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Conducting an Initial NCOER/OER Evaluation Counseling

Prior to the Initial Counseling

Raters, should be well prepared to execute an initial counseling session. This tells the rated Soldier you care about them and will provide them with every opportunity to succeed.
Preparation helps establish credibility with the Soldier. A counseling that is poorly constructed can destroy credibility and trust in a relationship that has not even begun. Ask yourself this question, “How would I feel if someone counseled me in an unprepared manner or gave me unclear guidance?” Would this be acceptable to you? How would you feel?

Get Organized

  1. The following is a list of items the Rater should consider reviewing and putting together prior to the initial counseling:
  2. Review the following publications and forms: AR 623-3, AR 600-20, AR 600-8-2, AR 635-200, AR 600-9, ATP 6.22-1, DA FORM Series 2166-9, DA FORM Series 67-10, review local policies and/or procedures concerning counseling or evaluation reports, etc.
  3. Develop your written leadership philosophy
  4. In your initial counseling ensure the following actions are taken as directed by Army Regulation:
  • Ensure a copy of the regulation is made available to the Soldier. Perhaps include the web address to the publication on the official Army Publishing site as part of your written counseling.
  • List the rating scheme in the initial counseling, ensure the Soldier receives a copy of the official rating scheme, and tell them where it is posted or how it is distributed within the unit. Ensure it is entered on the Soldier’s support form
  • Provide a copy of your support form (the Rater) and the senior rater’s support form.
  • Address all mandatory requirements at the Department of Army level and lower organizational levels

Develop An Outline For Your Written Counseling

  1. What do you expect from every Soldier? (loyalty, trust, integrity, etc.)
  2. What actions are intolerable actions: DUI, SHARP, DRUGs, etc
  3. What is the Soldier’s duty title?
  4. What is the rating scheme?
  5. What are the duties and responsibilities associated with the duty title?
  6. What are the Soldier’s additional duties?
  7. What are the special areas of emphasis the Soldier should concentrate on?
  8. What are the standards you expect the Soldier to maintain?
  9. What do you want the Soldier to accomplish within 30, 60, 90 days from the initial counseling?
  10. Does the duty title, additional duties, special areas of emphasis require additional training? If yes, does the Soldier have the training or has the Soldier been scheduled to attend the training?

Questions for the Soldier

  1. Does the Soldier have any special skills or special skills identifiers? For example some Soldier’s might arrive as qualified combat life saver, load planners, etc. While others might arrive with other skills like: information technology, carpentry, electrician, or plumber. Know what you have before you need it.
  2. Does the Soldier have any issues that he/she needs to bring to your attention? (These may include family, personal, financial, medical or spiritual issues, etc.)
  3. What are the Soldier’s expectations from the job?
  4. What are the Soldier’s near- and long-term goals?
  5. Does the Soldier wish to pursue education?
  6. Does the Soldier plan on requesting off-duty employment?
  7. Does the Soldier have any Professional Development Educational needs?
  8. Is the Soldier a Single Parent?
  9. Does the Soldier have any input on the Duty Position, Job Description, Appointed Duties, or other areas of the support form?

Develop the Counseling

  1. Make a list of all the key areas you want to cover in the counseling session.
  2. Attempt to gather duty position descriptions from individuals who have held the positions or similar positions before to get ideas for the duty description.
  3. Draft your initial counseling
  4. A proper initial counseling cannot be conducted on the standard support form. Therefore you should use a DA FORM 4856 and a continuation page along with the support form to ensure your counseling meets expectations.
  5. Place the date of the initial counseling on the support form and/or enter it in the electronic system when the counseling is complete
  6. Pick a location on the support and enter the following statement: “See attached 4856 dated_______ for details of counseling”.
  7. In the counseling statement layout the date of the next counseling session and place it on your electronic calendar with a 1 week reminder. Send an invitation to the Soldier so they are prepared for the follow up session.
  8. Use the support form during later counseling sessions to annotate achievements. This helps to ensure the report is mostly written when it comes time for the evaluation. It also gives the Rated Soldier an idea of where they stand with you.

Notify the Soldier Concerning Purpose, Time, and Location of Session

  1. Give the Soldier adequate notice of the counseling. This ensures they are properly prepared for the session or at least they should be. The initial counseling should take place within 30 days of assignment to a new Rater. However the sooner you provide the counseling the sooner the Soldier becomes integrated into the team. Review the points below:
  2. Provide the Soldier with the purpose of the meeting: Initial Counseling
  3. Advanced Notification: 5 working days from today (allow for a weekend in between if possible) we will conduct our initial counseling. Note: If a Soldier is newly assigned to the unit consider counseling them within 14 days after arrival to unit. This allows them time to get settled or in processed.
  4. Location of the counseling (ensure this is an environment free of interruptions). A relaxed atmosphere is also a good idea, it makes the session more comfortable for the Soldier.
  5. Time (make sure it does not conflict with other unit activities). Do not just schedule the session around your time. Ensure the session does not cause a problem for the Soldier. Again this shows that they are included in the process. There is nothing worse than a Soldier having to drop everything because the BOSS needs to see them ASAP…..definitely not the message you want to send.

