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Posts from the ‘LOR’ Category

20
Apr

Civilian LOR/Personal Statement Example – 17OT02 Pilot Select

Here is another LOR and Personal Statement example submitted for your benefit.  I will call him Thomas Eaton, and he was a 17OT02 civilian pilot select.


 

 

 

 

2
Jun

Who Should Write the LOR?

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.
1
Jun

Letter of Recommendation (2016 Update)

I get this question periodically so I decided it was time to finally update my LOR post.  As I said in my first post I was extremely lucky with my LOR because I didn’t have to lift a finger.  Because this will not be the case for 99% of my Active Duty readers, here is my perspective on how you can best write your LOR for your commander.

In a perfect world your supervisor would ask you for some sort of supporting documentation (EPRs, decorations, etc) and he or she would draft the LOR for you.  For all of you NCOs, SNCOs, or officers out there, this is what I would expect of you if I were your supervisor.  Once your supervisor does his or her part it would be sent to your commander, and your commander would add in the secret code language which would tell the board what they want to hear (and how they want to hear it).  Since we don’t live in a perfect world the applicant has to often draft the LOR him/herself.  The good news is that it isn’t as hard as you may think it is (once you get the hang of it).  Since I did a bullet summary of the requirements from the BOT guide in my first post, here is the actual guidance from the 1 Dec 2015 BOT Guide with new attachments.  I could have missed something  but this guidance doesn’t look like it has changed from when I applied to now.

In general I think the strongest LOR will be from someone who knows how to speak to a bunch of O-6’s on the panel.  Officers, especially senior officers have a secret language they use to speak to each other.  If the person who endorses or authors your LOR knows this language, it will greatly help you with your goal of being accepted.  The ideal author who would meet this criteria is an O-5 or above with command experience and solid experience leading people.  Secondly (and as part of this secret language), keep the LOR brief.  Say what needs to be said but don’t give too many details.  Instead of saying the applicant has this or that characteristic, simply tell a story for how the applicant embodied this characteristic.  Think of the characteristics which the board would be most concerned about (core values, compassion for people, true not surface level involvement in the community.)


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).


Again, I personally recommend you don’t completely abide by the part about “working knowledge of the applicant.”  I think having a Wing/CC endorsement adds an amount of weight and credibility that cannot and should not be ignored.  If you have the opportunity to get a Wing/CC endorsement on your LOR, DO IT.  Just keep in mind the strongest LOR with wing endorsement will be one with a personal touch to it.

I only did a brief search, but I didn’t really find any LORs which I would consider “strong.”  If anyone finds something which may meet this criteria, please send them to me and I will add them as examples below.

I found some LORs on airforcewriter and I will be honest, I think a lot of them are weak (at least for an OTS board).  However, I think a few are better than the others so I will copy/paste them below and provide my input.

Click here for the source link for the below LORs.


Example 1

Letter of Recommendation: James S. Sutterlin
17 North Chatsworth Ave. Apt. 6KL
Larchmont, NY 10538

Telephone and Fax 914 834 3902
Email Jsutter728@optonline.net

May 8, 2015

To Whom it May Concern,

I am a retired Foreign Service Officer (Inspector General of the Foreign Service), a retired senior member of the United Nations Secretariat, and Distinguished Fellow and Instructor at Yale University. I am writing this memorandum to recommend Forrest Weaver for admission to the United States Air Force. Because of my need for various types of assistance since my retirement, I engaged the services of Mr. Weaver to help me, on the recommendation of one of his professors at the graduate school of the City University of New York in which he is now enrolled. Forrest Weaver has now been working for me for almost one year. His tasks are manifold, including maintenance of my financial records, payment of my obligations, summarizing for me incoming correspondence, including scholarly and literary works, and assisting me in the academic and literary writing that I undertake. To perform these functions Mr. Weaver requires a broad education and a keen intelligence.

Forrest Weaver meets all of the requirements listed above. His educational background covers both scientific and humanistic criteria. He is quick in grasping the sense of what is needed, whether it be in the maintenance of a bank account or the correction of a literary composition. He is always willing to learn if new knowledge is needed in completing his work. He has the initiative and the independence of mind to suggest corrections or improvements in works in progress when this may be in order. In summary, I have come to value his assistance highly as a young man of great promise in whatever career he may choose.

