Earlier this month I went to the promotion board. I was told in the beginning of April that they were sending me and as a result I immediately started studying. I went to soldiers who had gone to the board previously and questioned them on what sorts of questions were asked. I found a lot of the questions they asked were things every soldier should know but many don't.
One of the most important things a soldier must know before they go up for the board is the Noncommissioned Officers Creed. It is a beast of a speech at three long paragraphs. Studying this by yourself will not be enough; you need someone to recite it in front of. What worked for me is having one of my coworkers hold the creed while I recited it. She would stop me if I got a word wrong or missed a sentence. One thing you should be aware of is they expect you to recite the NCO creed word for word. No substituting your own words. If the sentence says "accomplish my mission" they expect you to say that, not "accomplish the mission." Another technique that worked is she had me stand at attention to recite it, since that's how I would stand in the board. Every time she thought I was too quiet she would shout louder. Before we'd go into the chow hall she would tell me to recite one of the paragraphs from the creed. All of this helped me to learn the NCO creed backwards and forwards. By the time the board came around I was reciting it in my sleep.
On the day of the board I woke up nervous and stayed nervous right up until it was my turn. Since we are deployed and can't wear class A's they had us wear full battle rattle instead. That means we wear a helmet, eye pro, gloves, an IOTV and knee pads and a camel back. I must have checked to make sure I had everything at least a dozen times.
i was the last person to go. As preparation a coworker had me practice reporting to the board and reciting my bibliography. It was a good thing he did because the moment I got in front of the sergeant major and 1st sergeants the only thing I remembered was what we'd gone over and even then I almost screwed up saying my name. I constantly had to remind myself to take deep breaths and to not freak out. It was hard. Even things I knew and had known forever were difficult to recall once I was up there. They asked me about the army values and for the life of me I could only remember 4 of the 7, but as soon as I walked out the door the other three popped into my head.
At one point one of the people on the board looked at my legs then said to the 1st Sgt. next to her "she's really nervous. Her legs are shaking." And they were. Really bad. The important thing to remember when in front of the board is to speak with confidence. If you don't know something, just say you don't know. They expect you to be nervous but they also expect you to function through the nerves. Although my legs might have been shaking like a leaf, when they asked me to recite the NCO creed I did it with a strong voice and with confidence.
Since I had interviewed several of them for stories I had worked on previously, I knew most of the people on the board. They knew me too and commented on the fact that I was now the one being interviewed. I told them I was aware of the irony. One of them even took a photo while I was reciting the creed. I guess it's good for me to know what it's like to have photos taken during an important moment since I so often do it to others. The 1st sergeant who asked me about the values went from scolding me one moment to asking me to contact one of his 1st Lt's about a possible story in the next.
I somehow managed to pass the board. Even if I hadn't it would still have been a good life experience. Sometimes you need to know that you can function despite your legs shaking and your pulse pounding.