DA Form 638 (Recommendation for an Award) is one of the most underutilized forms in the Army. This form is used for submitting soldiers for awards such as an Army Achievement Medal or Army Commendation Medal. To be utilized properly all someone has to do is fill out the form, type up a few achievement bullets and submit it through the chain of command for approval. It’s actually quite easy to do.
While some units do a great job taking care of soldiers by submitting them for awards, many units fall short in this area; especially in the ARNG and Army Reserves. A lot of that has to do with “being part-time and being busy.” At least that’s what you will hear from the small unit leaders who use that excuse. Personally, I think that’s a “cop out” from doing your job. The truth of the matter is that many soldiers perform remarkable things and never get recognized for it!
One of your primary duties as a leader is to develop your leaders and recognize their efforts. While coins, thank you cards, Certificates of Achievement and “atta boys” all work well, I’ve found that “Army Medals” work best. And one of the easiest ways to recognize a soldier’s efforts is to fill out a DA Form 638 to submit them for an award.
I’m not saying the Army should hand out awards like candy. Soldiers must do something to “qualify” for an award. But that “something” is very subjective. You should submit soldiers for awards for things YOU think are “achievements.” And you should support your subordinates who submit their soldiers for awards.
During my time as a Company Commander in the Army National Guard, I made it a habit to submit one soldier each drill weekend for an AAM. I visited each Platoon, took notes, and looked for soldiers who were doing something “significant.” It’s actually quite amazing what you will find when you intentionally look for good behavior. I also encouraged each of my subordinate Platoon Leaders to do the same in their Platoon. As a result, we normally recognized 2-4 soldiers each drill weekend with some type of award.
My reasoning was that many soldiers do a good job each drill weekend. As a leader, all you have to do is open your eyes and look around. I’ve also found that when you recognize good behavior, you get more good behavior. Even better, submitting a DA Form 638 doesn’t cost you one cent personally. All you have to do is take 30-60 minutes of your time to write, edit and submit the form to your supervisor or commander.
What types of things can you submit a soldier for an award for? Here are a few examples from my personal experience:
- Soldier scores 300 on APFT
- Soldier shoots 40 of 40 with weapon
- Soldier is an Honor Grad at School
- Soldier performs duty temporarily in a position above their pay-grade
- Soldier completes an assigned task well above the standard
- Soldier teaches a class, gives an inspection, or anything outside of normal work (and does a great job with it)
These are just a few examples. You are only limited to your creativity. And in these examples, I’m talking about “achievements.” You can also submit soldiers for service awards. For instance, when soldiers PCS, or get reassigned to a new unit, you can submit them for a service award using a DA Form 638. And I believe that you should do this. It’s a shame to see good soldier ETS or get reassigned and never receive an award.
Of course, you must do your homework first. You must check to make sure the soldier is eligible for awards. Check to make sure they aren’t flagged. And you will want to check to make sure they haven’t already received an award for the same thing you are trying to submit them for. But once you do your homework and find out they are eligible, make sure you take some time and write up a good DA Form 638.
This will benefit the soldier by (1) getting promotion points for the award, (2) showing them that you care, and (3) improving morale in your section and (4) giving the soldier something to brag about with friends and family. As you can see, recognizing soldiers via a DA Form 638 is a wonderful way to increase morale and improve the effectiveness of your unit. It’s a win-win deal for everyone involved. If you aren’t already doing this, you should start soon. It will have a huge, positive impact in your unit!
What are your thoughts? Please provide your comments below.