In today’s post, I’d like to share some tips and ideas about how to manage your military records and personnel files. While these tips are geared toward Army Reserve and National Guard personnel, most of this information will benefit veterans, too.
Smart Soldiers ACTIVELY manage their personnel files and records. This includes their evaluation reports, awards, certificates, retirement or discharge paperwork, and more. If you want to get promoted and get the jobs you want, you must be proactive and actively manage your career.
I had a mentor once tell me this:
No one cares as much about your career as much as you do. If you don’t make the time to ensure your personnel files and military records are updated and accurate, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to either!
This advice is spot on. While there are personnel in place whose job is to help do this for you, you still need to spot check, monitor their progress, and stay on top of things! Mistakes do happen. Files get lost. Things somehow don’t get updated. If you aren’t in the loop, you will pay the price come promotion time!
How to Manage Your Military Records & Personnel File
I’ve developed a few simple techniques to help me stay on top of my military personnel files and permanent records.
The Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) is primarily an administrative record, containing information about the subject’s service history such as: date and type of enlistment/appointment; duty stations and assignments; training, qualifications, performance; awards and decorations received; disciplinary actions; insurance; emergency data; administrative remarks; date and type of separation/discharge/retirement (including DD Form 214, Report of Separation, or equivalent); and other personnel actions. ~ National Archives
Whenever you receive a new document you should file a copy in your “I Love Me” book first. Once you’ve done that, you should give a copy to your S1 to process the document in IPERMS. After about two to three weeks, you should check your IPERMS account to ensure the file was added. If it hasn’t been added in a timely manner, follow up with your S1 or Readiness NCO until it is updated.
In addition to reviewing your records once per quarter, you should review your official records once per year, preferably on your military service anniversary. That way, you can stay on top of things and fix discrepancies as they arise.
The secret to success is to be proactive. In addition to managing your personnel file, you should also pay close attention to each document you receive. Check it for accuracy, especially your name and SSN. If there is an error, get it fixed.
Listed below are some tips I use to manage my official documents and official file. I hope you find them helpful.
Managing Your OER or NCOER:
It’s your responsibility to manage your OERs and NCOERs, not your rater’s responsibility. That means you need to inform your rater when your evaluation report is due. You must prepare your Support Form and you should write a first draft of your evaluation report and give a copy to your rater. This will save them time and will help you get the evaluation report you want and deserve.
If your evaluation report is overdue, it’s your job to bug your rater until it is complete and turned in. You should follow up with them on a weekly basis (by phone, email, or in person) until it is complete. Sometimes your boss will find this annoying, but I promise you that if you don’t follow up, you will suffer.
I know several officers who have two or three OERs missing from their permanent records. These OERs were never done (or they were never submitted). Even though the rater should have done their job better, I blame the rated officer for not staying on top of things.
You also have the responsibility to review your evaluation report to check for punctuation, typos, and validity. Make sure it has quantifiable statements. Make sure it is accurate too.
One misconception is that when one record is updated the others are updated automatically. This is not true. The member needs to review each record type for accuracy. Report any discrepancies to the appropriate Record Maintenance Agency. ~ MyNavy HR
Whenever you graduate from a military school, you will receive either a certificate or DA 1059 (depending on the course and course length). Normally, courses 40-hours or less will give certificates to graduates. Most schools, such as OES and NCOES courses will give you a DA 1059.
When you receive a copy of your DA 1059 at graduation, make sure you file a copy in your “I Love Me” book. Next, make sure you submit a copy to your S1 to get it processed in IPERMS. Your evaluation reports and DA 1059s are two of your most important documents.
In my opinion, your NGB 23 is THE most important document in your military personnel file. In case you don’t already know this, the NGB 23 is your retirement points print out. It shows you how many points you’ve earned, the breakdown of your military service by year, and what your anticipated pension would be when you retire.
Your NGB 23 is updated once per year (automatically). It is printed from RCAS and linked with DFAS (pay). Normally, on your service anniversary (PBED) you will receive a print out of your NGB 23. Your job is to review it for accuracy. Believe it or not, sometimes there are mistakes on your NGB 23. If you don’t review it, you’ll never know.
Once you’ve checked your NGB 23 for accuracy (and it is correct) you should file it away in your “I Love Me” book and get the other copy processed in IPERMS. You should place the new copy in your “I Love Me” book every year.
