Leaders must bust EPR myths

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Richard A. Freewalt
  • 512th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
Three common enlisted performance report writer misperceptions are:

- Master sergeants and higher automatically get "fire-walled" (5) EPRs.
- Fudging facts in bullets is OK as long as it sounds good.
- Formal feedback is not required and doesn't help writing EPRs.

5 EPRs are where the bar starts for senior NCOs, right? If members are good enough to get promoted that high, of course they're stellar troops...

If you want to do a proper service for your Airman, your unit and the Air Force, you will avoid falling into this trap and ensure all members you supervise live up to their full potential.

The only way to distinguish between good, better and best is to have room for different ratings (Block V "Overall Performance Assessment," numerical score on the back). I suggest starting with 3, meaning they show up and do the minimum to pass ("Meets"). Put in some additional effort, volunteer once in a while in the unit, take initiative occasionally and make a difference for a 4 ("Above Average"). The absolute never-fail go-to person, always available, always seems to have time for you, is visible in the wing and makes a big impact on their section and their unit for a 5 ("Clearly Exceeds").

50 percent improvement of the past six months is about right. Let's just go with that to get this #@$! EPR done since no one actually checks the facts in EPRs...

This is when I pull out my handy "The Little Blue Book" with the Air Force core values: "(1) Integrity First - Integrity is a character trait. It is the willingness to do what is right even when no one is looking." EPRs are official personnel records, which are expected to be accurate, not kind of accurate. An EPR is important for your subordinates so take time to do it correctly. Develop good documentation habits such as writing 1-2 items about what each person you supervise did every unit training assembly. When you draft an EPR three months before it's due, you'll have 21 months of UTA notes that should make writing an EPR a snap.

Staff Sgt. Spectacular and I had a brief chat last UTA about how his family is doing, so I'll annotate that as his feedback session for this EPR...

Documented feedback sessions are required per Air Force Instruction 36-2406. Putting thoughts, in this case feedback on performance, in writing is very powerful. The written word often makes a lasting impression, like getting someone's attention by issuing a letter of counseling instead of verbal counseling sessions that have had little or no effect. Formal feedback ensures that you and your subordinate understand what's expected. Use a performance feedback worksheet session to jot down potential EPR bullets and a refresher while writing the EPR. See AFI 360-2406 Chapter 2 for more information on the performance feedback process.

Don't treat EPRs as just another task that has to get done during an already too busy UTA. They are an important tool for a member's career and their development. Develop young supervisors early to write good EPRs and ensure seasoned supervisors don't fall into bad habits.