Commentary | July 14, 2021

Is E9 on your horizon? Here’s how to get there

By The 2021 MCAP Panelists

Shhhhh. Whatever you do, please don’t share this article with other members. That’s right, we said the quiet part out loud, because we know you’re exactly who we’re looking for – individuals who are smart, strategic, and eager to advance your career while helping junior members succeed.

If that’s you, then let’s talk. But first we’ve got to make sure you’re ready to be evaluated against the best of the best.

We’re the panel members from this year’s Master Chief Advancement Panel (MCAP). We came together in May to evaluate E8s who desired advancement to master chief petty officer – the service’s most strategic and trusted enlisted leaders. We evaluated more than 250 records, and came to two conclusions:

  1. Many high-performing members care more about doing the job than getting credit for it in their record; and,
  2. Not having an accurate and thorough record can be a disadvantage for members competing not just at MCAP, but also for special assignments, advanced education, chief warrant officer packages, officer candidate school packages, etc.

Unfortunately, we can’t meet with every single enlisted member. So here are our very best “do’s” and “don’ts” to help you stand out amongst your peers.

The Basics

First let’s all get on the same page. The Coast Guard just started holding an annual MCAP last year. The panel takes a qualitative approach to advancement, similar to how the Coast Guard selects officers for promotion. It’s also how other services select their senior enlisted leaders. The goal is to ensure Coast Guard master chiefs aren’t just outstanding by the numbers, but in real life.

The panel is comprised of the Panel President (a flag officer), five captains, and 34 master chiefs. The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG) kicks things off with a briefing, to make sure everybody understands the published guidance for evaluating candidates. Most notably, the panel focused on the Commandant and MCPOCG’s guidance to boards and panels (promulgated annually) which offers keen insight the panel uses to help guide deliberations and ultimately selections.  (Here’s our first Pro Tip: READ THESE DOCUMENTS EACH YEAR!) This year, the Commandant and MCPOCG’s guidance is used to select candidates who are proven leaders and masters in their rating as evidenced in four categories: 

  • military
  • professionalism
  • performance 
  • leadership qualities

These are the same categories we see in the Enlisted Employee Review – EER.

After the MCPOCG briefing, panel members discuss what an exceptional candidate looks like for each category, decide how to weigh each category, break into sub-panels, and start reviewing records. 

Specifically, here’s what we reviewed:

  • Your Enlisted Employee Reviews (EER). We look at your EERs from the last seven years, including all the comments your commands have made about your performance and potential.
  • Your Electronically Imaged-Personnel Data Record (EI-PDR). We assess the past seven years of your educational transcripts, award citations, CG-3307s, etc. The EI-PRD will include the most recent CG-4082, even if not submitted in the last seven years. 
  • Your Employee Summary Sheet (ESS). We review your entire ESS, which provides a great overview of your overall career, since it contains your enlistment dates, assignment history, education, training, awards, and more.  

Remember, we’re looking at each candidate through the lens of MCPOCG’s guidance and our own experience, making each MCAP unique, holistic, and personal. It's a proven way to identify members who will make outstanding master chiefs.

When you’re competing against your peers for any kind of special assignment, the panel will generally follow the same approach we did. In other words, these aren’t just tips to succeed at MCAP – following this guide will make you a stronger candidate for any special assignment.

Now that you’re briefed on the basics, let’s get to the real reason you’re still reading. Here’s how to make sure your record accurately reflects your value to the Coast Guard.

Do:

  1. Make sure your record is accurate. If you’re concerned about something in your record, you can address it by submitting a memo. (For guidance, see COMDTINST M1000.2, Chapter 5, Enlisted Advancement Panel and PSCINST 1401.2, Guidance and Eligibility Criteria for Enlisted Personnel Boards and Panels.)
  2. Make sure your record is thorough. You are ultimately responsible for the quality of your record. If something is missing or documented in a manner that leaves panel members with more questions than answers, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. And remember, panel members weigh heavily any actions documented outside the normal EER cycle, such as CG-3307s or personal/team awards. Ensure these citations are included in your record.
  3. Make sure your EERs document your leadership qualities. Do you provide evidence of leadership and advocacy for the workforce at your unit or even better, the entire enlisted workforce? Have you been involved in strategic initiatives supporting priorities for the Commandant and MCPOCG?  Are you leading the Mess, not just participating in the Mess? Use the applicable comment blocks to capture specific details about what you did, the impact of your actions, and your potential to do more as a master chief. 
  4. Document technical mastery of your rating. Before we start reviewing records, we hear from the MCPOCG and Rating Force Master Chiefs about what to look for to separate the good E8s from the great E8s. They explain what types of certifications, qualifications, education, and experience are important for your rating. Make sure everything you’ve done related to your rating is properly documented in your record, so we can accurately evaluate you against other high-performing senior chief petty officers. The best way to do this is to review and update your ESS Competencies, which often reflect accomplishments not otherwise visible in the portion of your record the panel will review. Demonstrating that you have qualified as a helicopter control officer, attended Applied Suicide Intervention training or completed Chief’s Call to Indoctrination (CCTI) will help paint a picture of a well-rounded senior chief.
  5. Provide a CG-4082. A Record of Professional Development is an optional, but very valuable tool members may include in their record to document professional achievements. The CG-4082 may be used to document an entire career’s worth of education, commercial certifications, professional studies, academic or professional articles written, etc., that are not already documented elsewhere in your record.  

