One of the biggest advantages of serving in the Army National Guard in comparison to Active Duty or the Army Reserves 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 before the results are published. And even if you get selected for a promotion, there’s no guarantee you will get promoted (not in the ARNG anyway, unless you have a slot). Therefore, I think you should focus on getting vacancy promotions whenever possible. It’s faster and much easier.
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 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 (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. The truth of the matter is anyone can get promoted faster 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
2. Stay in shape, pass the APFT and HT/WT at all times
3. About six months before you are eligible for promotion, start looking at unit vacancies in your state
4. Update your DA Photo, personnel records and start working on your promotion packet
5. About 90 days before you are eligible for promotion, start applying for unit vacancies
6. Interview well and get hired
7. If you get the job, finish your promotion packet about 1-2 weeks before you are eligible for promotion
8. Submit your packet on your eligibility date
9. Wait 3-6 months for the state board and FED REC process (keep following up and stay persistent)
10. Get promoted
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 1-3 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 and I will do my best to answer it. Thank you.