DA FORM 705:
National Guard Soldiers are required to take an APFT once per year. They also must weigh in twice per year. Assuming you are doing this (you better be) you should keep a copy of your current APFT score card and a copy of your Height/Weight Results.
After the APFT or weigh-in, make sure your Readiness NCO updates your information in RCAS, files a copy in the Unit APFT Binder and gives you a copy for your records. When you receive a copy, place it in your “I Love Me” book and file it away. Whenever you take your next APFT, don’t forget to update your records.
Your “I Love Me Book”
I’ve already mentioned this term several times throughout this website, but all Soldiers should have an “I Love Me” Book. Your “I Love Me” book is a three ring binder with copies of EVERY military document you’ve received in your career.
You should place these documents in document protectors. You can organize your “I Love Me” book into the following sections:
- Evaluation Reports
- DA 1059s
- Retirement Stuff
- Certificates, Misc.
Whenever you receive a new document, file it and forget about it. Keep your “I Love Me” book in a safe place such as a fire proof safe or safety deposit box. Having an organized system for filing the important information and documents pertaining to your military career is important.
There are many reasons to stay organized and maintain your personal records. For one, you will be able to compile packets for promotion/transfers, track down evaluation reports, and have all of your medical and other important information at any time. No more searching endlessly for a misplaced piece of info or relying on iPERMS to maintain your records.
Having an ‘I Love Me’ book is the first step in managing your own personnel file. The next step is digitizing it. Today, scanners are cheap. Scanning all of the documents in your ‘I Love Me’ book into PDFs ensures that in the event that the Army loses track of your paperwork and you can’t get ahold of your physical ‘I Love Me’ book for whatever reason, you still have the files stored digitally on your own computer. In the smartphone era, I can get access to a file I’ve stored digitally in a matter of seconds. And when people need your paperwork in the Army, they need it now. It’s pretty cool to be able to provide it just as fast. ~ Carrying the Gun
How to Ensure Your Military Records are Always Up to Date
Before I close out this article, I’d like to share a few tips about to how to ensure your military records are up to date.
# 1: Decide What Filing System Works Best for You: This can be dependent on the amount of space you physically have and how much information you must file. Perhaps a fire-safe cabinet is the best choice or maybe a standard filing cabinet. Whatever the case, decide on where you will store your documents.
# 2: Gather Up Your Paperwork: Pull together all your paperwork; print our your iPERMs documents, grab that old folder you kept from MEPS, talk with your unit Readiness NCO to see what files they have, etc. Wherever you have documents, do your best to gather them all up into one consolidated location so you can begin organizing them.
# 3: Sort Your Records Into Types: There is no sense in reinventing the wheel here. Personally, my military record filing system is a direct reflection on what you see on iPERMS. No matter how you decide to do it, the most important goal here is to place like items with other like items.
# 4: Label Each File by the Category and Place into Your File: Self explanatory here… Use colors; maybe RED for Medical, GREEN for OERs, etc. No matter what you decide, stay consistent and put things back in their spot after using them! Create new categories if you need to as well.
# 5: Make Notes on Any Items that You Are Missing: Look at your iPERMS and then your physical files. What is missing? What paper documents do you have that aren’t up on iPERMS and vice versa? Taking time to do this, after you have organized your documents, is very important. Many times things are lost (by both the Army and by YOU) so make sure to identify the deficiencies.
# 6: DO NOT BE LAZY ABOUT STAYING ORGANIZED! This is the tip to take away from this article above all else. You must stay proactive and ensure your records are up to date. After you complete a school, copy those records and prepare to file them away before you send them up to be PERM’d or make copies after you complete an SRP. Do not rely on your Readiness NCO, the Army, or your S1. Your career is in your hands!
In conclusion, it’s your responsibility to manage your own military records and personnel files. You must check your records minimum once every 90-days to make sure they are accurate and updated. To do so, review the files in your “I Love Me” book with your IPERMS file. If anything is missing, sit down with your S1 section and get it fixed immediately.
You don’t want to miss a promotion or good job opportunity because your personnel file is messed up. Be meticulous and keep your personnel file updated.
What are your thoughts about managing your military records? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.