Mr. Weaver has spoken to me about various career options that he has considered and has told me of his decision to apply for admission to the United States Air Force. He told me that he has given this extensive thought, taking into account, among other things, that there is some history in his family of service in the Air Force. I believe that he will make a loyal, skillful and nimble Air Force officer. He has shown, in my opinion, all the necessary attributes (I’m familiar with the scores of the tests he has taken). I can recommend Forrest Weaver, without reservation, for acceptance and service in the United States Air Force.

James S. Sutterlin
United States Foreign Service Officer (Retired)
Senior Assistant and Speechwriter for the United Nations Secretary General
Distinguished Fellow and Instructor, Yale University
Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Long Island University

P1:  This paragraph establishes the credibility of the author well.  I think this is really important because the board needs to know who they are hearing from before they can form an opinion on the applicant.  IMO an ideal credible source would be a retired or active O-5 or above with command experience, with a strong experience with leading people.  I don’t think the second part of the paragraph adds much weight.  The board will know your experience from the applicant profile but I suppose a quick summary can be useful.  Just be sure to keep it brief.  I think stratification is important in this paragraph as well.  It should be a quick ‘this is who I am and I know what I am talking about, and this is how I would stratify the applicant based on that experience.’
 
P2:  IMO this paragraph should really speak to the character of the applicant.  I think the example above is fairly bland but at least it is covering a brief sense of the skills of the applicant.  I think one of the strongest uses of this paragraph would be a specific example of how the author has seen embodiment of an AF core value in the applicant.  Speak to the “whole person concept” and not just he is good at this or that.
 
P3:  I don’t like the direction of this third paragraph.  Your goal for this paragraph should be to tie it all together.  Ideally in P2 you have talked about a few examples of core values both at work and off duty.  P3 should tie it together saying something to the effect of those two examples mean applicant is XYZ.  Summarize the character of the applicant and speak the O-5 language which says ‘this one is the better than all of the others.’

Example 2

21 Jul 2009

MEMO FOR United States Air Force Academy Admissions Office

FROM: 6th CS/SCM

SUBJECT: Letter of recommendation for SSgt Anthony Sims

To whom it may concern,

Staff Sergeant Anthony Sims has my highest recommendation for acceptance into the United States Air Force Academy.  As a Master Sergeant with over 22 years in the United States Air Force and a vested interest in the future of our military, it is with the utmost care and sincerity that I recommend prospective leaders. Sergeant Sims’ character and personnel records exceed my standard for the level of performance and behavior that I expect from our best young Airmen.

As Sergeant Sims’ immediate supervisor, I have spent a great deal of time with him and can honestly say that he is positive, earnest, and professional at all times.  He is an upright Non-commissioned Officer of high character, as evidenced by his total devotion to duty and his efforts to further his education.  Not satisfied with merely doing his job, on his own initiative, he has continued to advance his education.  He continuously seeks self improvement and accepts greater responsibility with humility.  Sergeant Sims is the type of Airman that needs little or no supervision to get the job done.  He is the epitome of the Air Force NCO and possesses enormous potential to be a great leader as an Air Force Officer.  He maintains a rigorous physical training program that keeps him in top condition.  His personnel record confirms what I have observed and you will see that this young man has continuously demonstrated that he has what it takes to be a sterling addition to the United States Air Force Officer Corps.

Sergeant Sims is not only a disciplined professional.  He is a team player and gets along well with his team mates.  His cheerfulness and consideration for others have made him an indispensable part of our unit.  His fellow Airmen are drawn to him by his personality and sincere concern for others.  I hope you will give this young man the opportunity to continue to excel both at the United States Air Force Academy and as a future Air Force Officer.

Sincerely,

MSgt Wayne P. Pinckney, USAF
NCOIC, Civil Engineering, AC DIV

P1:  I also think this LOR in general is very bland and weak.  I like that the first paragraph is short and sweet, but it needs to have more powerful language.  Example 1 had credibility but no stratification, this example leaves credibility at “over 22 years.”  How many people did he lead over the 22 years?  In what leadership positions did this MSgt serve?

