Today, I’d like to take a few minutes and share some of my best vacancy promotion tips for Army National Guard officers.
One of the biggest advantages of serving in the Army National Guard in comparison to Active Duty or the Army Reserve is the ability to get vacancy promotions.
In essence, this process is quite similar to getting promoted below the zone on Active Duty. A vacancy promotion is when an officer gets promoted to fill a unit vacancy. This Army Officer might have already appeared before a DA Promotion Board (and was selected), or it might be a junior officer who has not appeared before the DA Board yet.
The major benefit of pursuing vacancy promotions in the Army National Guard is that you can avoid the DA Promotion Board Process entirely. If you’ve ever been through this process before, you understand why you want to avoid it.
The DA Promotion Board process is long and cumbersome. It can take months, sometimes close to a year, before the results are published and the promotion actually happens. Even if you get selected for a promotion, there’s no guarantee you will actually get promoted (not in the ARNG anyway, unless you have an open slot for that rank). Therefore, I think you should focus on getting vacancy promotions whenever possible. It’s faster and much easier.
My Vacancy Promotion Story
Let me give you a real life example by sharing my personal story. When I was a Captain, you had to be a Captain for minimum 48-months before you were eligible for promotion to Major. When I had about 42 months time in grade as a Captain, I started looking for vacant Major slots within our state.
I was just finishing a successful Company Command and had already completed my military education requirements (Captain’s Career Course). I found a unit vacancy for a branch immaterial Major position with our state’s Regional Training Institute.
I applied for the job and got selected (I was the only candidate). When I was transferred to my new slot, I still had about six weeks before I met my 48-months time in grade requirements. During this six weeks, I prepared my state promotion packet, updated my DA Photo, updated my personnel records and waited for the date to arrive.
On the last day of my 48th month I submitted my promotion packet to my Regiment S1. It took about 3 months to go before the state board and filter its way down to the National Guard Bureau Personnel Office.
Within about 90 days after I submitted my packet, I received my FED REC orders. That means I only spent 4 years, 3 months as a Captain. When you compare that to most of my Active Duty and Army Reserve counterparts, you will notice that I got promoted 2-3 years ahead of my fellow peers. That’s the beauty of Vacancy Promotions in the Army National Guard. You can move up through the ranks quickly, especially as a traditional M-Day Officer.
Most officers do not follow this approach. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone. I’m not. I’m just saying that I managed my career better than most of my peers.
Vacancy Promotion Tips
The truth of the matter is anyone can get promoted quicker via vacancy promotions, if they have a game-plan. Here is what I recommend you do if you want to advance your Army Officer Career following this method.
# 1 Finish all your military schools for your next pay-grade ASAP
Take some time and figure out what military schools you need to complete for your next promotion. Complete these schools as quickly as possible and do not procrastinate. I’ve watched a lot of officers fail to get promoted simply because they didn’t complete their military education requirements.
# 2 Stay in shape, pass the APFT and HT/WT at all times
This should be common sense, but some officers mess this up. Stay in shape. Work out every day, eat right, drink lots of water, and get plenty of sleep. Maintain your physical readiness and do whatever you need to do to stay trim and healthy.
# 3 About six months before you are eligible for promotion, start looking at unit vacancies in your state
No one is just going to tell you about unit vacancies in your state. It’s your job to seek them out. Sit down with your S1, or search the relevant websites in your state to see which positions are currently open. Network with other people in positions you want, and see when they are expected to move to their next job.
# 4 Update your DA Photo, personnel records and start working on your promotion packet
Keep your “I Love Me” book updated at all times. Get a new DA Photo whenever you get a new award. Make sure your DA Photo is updated within at least 3 months prior to your packet being submitted. Make sure your photo is accurate and looks good. In addition, keep a close eye on your 2-1 and important paperwork.
# 5 About 90 days before you are eligible for promotion, start applying for unit vacancies
Start applying for open positions. Even if the position isn’t your dream job, seek it out. It’s your job to get promoted. Even if you have to temporarily take a job you will not enjoy, it will still be worth it. Make sure you read the job posting for each position you apply for to make sure you are qualified for it. Have one of your peers, or someone you trust, review your packet and give you feedback prior to submitting it.
# 6 Interview well and get hired
Prepare for the interview. Learn about the people on the board who will be interviewing you. Research a little bit about the unit. Make sure your uniform is squared away and you show up on time. In addition, talk with the person currently in the job, or someone who had the job in the past, and learn everything you can about it. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
# 7 If you get the job, finish your promotion packet about 1-2 weeks before you are eligible for promotion
Once you get selected for the job, get with your S1 for a blank promotion packet. Complete the required information as quickly as possible, and double check everything to make sure it is accurate.
# 8 Submit your packet on your eligibility date
Once you hit your minimum time in grade, submit your packet through the S1 office.
# 9 Wait 3-12 months for the state board and FED REC process (keep following up and stay persistent)
Although this step is out of your control for the most part, stay proactive and check in with the S1 once a month to get the current status of your promotion. Mine only took a few months to go through, but you will see below with my website visitors, that some people have waited nearly a year for their packet to go through.
# 10 Get promoted
Once your day arrives, enjoy your promotion. You’ve worked hard for it and deserve it.
As a bonus tip, I would tell you to teach this process to your subordinate officers as well, so they know what to do.
It really is that simple. People simply make it complicated. Of course, this assumes that you are squared away, competent and deserving of a promotion.
In summary, vacancy promotions in the Army National Guard are a wonderful way to advance your career quickly. If you develop a game-plan, identify what you need to do, and stay persistent, there’s no reason you can’t get 2-4 vacancy promotions in your career, especially if you are a M-Day Officer.
Now, I understand this isn’t quite as easy to do if you are AGR Officer, but it is still possible. I personally know several Army AGR Officers who were promoted via vacancy promotions. Getting promoted quicker means a better career, more promotions, more pay, and a larger pension. It just makes sense to me.
On a side note, if you have experience with vacancy promotions in the Army National Guard, I want to hear from you. Just leave a comment to this post to tell us what you did to get promoted ahead of your peers. If you have any questions about this process, feel free to ask me, and I will do my best to answer it. Thank you.