Formal board training prepares Airmen, teaches “butterflies to fly in formation”

  • Published
  • By Kelly Owens
  • 624 Regional Support Group

At some point in every Airman’s career, the opportunity to go to a formal board will present itself. Whether it’s to interview for a promotion, a new job or position or as part of an awards application, presenting in front of a board can be nerve-racking and give Airmen that butterflies-in-the-belly feeling.

However, Airmen can take steps to prepare themselves to help ease those nerves, or, at the very least, “teach the butterflies to fly in formation,” said Senior Master Sgt. Tammy Castro.

To help Airmen accomplish that task, Castro, along with Chief Master Sgt. Andrea Young, senior enlisted leader, and Senior Master Sgt. Maria Tailo, recently held a formal board training for Reserve Citizen Airmen in Hawaii and Guam. During the hour-long sessions, Castro, Tailo and Young outlined what Airmen can expect, offered tips for how to prepare and shared personal experiences from their time before a board.

“We want to make sure our Airmen have the best chance possible to ace the interview, make an unforgettably positive impression and earn the accolades they deserve,” said Young. “By providing formal board training on a regular basis, we’ll be able to eliminate the element of the unknown, learn from our shared experiences, and provide our Pacific Warriors the confidence they need going into their next career-changing board.”

Here are just a few of the tips shared with the Airmen in attendance:

Tip 1: Knock once.

But before you knock, ask your supervisor to give you a once-over to ensure your uniform is exactly how it should be. Board members will be closely inspecting how an Airman looks and checking that all badges reflected on an EPR are pinned appropriately on the Airman’s uniform.

It’s also wise to solicit input from your supervisor well before the board date to ensure there’s time to order or alter anything that isn’t quite right.

Tip 2: Prepare a 60- to 90-second elevator speech.

One of the first things that the board will most likely request after an Airman has entered the board room, is an introductory statement. While board members will have background paperwork, including recent EPRs, they want to hear from Airmen directly about who they are. When asked to share about themselves, Airmen can create an answer ahead of time. A well-prepared introduction should include four points of information: 1) a personal description; 2) a career description; 3) information about family, hobbies, interests or community involvement; 4) personal and career goals.

Tip 3: Anticipate likely questions – and prepare answers for them.

After an introduction, the board will begin asking specific questions to the Airman. While not all questions can be anticipated, it’s important to rehearse talking points to commonly asked questions to rely less on on-your-feet thinking, which can result in verbal crutches, such as “Um,” “So,” and “Uh,” making an Airman seem less confident or knowledgeable.

Some common questions may include:

  1. What is your favorite line from the Airman’s Creed and why?
  2. Of the three Air Force core values, which resonates with you most and why?
  3. What about this role/unit interests you and why?
  4. What is the mission of the 624 Regional Support Group?
  5. What are the priorities of our higher headquarters?
  6. What was the last book you read?

It is also likely that Airmen will be asked specific questions about Air Force doctrine, current events, about their AFSC, leadership qualities they exhibit and their opinions about various Air Force initiatives.

Tip 4: It’s okay to say, “I don’t know” when asked a tough question…

…But quickly follow up with a promise to provide an answer as soon as you’ve been able to look into it. And then make sure you actually do send along an answer when you find one. It’s also okay to ask to come back to a question later if needed.

Members who missed the recent formal board training sessions will have another opportunity to attend a future session as Young plans to offer the training on a regular basis.

“I hope that more Airmen elect to attend the sessions as a way to take the reins of their own careers,” said Young. “These kinds of training opportunities help set people up for success – and can give attendees an edge over their peers.”

Tailo agrees.

“It’s important that you take initiative and control of your own career,” she said. “That begins with making sure your paperwork is updated, your EPRs are accurate and your uniform is cleaned, pressed and decorated appropriately. But it also means attending trainings like these that provide scenario-based conversations with senior leaders whose experience Airmen can learn from.”