Awards packages: Write to win

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Stein
  • 8th Operations Group superintendent
Long ago, I remember going up for Airman of the Quarter at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. My supervisor sat down with me for about five minutes and asked me what I had done the last three months.

My answer was short and just focused on the projects I'd completed. I didn't mention anything about improving myself or what I had done in the community. I never mentioned these things because I honestly didn't know what went into a good quarterly awards package.

My supervisor never sat down with me and told me the secrets of competing for awards.

My supervisor didn't know the answers either, but was the one tasked to write a package on me. Through great trial and error, sitting on boards and teaching bullet writing classes, I've learned how to "write to win" and not just how to "write to submit." There is a very clear difference, and packages written-to-submit often fail to get very far.

Had my supervisor actually taken the time to provide a performance feedback that included things like the importance of volunteerism, education and the difference between leading and following, I may have stood a better chance. Since then, I have tried to pass on what I've learned because things like quarterly awards have a direct impact on promotions to the top two enlisted grades.

Promotion boards want to see a consistent track record of documented positive performance. Often, people's accomplishments fail to get written up because of supervisor ignorance or even lack of caring about their troops. Additionally, some supervisors fail to write because nobody took the time to develop them. The key is to be part of the solution and not keep adding to the problem.

Air Force Instruction 36-2618, "Enlisted Force Structure," clearly states that it is an NCO's responsibility to recognize and reward those individuals whose performance is clearly above the rest. If your writing skills are weak, there are several ways to improve.

Each base typically teaches an effective writing course or a quarterly bullet seminar. Additionally, each base has wealth of knowledge in its Senior-NCO corps, which often times is more than willing to sit down and talk bullet writing.

With all of this said, here are a few ways to increase the chance of success when writing quarterly packages:
  1. Have a plan. The best quarterly packages are not constructed overnight. It helps to chart out accomplishments for your Airmen and progressively write the package.
  2. Ensure all the areas are covered. Job accomplishments alone are typically not enough to be successful on quarterly packages. It's key to have good self improvement and base / community involvement.
  3. Don't write a package in a vacuum. Solicit feedback from other writers and supervisors in order to make sure you are properly showing the impact in a bullet. People's frame of reference is shaped by their scope of responsibility. A more senior member may know the true impact of what a particular action did to help the mission.
  4. Write for the audience. Often, packages compete across multiple Air Force specialty codes and need to be written in such a way as not to confuse the reader. Try to stay away from confusing acronyms that only apply to a handful of career fields.
  5. Avoid hook statements. Steer clear of phrases that don't really say anything and just fill space.
  6. Focus on the basics. Action, Result, Impact; then get more specific. Bullets written without true impact tend to score very low.
  7. Avoid boisterous or embellished statements that cannot be true. Realize there are only so many hours in a day, week or month that a person can do community service.
  8. Seek out sample packages or previous winning packages. Many units end up saving winning packages from the quarterly and annual awards. Additionally, many samples can be found with just an Internet search.
  9. Know the difference between leading and following. The more leading or ownership you can show in a package the better. We expect our Airmen to lead and not just be another face in the crowd.
  10. Thoroughly check the package over before submission. Run spell check and ensure there are not any double bullets in the package. Additionally, try to not use the same verbs and adjectives over and over. Mix it up and be creative.

These were just a few quick tips on how to begin excelling at writing packages for your Airmen.

There is a lot more data out there and I challenge every supervisor to search for this type of information. You owe it to your Airmen to recognize their efforts and they will surely thank you for doing so.