MSG Royce Achterburg (MSG A) is the current Senior Military Instructor for the John Carroll ROTC program and was kind enough to let us steal a few moments of his time to conduct an interview so that all future board attendees and NCOs can learn from his experience(s). MSG A is an Infantryman (11B) with 20 years of service. MSG A has earned his CIB, EIB, Senior Parachutist Badge (Airborne), and Drivers Badge. In addition, MSG A has been deployed nine times: Haiti (1998), Kosovo (2000), OIF (2003), OEF (2005), OIF (2006), OIF (2007), Haiti (2010), Kuwait/Iraq/Other (2016). MSG A has served with the 82nd ABN DIV, 18th ABN Corps, Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve(CJTF-OIR), and a Joint Special Operations Task Force. Among his many awards are the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and Army Accommodation Medal for Valor.
Q: Approximately how many Army boards have you been a board member, sponsor, or candidate?
A: I sat on almost every Soldier of the Month and Promotion Board during my tenure as a 1SG. 4 years x 12 x 2 = about 96. Plus, I was a member of the Joint Board for CJTF-OIR, I think we had 8 boards. I could delegate some of these responsibilities, but I chose to be part of these boards as it afforded me a great opportunity to shape the standards of my unit and gauge the depth and desire of my Soldiers.
Q: What impresses you most about a board candidate?
A: So, when I look a candidate I immediately hone in on the professional bearing, appearance and ability to handle themselves well under pressure. Certainly I focus on the APFT and qualifications, but I am also a very detail oriented person – so I look at everything. Uniform. Counseling can tell you a lot about the Soldier, their ambition, recovery from errors (resilience), challenges, goals. The SRB/ERB also tells me about the Soldier, if it is not updated… they don’t care. One can argue that the Training Room or S1 doesn’t want to help them get their records squared away, but I think that is more of a cop-out. I have never seen an S1 that was to busy to help lay out a Soldiers records (assuming the Soldier has done their end of the work too).
Q: How important to you are right answers versus confident answers?
A: I am about 70/30 on this one. You need to know the answer. If you are confident in a wrong answer, I do generally add a few mental bonus points for the wrong answer. This is only true though of obscure questions. If you give me a confident wrong answer for: Who is your Battalion CSM…. You will probably get points deducted!
Q: What is the most overlooked aspect of the board (uniform, ERB updates, etc) that can negatively impact a candidate in the eyes of board members?
A: Attention to detail. Every aspect. If the board is focusing on a poorly tied tie or the fact that your ERB has no Weapons Qualification, they are not focusing on the positives you bring to the board.
Q: What behaviors when seated detract from a candidate’s performance?
A: I generally want to see stone cold discipline. This is a board and we are not buddies. Other than that, it is the obvious nerves. Practice, practice, practice. Make mock boards and study groups. Get grilled by people you don’t know!
Q: How important is the first impression to board candidates?
A: It is paramount. Recovering from a bad first impression is and assault up-hill. Good luck.
Q: How much of your first impression of the candidate is formed from the sponsor and the candidate’s ERB?
A: This is a quagmire, the sponsor and ERB is a HUGE part of the first impression. The issue is that sponsor often does more damage than good. I have thrown sponsors out because they were absolutely chewed up, or it wasn’t their Soldier and they had no value to add to the Soldiers benefit. The flipside of this is if the sponsor is chewed up I don’t hold it against the Soldier coming to the board. The ERB is your responsibility, you should have team leader help, but at the end of the day it is you. So yes, the ERB can help or hurt you before you get through the door.
Q: What can a board candidate do to make himself stand out from his peers?
A: Strive for excellence… Sounds simple. Honor Grad at a school, 300 APFT, Weapons Qual, Initiative, Volunteering, Education, etc. Also, the motivation and pride the Soldier shows in front of us is huge. If I ask for the Army Song and you mumble through it, it would not be as good as someone whom takes pride in the Army – even if they can’t sing!
Q: How important is military bearing to the overall board process?
A: Very, let me tell you to relax. Until that point, be as disciplined as possible. Sharp smooth facing movements, good posture while seated, no moving of hands and feet, proper use of courtsey. “First Sergeant, the answer to your question is……., First Sergeant.”
Q: What is the craziest thing you have seen as a board member?
A: Well, I have had a Soldier pass out. That’s pretty bad. Also, about once a board you will have someone completely blank. They forget everything – down to how to speak.
Q: What is the most impressive thing you have seen as a board member?
A: That’s really hard for me to answer, I am impressed with a well rounded and dedicated Soldier that WANTS to LEAD.
Q: What advice you share with prospective board candidates about preparation or the board itself?
A: Take the Board MOI and determine a study plan. The CSMs section should get 1/3 of your attention, then figure out who is the #1 First Sergeant (usually the HSC or senior 1SG), they get 1/3 and then the other First Sergeants get the last third. Once you figure that out, spend your time studying for those thirds! You MUST answer the CSMs questions, you really want to answer the #1 1SGs questions, and then shoot for answering all the other 1SGs questions. Every board has its dynamic, but if you win the CSM and the #1 First Sergeant… its usually in the bag. I also tell my Soldiers to make study cards and take them… everywhere they go. Don’t waste time. When you make E4, pin it on – walk to the PX and buy note cards, make your notecards for the E5 board. Starting at E3 will only help make E4 and then E5.
I want to personally thank MSG A. for taking time out of his day to share his wisdom and experience to the younger generation of Soldiers–this is what stewardship of the profession looks like in action. Board advice from a First Sergeant (1SG) or board advice from an E-8 is extremely helpful. Promotion board tips from a board member are useful; after all, these are the NCOs who are helping decide your fate. Overall, we want to continue to bring helpful board advice from senior NCOs, but please let us know if this information can be improved in any way. If you had success from using any information on the site, we want to know! Please Contact Us!