influence over any of their assignments regardless of their performance. HRC needs to adopt some of the hr policies used by Google where employees can apply for the positions they want and the hr managers are only there to advise and coach. Instead HRC forces the branch managers to slot all the officers in an arbitrary manning cycle forcing them to treat people like equipment.

    After 3 enumerated ACOM Evaluations in a row I realized I still had no better chance of getting any assignment I wanted. I got out and I had 100% control on where I would go next.

    no choice = no satisfaction.

    Too many Soldiers get hurt by this zero flexibility system. I found it too demeaning and now HRC can’t arbitrarily push my family around anymore.

  • wernerpd

    I just wanted to do a quick snapshot of my dealings with my assignment officers. I was nearing completion of flight school and my first assignment was ready to happen. AOs came down to Fort Rucker. Here goes the conversation:

    “Congratulations,” he said, “you got one of your assignment choices – you’re going to Panama!”

    “Panama,” I replied, “was that one of my choices?”

    “Sure it was,” he said, “see, choice 9 of 9 choices (old dream sheet…)”

    “Look,” I said, “I’ll trade with my classmate over there, you just gave him orders for Korea – I’ll go to Korea instead and we can swap.”

    “Sorry,” he said, “you have different qualifications than him…”

    “Wait a minute,” I said, “we are both graduates of IOBC, flight school and school trained Aeroscouts. The only difference between him and me is he is married and I am single?”

    “Exactly,” he said, “that’s why you’re going to Panama – good luck!”

    The rest of my career looked the exact same way. The first assignment I completely controlled was when I left the Army.

  • Guest

    I just wanted to do a quick snapshot of my dealings with my assignment officers. I was nearing completion of flight school and my first assignment was ready to happen. AOs came down to Fort Rucker. Here goes tthe conversation:

    “Congratulations,” he said, “you got one of your assignment choices – you’re going to Panama!”

    “Panama,” I replied, “was that one of my choices?”

    “Sure it was,” he said, “see, choice 9 of 9 choices (old dream sheet…)”

    “Look,” I said, “I’ll trade with my classmate over there, you just gave him orders for Korea – I’ll go to Korea instead and we can swap.”

    “Sorry,” he said, “you have different qualifications than him…”

    “Wait a minute,” I said, “we are both graduates of IOBC, flight school and school trained Aeroscouts. The only difference between him and me is he is married and I am single?”

    “Exactly,” he said, “that’s why you’re going to Panama – good luck!”

    The rest of my career looked the exact same way. The first assignment I completely controlled was when I left the Army.

  • Fortson

    I appreciate you taking the time to inform and clarify. I thought this was a really interesting read, especially when I myself had believed some of these myths.

  • Mark

    The only comment I disagree with is that not all LTs a.d CPTs are managed by post command CPTs. Not all branches require CPTs to command to be considered KD….i.e. AG.

    • That’s possibly true; I didn’t specify in the post. I can only speak for Infantry Branch without researching more. Thanks for the comment!

  • Brian DIckenson

    Lot’s of great points in here. I’m a fellow, current AO working on behalf of about 1,600 Active Duty, tech warrant officers, W1-W5.
    I think it takes a village to raise a good officer so I find the “table talk” among the desks quite helpful. Why wouldn’t I? These are the future senior leaders within my branch. Also those leaders value having officers in their formations who’ve served at HRC. I’ve learnt more about how the Army works in the last year than my 18 yrs of service.
    I also think the BNR process has improved a lot in the last year – prevents over strengthening DMSLs – ensures we’re manning to AMG and if the move doesn’t support the career development needs of an officer we simply don’t move them.

    • Thanks, Brian! I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned just from the conversations that arise from the unique situations we encounter. There’s a ton of knowledge that I’ll be able to relay to future Soldiers I’ll work with.

      On your second comment, you nailed it. The Army doesn’t have the flexibility NOT to predict how units will be filled. BNRs generally work against that, particularly the ones that are out of cycle. And yes, if the move doesn’t support the officer’s career, we will fight it. Makes no sense to sacrifice a junior officer’s long term potential for a senior one’s short term.

  • DoctorFuego

    “If you work at Branch, you get a sweet assignment after you leave.” A Myth? That’s a laugh.

    • Well, it’s actually a nuanced statement…of the people transitioning out of my Branch next year, 3 will (likely) go on to command battalions (selected by a board of 17) and the others will go to ILE. No exceptionally sweet, undeserving assignments there.

      What have you seen that’s “laughable?”

      • DoctorFuego

        Hi.

        First is the issue with the term “sweet assignment” Yes, it is nuanced.

        My contention is that HRC branch managers in assignments controlled by their branch are more likely to get their choice of assignment than those not assigned to HRC.

        The examples you provide are boards not controlled by the branch:

        ILE= Centralized board not controlled by branch
        BN CMD= Centralized board not controlled by branch (although BN slating is not)

        If it is true that assignment officers get no better choice of assignments than others, show the data over time. Show where the majority of HRC assignment officers failed to get one of his/her two top choices.

        Until the process is more transparent, myths like the one you dismiss will continue.

        BTW, when you finish up at HRC, drop me an email at rokcmc@gmail.com and let me know if you failed to get one of your top choices. Be honest….

        • Thanks Doc, the real takeaway from my comment is that most AOs (in my sphere of influence) go to assignments that are, as you said, not controlled by Branch. So, arguing that we get sweet assignments may not be statistically significant. Sounds like you have detailed experience to the contrary, though.

          I’d just ask anyone who holds onto the myth to, like you did, examine the true nature of their belief. Does it arise from fact or rumor? And speak accordingly.

          I’ll email you, btw.

          Thanks for taking an interest in the discussion and offering your thoughts! It makes the site a dynamic place!

  • LTC(P) Mike Garlington

    As a former “Blue Dotter” myself, you are 100% on target with your observations and responses. Another one of my favorite thoughts is an Officer can stabilize using the High School Senior Stabilization program. WRONG! That program will stabilize the family while the officer is still world wide deployable…

    • Gregg Frostrom

      Sir,
      How MIGHT high school stabilization work when said officer is a single parent? In my case, I just PCSed and my daughter is a freshman.
      V/R,
      CW3(P) Frostrom

      • Brian Dickenson

        Family Care Plan.

        • Gregg Frostrom

          Brian, thanks. My family care plan AND custody docs say that she goes to the other side of the country during a deployment. Which, I would think, negate the whole point of stabilization. Fingers crossed it’s not an issue.

          • Brian Dickenson

            You’re right. Court order wins the day on this one! Good luck!

    • Thanks, sir!