Soldier’s Read Ahead Initial Counseling Packet.

The packet should contain:

  1. A copy of the rating scheme
  2. Rater/Senior Rater Support Forms,
  3. For NCO’s consider providing examples for the following categories: Far Exceeds and Exceeds Standard examples
  4. Provide a web link to the Army Publishing site so the Soldier may obtain a copy of the regulation.
  5. Consider providing an example Support Form especially for junior individuals that might be new to the process.
  6. A Draft Initial Counseling should include information like: duty description, responsibilities, additional duties, areas of special emphasis, appearance, physical fitness, formations, discipline, communications, equal opportunity/sexual harassment/SHARP, education, safety objectives, and security requirements of the job. Add other areas you deem important. Be Careful there are counseling statements examples you can find on the internet that are not well developed and may cause you more trouble than they are worth. 
  7. Appropriate Support Form for the Rated Soldier to fill out (all information on the front of the form should be completed by Rater/Senior Rater. For Example: Rating Chain, report dates, admin data, duty description, duty position, additional duties, APFT data on back of form, etc.). Leave Soldier portions blank.
  8. Additional Items: You may also want to physically provide the Soldier with these items as well: unit recall roster, home phone numbers of key personnel, and a written copy of your leadership philosophy.
  9. Finally have a statement in the initial counseling where the Soldier acknowledges receipt of all the information contained in the packet. This includes the Soldier acknowledging a completed support form signed by the Rater/Rated Soldier and Senior Rater.

Conduct the Counseling Session

  1. Ask the Soldier if they reviewed the draft initial counseling?
  2. Proceed to discuss the document as needed. Clarify any changes you may have made between the draft and the current document.
  3. Ask they the Soldier if they have any comments or suggestions about the duty description (on the support form.
  4. Ask the Soldier to review the duty position for accuracy.
  5. Review Soldier’s input from Support Form.
  6. Suggest that the Soldier maintain a folder or notebook of accomplishments or achievements. This should be brought to each counseling session; it helps to ensure a fair report. It also gives the Soldier the opportunity to provide input into the Evaluation Report. The file may contain awards, Certificates of Achievement, Letters of Appreciation; grade slips from college courses, Recognition by key leaders, weapons and APFT information on the Soldier and squad, section, platoon, or any other information that may assist the Rater in preparing an evaluation report. The Soldier may simply jot down notes on a page in a notebook and bring them to you during the counseling session. In this manner good achievements are recognized and Soldiers are required to be part of the process. It also helps ensure that the Rater/Senior Rater do not inadvertently overlook significant achievements.
  7. Find out if the Soldier has any immediate concerns or needs.
  8. Determine short- and long-term goals.
  9. Are courses available to assist the Soldier in accomplishing their assigned duties
  10. Encourage your Soldiers to be innovative and bring new ideas to your attention
  11. Schedule your next counseling session.
  12. Sign all forms as appropriate.
  13. Provide a copy of documents to the Soldier. Forward documents to Senior Rater for Review and there initials. Once completed provide final copy to Rated Soldier and keep a copy for your records.
  14. As future counselings are conducted the rater should use daily observations and information provided by the Soldier with supporting documentation to fill in comments on the support form and use a DA FORM 4856 to discuss other key areas and objectives. By using this method the Soldier always understands exactly where they stand concerning their rating. In addition, if a Soldier is performing in a substandard manner it should be recorded during the counseling session and specifically addressed. It is wise to conduct monthly counseling sessions on substandard performance. This accomplishes several things


  • It provides proof that you have taken action and provided possible courses of action to correct the substandard performance
  • It provides documentation.
  • Most importantly if done correctly it lets the struggling Soldier know you care and are willing to work with them to help achieve success.
  • It puts the Soldier on notice that you will hold them to standard. It also informs good Soldiers that substandard performance will not be tolerated. (Note: Your good Soldiers will appreciate substandard performers being held accountable, but never talk about counseling sessions around other Soldiers. Chances are the substandard performer will put the word out by complaining or telling other Soldiers).

Substandard Performance Steps

  1. Use monthly counseling.
  2. This counseling should contain the substandard performance statement, recommendations for improvement, corrective training, and the consequences for failing to achieve the standard. There  should be no surprises on a Soldier’s evaluation!
  3. Ensure you complete the assessment portion of the DA FORM 4856 when conducting substandard performance counseling do not just rely on the Support Form Process.

For More Information on this Initial Counseling Preparation consider the following resources:

Rater Quick NCOER/OER Software

The Evaluator “the comprehensive guide to preparing evaluation reports and counselings”


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