As he reached the end of his 20 years of service, Jones submitted a fleet reserve request, and he already had his intent to retire message approved. He was shocked when he read a message from the fleet reserve desk saying he still owed the Navy 18 months of service. Baffled by this information, Jones asked his command career counselor aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1), Navy Counselor 1st Class Tammy Scott, to take a look at his record. It didn't take her long to find the problem.
Jones had an unauthorized absence (UA) court memorandum in his record dating back to 1998. But it wasn't him. It was another Eric Jones.
Not only was this document affecting his ability to retire when he wanted to, but it was also probably a key factor in why he hadn't been selected for promotion to chief petty officer (CPO).
"He never really did ask any questions about why he wasn't making chief," said Scott. "But once he saw that UA document in his record he thought, 'Maybe that's why I'm not a chief.'"
And he's probably right. Sailors who don't check their records are probably making the biggest mistake they can make when going up for the CPO selection board.
ESR vs. OMPF
What a lot Sailors don't realize is the CPO selection board doesn't look at the electronic service record (ESR) that is found on the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System, or NSIPS at https://nsips.nmci.navy.mil. Board members look at the official military personnel file (OMPF), which can be accessed on Bupers Online, or BOL at https://www.bol.navy.mil.
"The ESR is a replacement for the field service record that was once held at all the [personnel support detachments] and personnel offices," said James Giger, the head of the records management policy branch at Navy Personnel Command (NPC). "It was developed before we eliminated the field service record so we would have an automated input source to create documents to come into the OPMF and to put data into the ESR for the local commands to have access to it immediately. The OMPF, on the other hand, is your official permanent record. Those are the documents that go before selection boards. Those are the documents that are used by the detailers and most of the other branches here at NPC."
Giger also pointed out that since the OMPF is a permanent personnel record, it is maintained forever. It's kept at NPC for 62 years, and then it's retired to the National Personnel Records Center. That means veterans will be able to access it long after they leave the service.
"When we created the ESR, we did not anticipate commands having access to the OMPF like they do today," said Giger. "So we created the ESR with the thought that ... local commands could get all the data they need without having to look at documents. Over the years, we've been able to create an application for them to view the OMPF, but the ESR is still quick and handy."
While Sailors trust personnel offices and other authorities to submit documents on their behalf, it is ultimately the responsibility of each individual Sailor to verify the accuracy of his or her own record. Accidents happen, and documents are sometimes lost or filed incorrectly.
"It's a common mistake. Someone didn't screen their record correctly and missed something that should have been in there. It's a competitive system. No one should take for granted that paperwork has been submitted on their behalf correctly," said Force Master Chief Petty Officer Jon Port, force master chief for Naval Education and Training Command.
One way to make corrections easier is to keep copies of all qualifications and award citations or certificates, so if a missing document is discovered, it can be remedied much quicker than having to go back to a previous command and asking them to dig up old paperwork.
"I tell even the most junior Sailors, every qual you get, keep a copy because we focus so much on the ESR, but if the info doesn't get transferred, it isn't getting into your OMPF. Make sure every qual you get is in your record," said Navy Counselor 1st Class Celena Curry, a career counselor on board USS Leyte Gulf.
"Check your record regularly, especially on a ship because of the number of quals you can get. At least once a month. Don't just assume - verify," warned Scott. "I look in my ESR and OMPF to make sure everything is documented. I look at it constantly, even when there are no changes to make sure nothing crazy is in there."
Scott also advised that keeping records updated and accurate is ultimately less stressful for Sailors because they won't have to go through the trouble of submitting a letter to the CPO selection board every year, since Sailors are only required to submit a letter if documents are missing.
Sailors should also have their records evaluated by a third party, preferably someone who has successfully been through the selection board process. Having a mentor from the chief's mess parse through a board package is invaluable.
"Having someone at your command review your package is critical. We feel like we can take care of ourselves. Have your command master chief, command career counselor and yeoman verify the format," said Port.
Things to Check For:
- Evaluations, making sure there is continuity.
- Any missing awards.
- Qualifications Page 4, or Record of Qualifications.
What to do if your record isn't correct:
Make a copy of the missing document and mail it in to the appropriate organization. Follow up to ensure the document was received.
- Go to BOL, click "OMPF," a page pops up and under "For Official Military Personnel File" there are instructions for corrections and updates. Refer to MILPERSMAN 1070 series and BUPERSINST 1070.27 for specifics on where to send certain documents.
- If you need to submit a package to the CPO selection board, make sure to review the instructions. To view a sample letter to the board, a sample cover letter and the selection board mailing address, go to:
Click on the "Boards" tab in the top left, then "Active Duty Enlisted," and "General Information." The required formats for these letters are found at the bottom of the page.
Aircrewman Tactical Helicopter 1st Class Wade Trainer, the operations and aircrew leading petty officer at Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 35 (HSM-35), made board the first time he took the CPO exam in 2012. He found he had a duplicate Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in his OMPF. Trainer followed the proper channels, wrote a letter to have the duplicate removed, and never received a response. A year later, the duplicate NAM is still in his record. Even though he admitted he never followed up on the request, he also never received a reply saying, "You did something wrong when you made the request and you need to resubmit it."
"I didn't understand why we had NSIPS and OMPF, and how everything in NSIPS and NDAWS could be correct, but my OMPF was wrong. I didn't understand where the disconnect was," said Trainer.
But this year, Trainer knows what he needs to do.
"I looked at my record this year. I still have the same issues as last time, so I'll probably send off another request to have it fixed. And I received two NAMs that I know aren't going to be in [my OMPF], so I'm already prepared to send them off to the board," said Trainer.
Where does NDAWS fit into this? The Navy Department Awards Web Services (NDAWS) is the authoritative data source for personal awards which are NAMs or higher. In January, NAVADMIN 016/13
announced changes to the way personal awards are entered into the OMPF.
Previously, Sailors were unable to submit their awards directly to their OMPF. They had to be submitted by their command to NDAWS. With the release of the NAVADMIN, Sailors can now send in copies of their award citations for their OMPF, but only if the award is already reflected in NDAWS.
If a Sailor has an award accurately recorded in NDAWS, but not in their OMPF, they should mail a clean copy of the citation or certificate to PERS-313 at:
Navy Personnel Command
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-3130
The service member's full social should be written or typed in the upper right hand corner.
Awarding authorities now send citations and certificates to their appropriate NDAWS coordinator, who will then automatically submit the documents to PERS-313 for entry into the Sailor's OMPF. Additionally, if a Sailor submits a letter to the CPO selection board that includes awards missing from the Sailor's OMPF, NPC will automatically add those awards to the OMPF four to six weeks after the board has adjourned, as long as those awards are reflected in NDAWS. If an award is not in NDAWS, the service member should contact their current command's NDAWS coordinator. A list of NDAWS coordinators is available at https://awards.navy.mil.
The bottom line:
Each Sailor should take ownership of his or her record. The instructions to make corrections exist, but they need to be read carefully.
"My advice is to review everything in detail. Don't rush through it. Read it. You could have someone else's eval in there. That's happened," said Port.
Port also emphasized that it's never too early, and a Sailor is never too senior, to check your records.