Don’t:

  1. "Cut and paste” previous EER comments. Some candidates’ EERs used word-for-word, identical language to substantiate 7s from period-to-period or mark-to-mark; this is NOT the way you want to stand out to the panel. Provide specific, updated language for every mark; hold your command accountable for effectively documenting your performance in the EER! MCAP members will look for evidence of outstanding work, with quantifiable impact to the nation, the Coast Guard, community, families, etc.
  2. Forget to add the award citations you’ve earned to your EI-PDR. It was not uncommon to have a 26-year E8, with two to three personal awards on their ESS within the seven year window, but no citations in the EI-PDR. The content of those awards is vitally important! It lets panel members know exactly what you did and more effectively evaluate you based on the scoring criteria. It’s not just about award points anymore, context matters!
  3. Forget to document all your accomplishments, even those you might take for granted. If you have professional certificates, published articles, college credits, Associates, Bachelors, or a Master’s Degree, make sure they are properly documented in the ESS or CG-4082, EERs, and EI-PDR (as applicable). And don’t forget the small things! Designations, certifications, or licenses you might take for granted could set you apart from another candidate if properly documented.  For example, many candidates appeared eligible for Permanent Cutterman Insignia, while others seemed to possess a Federal Aviation Administration License – and yet their records didn’t actually document those achievements. The MCAP reviewed multiple records where the ESS showed “no education on file” and there was no CG-4082 highlighting education, but comments in their EER indicated the completion of college courses, certificates, or a degree. The details matter!
  4. Overlook the importance of the Future Potential block. The EER requires comments about a member’s future potential, but we found that far too frequently the comments were vague. Be specific! Make sure this block includes an assessment of your potential for specific jobs, special assignments, and ability to perform at the next higher paygrade. These comments should be focused and succinct. The Future Potential block is often the most scrutinized and valued block by panel members. It provides a great opportunity, if not the best opportunity, to directly assess the member’s potential and value to the Coast Guard.  
  5. Forget to request a copy of your EI-PDR before a board or panel! The importance of managing one’s EI-PDR is engrained in our officer corps upon commissioning. With the advent of MCAP, it must become commonplace for you. EI-PDRs are not static. Documents might be added or deleted accidentally, so your frequent attention is required. See the quick-start guide below to learn how to get a copy of your record sent directly to you; it’s quick and easy. It was abundantly clear which candidates had reviewed their records and who had not. Many panel members remarked that they would REQUIRE their aspiring E9’s to not only attest to having read the COMDT and MCPOCG Guidance to Boards and Panels, but also attest that they’ve reviewed their EI-PDR…food for thought for you leaders out there!

By now, you’re probably thinking that preparing for the MCAP will take months! Our best advice is to manage your career documentation continually and consistently. Not only should you request a copy of your EI-PDR prior to competing at a board or panel, it’s a very sound practice to request a copy of your EI-PDR annually to review its accuracy and thoroughness. The next MCAP is scheduled for May 2022, so there is plenty of time to get your record in order.

Not sure how to get started? Here’s our quick-start guide:

  1. Review the MCAP Portal Page, which EPM-1 created to help you prepare for a future MCAP. You don’t need to wait until you achieve E8, review it now! The site includes guidance to previous panels, links to applicable policies, FAQs, a one-page job aid about records and how to update them, and much more.
  2. Read PSCINST 1401.2, to be sure you understand the four major scoring criteria: Military, Professionalism, Performance, and Leadership Qualities.
  3. Review your EERs, ESS and EI-PDR. (Send a digitally signed e-mail to request your EI-PDR.)
  4. Don’t be afraid to reach out! CG PSC-EPM-1 is available to answer all of your MCAP questions .