Writing Strong Bullets II

Making your bullets effective

The goal of the EPR is communication. You want to convey a certain impression and for most of us, that impression is that we are overdue for promotion!

In order to communicate that fact, you must identify your audience. Who is the audience? Although many people, from your best friend to the clerks at MPF, may read your EPR, the audience that matters is the audience who will be reading the EPR in connection with personnel actions and passing judgement. And that means Senior NCOs. You have to write your EPR accomplishments in a context that Senior NCOs can understand and appreciate. Senior NCOs have a different view of what matters and what is important than we do.

For example, you might think that your best accomplishment was the fact that you polished the brass on your workcenter's main entrance doors better than anyone else in your section. You worked hard at it, you sweated and put your heart and soul into it because the NCOIC prized a spick and span entry way and a gleaming brass door. You probably volunteered when no one else would and put in a little overtime too. And you took preventative action to preserve that shine and conserve it as long as possible.

While that work was certainly laudable and was actually required, it isn't the type of thing they're looking for in an EPR unless your job title happens to be Door Polisher. To be sure, the kind of Airman who is willing to do thankless work like this is the kind of Airman every supervisor prizes. But it's understood that this kind of work is neccessary and won't be recorded except in the supervisor's memory.

The type of accomplishments that belong in an EPR are those that support your unit's mission. The strongest bullet you can write is one that demonstrates the accomplishment of the mission assigned to you or your unit.

From the Senior NCO's point of view, what counts is mission accomplishment. He is functioning at the Squadron (or even Group) level and is aware of the efforts of dozens of workcenters, all united in working toward a common goal. One flight may be in charge of ensuring all other flights have the computers necessary to surf the web. Another workcenter may have the responsibility to keep all aircraft full of fuel. If you're assigned to the Bottle Washer flight, your achievements should be related to producing pristine and sanitary bottles.

If you're having trouble visualizing your workcenter's goal (which is very easy to do when you're engrossed in the details of making things happen), Google your squadron's home page. Usually the squadron will have their goals listed right on the first page. Look at these examples:

http://www.misawa.af.mil/units/

http://www.315aw.afrc.af.mil/units/index.asp

Click on the individual units of the links above and the goals and mission statements of each one will be listed. Look up your own unit and copy down their goals. Then make your bullets related to those goals!

Use Illustrious Words

We all know that unsubstantiated, overly wordy descriptions are not helpful in EPRs. An Airman will not benefit from being described as the "outstanding Senior Airman with a high degree of professionalism and reliability, including an impeccable work ethic and mechanical expertise". That sounds nice but is too general to really convince the reader that the ratee is above average. The only way to accomplish that is by listing the ratee's specific accomplishments!

But, when listing accomplishments, we have some latitude in how we describe the significant feat. We could say:

Ensured 100% of equipment operational for deployment

or

Launched flight with full complement of weapons systems

The latter, while describing the same work, sounds more impressive. Well, that might not be the best example but I think you understand what I mean.

Use action words. Instead of "delivered material on time, solely responsible for on-time departure...", write "Rescued mission from failure, rushed over 10K liters fuel to stranded aircraft".

It just makes for more interesting reading and we need every advantage we can muster. Dig out your thesaurus and use it. Don't use the same word for every sentence. The English langauge is packed with alternatives!

Instead of "outstanding" which appears in just about every EPR ever written, use something else:

DYNAMITE, awesome, impressive, COMMANDING, great, strong, superior, EXCELLENT, best, perfect, terriffic, fantastic, first-class, first-rate, notable, five-star, high-powered, professional, BRILLIANT, solid, big-league/major league, effective, successful, PRODUCTIVE, powerful, dynamic --or ANYTHING EXCEPT OUTSTANDING!

Summary

-Relate accomplishments to mission goals.

-You must have specific accomplishments to make the EPR effective. If you don't have enough of your own, use accomplishments of your team, workcenter, or unit.

-Use the fact that we're at war --this is a war time achievement, associate accomplishments with war effort somehow

-Use buzz words to impress: aviation, Global War on Terrorism, etc

-What exercises or deployments were supported? Work those in! Did the ratee deploy? If so, include that -that's big.

-Use illustrious words!