P2:  There is a personal touch to this paragraph, but the language is telling the board he is good at being an NCO.  It is not really addressing the potential for officership for the applicant.  Instead of saying “he has high character,” provide an example for how you learned this about the candidate.  It would be a much more powerful statement.  Instead of saying he has potential, tell the board an example showing this potential.  I think this paragraph is best used by providing a few examples of how the applicant is the epitome of the whole person concept.

P3:  This is a weak closing paragraph.  Instead of rehashing the character of the applicant, talk about how it is in the best interest of the Air Force if the applicant became an officer.  Explain how the applicant’s core values make him a true example that others want to follow.  Explain how this LOR is the best one you have ever seen in all of your many years of leadership.

22
May

Letter of Recommendation

The letter of recommendation is a difficult portion of the application because you are relying on someone else and there is so much freedom with how it is written.  There are 100 different ways you can do the LOR, your main job is to make sure the LOR matches the guidelines in the BOT as closely as possible.  Everyone’s situation is different so there is no cut and dry answer for who should do it or how it should be written, but here is my perspective:

Keep in mind these are Active Duty guidelines.  Civilian LOR guidelines are different.

General LOR guidelines:

  • LOR must be written within your chain of command, no higher than senior rater (normally the wing commander).
  • Cannot be older than 180 days old.
  • Only one allowed.
Other comments:
  • LOR purpose – If you think about your entire application, your Applicant Profile covers both your personal and professional life.  If the purpose of your commander’s bullets are to add credibility to your record and translate your record into your potential, what role with the LOR play?  In my opinion, the LOR fills in the gaps between it all and addresses your character or who you are as a person…  something the board cannot truly get a feel for from the rest of the application.  The BOT guide addresses this by saying “adds emphasis to “whole person” concept”, “individual’s character and potential for commissioning” and “the best person to write an LOR is one who has a working knowledge of the applicant”.
  • Who should write the LOR – This is a tough one because again, it is different for every person based on their current chain of command.  One of the main things you should avoid is having your commander write your LOR.  Doing this is not necessarily wrong, but think of it this way:  Your Applicant Profile is your presentation of your perception of yourself.  Your commander adds a second voice with his bullet’s and interview results.  Which would have more of an impact, your commander’s voice again in the LOR, or a third voice reinforcing what has already been said by both you and your commander?
  • Higher rank or more personal knowledge – In a perfect world you would personally know your senior rater and your senior rater would author your LOR.  Since most of us do not know our senior rater, it is important to personally assess who the best author would be.  From the board’s perspective, the author of the LOR is someone who knows you well and can speak to your character and potential.  The rank of the author adds credibility to their words, which either adds to or degrades the impact the LOR has on the board member’s overall score.  So in short, read all of the current guidance and use your best judgement when selecting who to endorse your LOR.
My story:
  • My LOR was written entirely by my supervisor’s supervisor, my Flight Commander.  I was extremely lucky because he is a GS-13 civilian who served 22 years and retired as a Lt Col.  I was also lucky because my office included a total of six people (including my Flight Commander), so I see and interacted with him on a daily basis.
  • My LOR was a very wordy two pages.  Two normal sized paragraphs and most of an extremely long paragraph on the front, and 3.5 paragraphs on the back.
  • Summary of my Flight Commander’s letter:  I give the strongest possible recommendation, I retired from 22 years of commissioned service, I have credibility because I led x people over my years and here is my strat of applicant.  Short paragraph of who applicant is.  Applicant displays character and leadership we expect from our finest officers.  Here are two examples of how I personally witnessed this character in my mission.  Applicant is the whole person because he did this for a flight member and this in the community.  He is exactly what we need for tomorrow’s Air Force.  Strong language stating this package more than any other should move forward.  Contact info for questions.
  • I was at a GSU so the only other real option to author my LOR was my commander’s commander, the Group commander.  If he authored it I would have gained one grade but at the expense of +/- ten years of Air Force experience and no personal knowledge of me.  That’s why I chose my Flight Commander, and it worked out in the end.
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.
Ref:  AD BOT Guide 26 Jun 14 C3 22 Dec 14