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June 2, 2016

Who Should Write the LOR?

by airforceotsguy

I briefly addressed this in my original post but I get the question enough that it deserves a post of it’s own.  Who should write the LOR?  Here are a few bullets points of my thoughts.  Here is the guidance from the BOT guide once again:

A8.2.  Letter of Recommendation (LOR) (SEE SAMPLE BELOW) – Letter must be within applicant’s chain-of-command, no higher than the senior rater (normally the wing commander).  Letter cannot be more than 180 days old from board convening date.  Only one LOR is allowed.  The LOR should be addressed to the Air Force Officer Selection Board.  A LOR adds emphasis to the “whole person” concept.  The LOR tells board members more about the individual’s character and potential for commissioning.  It is recommended that the unit commander not write the LOR, since he/she already performed the interview.  The best person to write an LOR is one who has a working knowledge of the applicant; attesting to applicant’s character, morals, standards, and potential.  Individuals writing an LOR should state their relationship to the applicant and use specific examples they have observed leadership, moral character, talents, accomplishments, etc.  Don’t use a senior officer if he/she doesn’t personally know applicant (it will reflect in overall rating). Applicants are not allowed to obtain an additional endorsement on the letter of recommendation.Note: (Refer to AFI 36-2406, 1 Jul 2000, Attachment 1, Section “Terms”, Page 144, Senior Rater (Officer) or contact MPF to determine who the organization’s senior rater is when not assigned to a wing).

If you think about it, you really don’t have that many options with the LOR.  I have heard of a lot of people getting pressured by the supervisor, leadership, or commander to choose one LOR author over another.  The bottom line is it is YOUR application so review the guidance and do what you think is best.

  • Must be in chain of command – IMO this really only leaves your Flt/CC, Gp/CC, or Wg/CC.  This may not be a popular opinion, but I believe officers have much more credibility than senior enlisted leaders such as a Chief or First Sergeant, especially since you are only allowed one LOR.  I also think officers, or especially commanders with years of command leadership experience, can better speak the lingo and more efficiently tell the board what they want to hear about you (and how they want to hear it).  There is a secret language…  it is a real thing.  I would only recommend immediate supervisor if it is a retired officer or similar.  Deputy and vice commanders may fit this category but then it would beg the question why was it signed by the vice/deputy and not boss?
  • 180 day rule – If you are shooting for the Gp/CC or Wg/CC, be sure you give yourself enough time for coordination.  The commander’s secretary will be your best friend with this part.
  • Working knowledge of the applicant – This is the part that hangs everyone up.  While your immediate leadership (supervisor, NCOIC, section chief, etc.) is going to have the best ‘working knowledge’ of you, I don’t think the most powerful LOR will be signed by someone at that level.  I personally think this means that the LOR should indicate in the text that the author actually knows you and not that the author just signed some arbitrary document that was placed in front of them.  Think of it like this; what would you have to do to catch the attention of the Wing Commander?  Well whatever that was should in your LOR.  In an ideal world you would have had some sort of conversation with the Wg/CC before your letter is routed up.  This may sound crazy but this is the case for more people than you may think.
  • Not your commander – I think having your commander do the LOR is a mistake.  You only have a limited time to sell yourself to the board through your application.  If the LOR author and your commander, you are losing another voice to the board.  I would rather have a LOR from the Chief instead of the commander.  Like I said above my ideal would be Gp/CC or Wg/CC.
I will end again with comments from my board, and with the comments of HiFlyer from the forums.
Feedback from 15OT02 Board regarding LOR: (click here for my full post):
  • Recommend getting the highest recommendation letter for the applicant.  Not all should go to the Wing/CC or GP but those that should will resonate with the board.  Suggest brevity in the letter of recommendation.  NO more than 1 page.
Feedback posted by HiFlyer on the airforceots forum. (click here for my full post):
  • The one LOR allowed for an active duty applicant is generally more compelling if from an O-6 or FO/GO/SES.  Also, there is little value added if interviewer is also the LOR author.
Read more from LOR

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