NCOs Can Now Rank Their Assignment Preferences Under a New Army System

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Soldier watches sun set at Fort Knox.
The Assignment Satisfaction Key - Enlisted Module for Army NCOs is scheduled to go Army-wide beginning Nov. 11, 2020 for the 21-01 enlisted manning cycle. (U.S. Army/Fonda Bock)

For the first time, the U.S. Army will allow noncommissioned officers to rank where they would like to be assigned.

Similar to its Assignment Interactive Module for officers, in use since 2016, the service announced earlier this month that it will roll out the virtual "Assignment Satisfaction Key -- Enlisted Marketplace" (ASK-EM) for the 2021 manning cycle.

Those eligible include active-duty soldiers in the ranks of E-6 through E-8, according to a release. They can give their top five choices for assignment location.

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"Soldier preference is important because we believe a Soldier performs at a higher level when they're in an assignment that interests them," Col. Michael McGregor, director of the Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate, said in the release. "Soldiers have some input into their assignments now, but that will increase significantly as we field ASK-EM."

The goal is to more accurately pair noncommissioned officers with their duty station based on their "knowledge, skills, behaviors and preferences," the release states.

"These initiatives optimize the Army's ability to get the right Soldier with the right talents to the right assignment at the right time. It will also allow commanders to maximize the talent provided them," McGregor said.

The new program is set to go live Nov. 11, according to a separate announcement.

Leaders will get more information about when a soldier is best available for a permanent change-of-station move or temporary duty assignment to match gaps the service needs to fill.

"Heightened awareness about Soldier talent, along with knowing when he or she is available to move, will help us make informed decisions when assigning the most qualified Soldiers to meet Army requirements," McGregor explained.

ASK-EM follows two pilot programs that involved 1,700 NCOs, according to Army Human Resources Command.

According to Col. Bryan Harris, Armor Enlisted Branch chief at the command, 55% of those participating received one of their top five choices.

The automated marketplace will someday serve an average of 35,000 NCOs per year, and will be tied to "five enlisted manning cycles per year, compared to two cycles for officers," the command said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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