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General Smolen holds first officer’s call

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. -- Air Force District of Washington Commander, Maj. Gen. Robert L. Smolen recently held his first officer's call addressing mid to senior medical officers to share his experiences being on the Command Screening Board. He gave the rising professionals a peak under the tent on how to effectively prepare and have all the squares filled for the CSB.

General Smolen opened the floor by complementing the group of 50 officers from around the NCR. He told them that everyone is vital to the AFDW mission and within the NCR, the medical wing is very important. The general then shared several critical points that would be helpful to the officers on their next CSB. First, he addressed that even though all the folders appear different, board members look for the same content. That being said, if the CSB is looking for board certifications, you must have them in your records. If the officers do not have proof of certifications in their records, they automatically eliminate themselves from of the command pool.

In the general's second point, he stressed to the officers that their OERs must be up to date. "A lot of you can depend on AFPC and personnel to help you ... but you can't completely depend on that" he said. Since the officer's records are going to the board, they must depend on themselves to make sure that information such as decorations, certifications and PMEs are documented.

The Commander spoke directly to raters in his third point. Since the CSB is not made up of only medical officers, he informed the medical professionals to write OERs that everyone can understand. The board the general sat on consisted of three line officers and three medical officers. General Smolen also told them that stratification is important but not every medical officer should be rated number one. "It's not critical that you be the number one person all the time...it's even good to see a record that says that this individual was number six out of 25 with the next OER saying this person was number two out of 25 ..." based on how long the officer has been in the wing or shop. In addition to stratification, the general stressed that the raters should be careful of what they write and write what they mean on the OERs. General Smolen said, if a medical officer "... is your number one person for command, say that ..." in the records. They should also make recommendations and specify a job they see fit for the medical professional they are rating. For instance, recommending an individual for a MAJCOM job. The general said it is crucial that the raters are blunt in their writing so that the CSB does not have to decipher what they mean between the lines.

General Smolen stated that he was impressed with the number of qualified medical professionals up for command. One aspect of growing in their profession is making command. However in his last key point, the general told the officers that they should not beat themselves up if they do not get selected for command. "It may not be that you're not a perfectly qualified and capable candidate ...," he said. Since there are several reasons, such as being a junior officer, he advised the medical professionals to work harder to make command the following year.

After sharing what he learned from the CSB, the officers got the opportunity to ask questions. Maj. Melanie Prince, Flight Commander Primary Care, asked General Smolen, about how the performance is viewed of a person's record if they were in a career broadening position outside of their particular AFSC? The general's answer was simple; on the line side, it is viewed favorably. Col. Michael Young, AMDS, was curious to know if a successful deployment experience will enhance an individual's records. To sum up the general's answer, being deployed is a positive but not a negative if your record doesn't show deployment. The last question came from Maj. Samuel Washington, CIO, 79th Medical Wing. Maj. Washington asked if the board considers how long it took an officer to receive a board certification? General Smolen responded that the board did not have a specific appreciation for how quickly an individual completed board certifications.

This mentoring session enlightened all the officers in their own special way and provided them with useful items they can use as they advance through their careers. Maj. Prince said she will "... focus to be the best nurse." The medical professionals left the officer's call armed with critical points they can use to prepare the best record for the next CSB.