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Most of us find it difficult to write strong bullet comments for our jobs. Getting those reports out on time or driving the bus every day just doesn’t inspire a lot of glory. But, if we take the time to examine how bullet comments are normally constructed, it becomes obvious that writing good bullets is more the result of using a good algorithm than having better material and that it’s possible to make good bullets out of what might be considered by some people to be an ordinary performance.
In an effort to better understand the nature of bullet comments in order to help us write our own, hundreds of bullets from a variety of operational specialties were studied and analyzed. After months of analysis, that review showed that bullet comments consisted of three main types (or a combination thereof):
Achievement, Recognition, or Skill/Character Description. Examples of each type are shown below:
o conducted over 200 missions into…
o developed the first-ever SOP that…
o fielded 22 advanced transport systems…
o established successful method for…
o improved section efficiency by 50%...
o selected over peers to compete for…
o commended by Commander for…
o awarded Army Achievement Medal for…
o earned commendable rating during…
o received Battalion coin for…
Skill or Character Description
o displayed outstanding battle staff skills
o committed to excellence
o his sound judgment and tactical savvy…
o delegated effectively
o resourceful and innovative…
Achievement-type bullets have the most impact. They describe exactly what was accomplished and the positive result of that act. The best NCOER bullet comments are the Achievement type. If possible, the NCOER should be packed with this type of bullet. The more specific, the better.
Recognition-type bullet comments don’t normally list an impact as the recognition itself is considered to be the impact or result. This type of bullet, while significant, is vague; they usually don’t say exactly why a person was recognized. Even so, they are still valuable and significant bullets.
The Skill or Character Description bullets, although very commonly used in NCOERs, are the most unsupported of the three types of bullet comments in that they don’t convey specific facts. Even though they are vague, they sometimes describe character better than other types of bullets can and are widely accepted in NCOERs.
The Algorithm of Strong Impact Statements
The weight of a bullet comment largely depends on its results or impact. After studying hundreds of bullet comments across a variety of occupational specialties, it was determined that, in general, the impact of a bullet comment is expressed in 9 ways:
Achieved a Quantity. This type of result or impact statement is used when the quantity itself is the significant achievement: number of missions completed, number of insurgents captured, number of miles driven, number of flights supported, etc.
Achieved an Objective. This type of impact description is used when the named objective is universally recognized as being significant and no further explanation is needed: completed successful rotation, finished an inspection, repaired, restored capability, etc.
Reduced an Undesirable Condition. This type of impact statement describes initiative that results in a better condition: a reduction in the number of equipment failures, in the number of incidents of sniper activity, number of late reports or awards, length of time required, etc.
Improved a Condition. This type of result is another way of describing improved conditions or processes: increased readiness, streamlined admission procedures, combined efforts, increased efficiency, etc.
Prevented Undesirable Condition. This type is used to describe proactive efficiency: surveillance prevented IED use, analysis of route prevented threat to personnel, PMCS prevented equipment failure, etc.
Maintained Ops Tempo. This impact type is used to document significant and critical achievement: maintained operational rate of 95%, ensured readiness, maintained 100% accuracy, zero errors, etc.
Comparison to Peers. This method is usually used in Recognition bullet comments and is an effective way of making the ratee standout: qualified 2 months ahead of peers, chosen over others of equal rank, etc.
Timeliness. Achievements related to time use this type of impact statement: completed ahead of schedule, finished before required, no late reports, guaranteed zero delays, etc.
Name Dropping. This type is used when the name of the event specified is universally recognized as being highly significant and so important that it becomes the impact and no further explanation is needed: supported ops in Sunni Triangle, key to the success of OEF III, completed over 100 missions ISO OPERATION ANVIL TREE, etc.
Apply each of the 9 types of impact listed above, in turn, to each of your bullet comments to determine which one works best. The goal is not merely what fits but what works best –which type of result is most significant. For example, consider the following comment:
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy”
In order to develop and determine which kind of impact statement is most appropriate for this comment, a writer would have to have direct knowledge of the job or achievement but some suggestions are listed below:
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy, exceeded norm for production by 50%” (Quantity)
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy, reduced unnecessary retransmissions by 50%” (Reduced undesirable condition)
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy, streamlined procedures, reduced necessary man-hours” (Improved a condition)
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy, saved $10K in TDY costs by gathering info by teleconference” (Prevented undesirable act )
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy; maintained a 99% operational rate despite 50% manning deployed” (Maintained ops tempo)
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy; best performer in section!” (Comparison to Peers)
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy; best on-time delivery in 5 years” (Timeliness)
“completed over 120 ops reports with 100% accuracy, support key to success of OPERATION ANVIL TREE” (Name Dropping)
The best bullet comment depends on context. If you already have a bullet comment that emphasizes saving the government money, then the best of the above comments might be the one where the ratee is compared favorably to his peers.