By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Bill Mesta, Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Public Affairs
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (March 31, 2015) – “Seaman Mesta requires extra supervision.” This was the first line I read on the first Navy Evaluation I ever received.
I then went on to read about how I had messed up painting the deck in the passageway by laying paper ‘burn-bags’ on top of wet ‘deck-grey’ paint. Also noted was my crowning achievement for the year, destroying a metric-ton of index paper by trimming it an ¼ inch too short to use in any equipment known to man.
Talk about pissed. I had worked my rear end off since I arrived to the ship. Then I wondered, “What is this Evaluation Report anyways?”
As I stewed, I noticed Block 47, “Retention.” This block offered two options, “Not Recommended or Recommended.”
“Holy Crap,” I thought, “I don’t know what this Evaluation thing is but I better figure it out before I get fired.”
I decided right then and there, this mess was not going to happen again.
Since I was clueless as to what an Evaluation was, I did what any Seaman would do; I went to the mess-decks and asked my friends.
This was super-smart. I received tremendous advice. Tips like, “I cut-and-paste everything from my buddy’s Eval.” And, “As long as the whole form is filled out you are good-to-go and Chief will leave you alone.”
Eventually, I asked my roommate, who happened to be a pretty sharp 2nd Class Yeoman. He loaned me his copy of Bupers Instruction (BUPERINST 1610.10) “Navy Performance Evaluation System Manual (EVALMAN).”
As I started to thumb through the manual, I thought to myself, “There is no way I am going to read all this stuff. What a crock.”
But I sat down and started to read the manual anyways. While it was a painfully dry read, it didn’t take long to figure some things out about my evaluation.
One of the first things I discovered was that not all of the administrative blocks were filled out correctly. There were also spelling and grammar errors in blocks 29 and 44 (look those up in the EVALMAN if you are curious).
From this point on, I made sure when it was time to submit my input, my evaluations accurately reflected my accomplishments from the prior year and were administratively solid.
My strategy was actually pretty simple. What can I control on my evaluations?
There are lots of administrative blocks (1 through 27). There is no wiggle-room with these blocks. They are either right or wrong. The best way to ensure these blocks are correct is to fill them out accurately. If you are uncertain of how to fill out a particular administrative block, ask. I highly recommend you ask someone in your Administrative Department as these folks are pretty sharp at this evaluation stuff. Also, refer back to the painfully dry EVALMAN.
Block 28 is a fairly simple block as this section reflects your commands employment and will read the same for everyone at your command. Again, check with your Administrative folks for the most current version of your command employment input.
Now to the meat of the Navy Evaluation, Blocks 29, 43, and 44. Now that you have looked those blocks up you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. None of those blocks are my ‘Performance Traits’ or ‘Promotion Recommendation.’ All I care about is my ‘5.0’ and ‘Early Promote.’”
Don’t get me wrong, these blocks are very important. However, at the end of the day, you have ZERO control as to what is input into these blocks. Somebody who outranks you is going to decide what goes in these blocks.
So what can you control?
Start with ensuring your job description, collateral duties and watch standing duties are reflected accurately. Who knows better than you what you do for a living.
Block 43, Comments on Performance, this is really where you can control your destiny. This is where you can ‘influence’ your ‘Performance Traits.’
The standard for this block is to describe three areas of achievement (bullets) from the last year.
When I first joined the Navy, the norm was to fill up each and every space in Block 43. If I had a single space left over in this block, I was to figure out a nice, flowery word to fill this space.
As the evaluation has evolved, it has become apparent these flowery words are of no value in this section of your evaluation. Avoid using any adverbs or adjectives in this block.
Stick to the facts. Record what you did and keep in mind it is all about cause and effect. What did you do and how did it make your command better?
Also, use the ‘Performance Traits’ blocks as a reference to decide which achievements to focus on in Block 43. If you believe you should be evaluated as a 5.0 Sailor in ‘Teamwork,’ you better have a quantitative ‘bullet’ in Block 43 to back it up.
Also, take a look at the ‘bullets’ from your last couple of evaluations. If your achievements this year reflect the same accomplishments as previous evaluations, you should re-think your approach. Repeating past accomplishments on an evaluation can send a message of stagnation. Bad idea.
When was the last time you knew a Sailor who was sent to a school or received a new duty assignment based on Block 41 (Career Recommendations)?
Not gonna’ happen.
As such, typically there is limited thought put into the input for this block. I encourage you to use Block 41 to send a message to someone you have never worked with before such as the members of a promotion board.
If your career goals include becoming a commissioned officer, should you have ‘CPO’ in Block 41? I would say not. If you are a 1st Class Petty Officer working towards Chief, should you have ‘In-Rate Training’ in this block? Not so much. Shape this block match where you want to go with your career.
Also, make sure you are qualified for the position in this block. For example, I would not want to have “Astronaut” in Block 41 as I am in no universe qualified for this program.
Finally, we have Qualification/Achievements block. Frequently we really don’t put a lot of effort into the inputs for this block thus missing a golden opportunity.
Think of Block 44 as a records insurance policy. If you received a personal award, earned a qualification, served in your community, or completed a degree during the past year, recording this achievement will ensure you get credit for it.
Sometimes, paperwork gets lost and a signed Evaluation can be used as a secondary method to ensure you have a legal record of achievement.
Many of us only think about evaluations after we are asked for our input. I encourage you to start planning for your next performance evaluation on the day you sign the bottom line (Block 51). Make notes to yourself throughout the year documenting your accomplishments and take charge of the areas you can control.