My AIM 2.0 Experience

My AIM 2.0 Experience

by Maj. Michael Spears
Headquarters, US Forces Korea

According to Human Resources Command (HRC), there are six principles they use as guidelines to provide the best Talent Management assignment results for officers and units participating in AIM 2.0.

The six principles are the officer’s talents, unit vacancies, unit readiness, job fill, eligibility and transparency. Armed with this knowledge, I began my two-month Talent Management journey, sifting through the hundreds of assignments for PCS Cycle 20-02. Throughout my journey, I feverishly took notes, chronicling detailed marketplace opinions. I did this, to not only chronicle my experience, but to better assist my fellow officers as they prepare for their future engagement in AIM 2.0.

The AIM 2.0 system is comprised of ten columns every officer should know about. The first column is interest, followed by duty title, location, grade, skill, popularity, unit activity, unit interest, labels and position information. The interest column allows the officer to rank order their preferences. The officer’s top three choices or top 10% (whichever is greater), show the unit the officer is interested in that position. The duty title column allows the officer to see what position is available in the unit. The unit description column allows the officer to see what unit they will be assigned to. The location column allows the officer to see what installation they will be assigned to. The grade column allows the officer to see what ranks are available to them in AIM 2.0.

The skill column allows the officer to see what skills positions are available to them in AIM 2.0. The popularity column allows the officer to see the number of officers in AIM 2.0 that have preferenced a particular assignment in their top 10. The unit activity column contains two numbers (0/0). The first number is the amount of officers a unit has preferenced for that assignment. The second number represents the total number of officers available to apply for that position. The unit interest column shows the officer that the unit is interested in them if the unit places a check mark in the column. The labels column shows filters created in AIM 2.0 to direct the officer’s attention to certain jobs that align with career progression. The position information column provides position information, unit information, Knowledge, Skills and Behavior (KSB), unit comments, and the incumbent for a particular position.

There are primarily three types of assignments officers will see in AIM 2.0. These assignments include Nominative, Key Development and Broadening assignments. Only officers who have been carefully developed through attendance at the right education level and the right assignment experiences will be selected for a nominative position by HRC. Key Developmental (KD) assignments, are positions that are deemed fundamental to the development of an officer’s capabilities in their core branch or Functional Area (FA) competencies, deemed critical by senior Army leadership to provide experience across the Army’s strategic mission. Company and Field Grade officers are required to spend 12-24 months in a KD assignment. Broadening assignments, develop an officer’s capability to see, work, learn, and contribute their skills outside their own perspective or individual level of understanding. These assignments are categorized into three areas: tactical, institutional, and scholastic. HRC will use this assignment prioritization list to assign officers to broadening assignments based on their past performance and unique skills.

When it comes to assignments in AIM 2.0 however, seeing is not always believing. Out of the approximately 500 assignments I saw in AIM 2.0, less than half of them were valid options for me. I am a KD complete Major. I am married, but currently serving in Korea (unaccompanied). I am also preparing for my PZ promotion board within the next 60 days (February 2020). Despite this however, there were least 100 KD assignments in my marketplace. In addition to those assignments, there were over 150 overseas assignments, including 30 in Korea. After excluding all those assignments, I was left with approximately 250 assignments. However, out of the 250 remaining assignments, over 50 were from my last duty station and at least 30 were 89E (EOD) positions that I was not qualified to fill. In the end, out of the original 500 assignments available in AIM 2.0, I really only had about 150 valid assignment options. Of the 150 remaining, only 20 were at an installation my family and I wanted to go.

It wasn’t until I began communicating with units however, that I received feedback I needed to effectively preference my assignments in AIM 2.0. The current organizational structure of AIM 2.0 relies on the unit S1/G1/J1 as the single point of contact (POC) for assignments. They are the gatekeepers for marketplace assignments before they are reviewed by the command. Some S1/G1/J1’s of units that were interested in me, recommended I send them copies of my last 3-5 OER’s. Based on all this information, I made it a point to communicate with unit S1/G1/J1’s on several occasions. Most of the units S1/G1/J1’s informed me of any stipulations concerning positions that was not displayed in AIM 2.0. For example, if the position was going to be filled internally. Some of units, informed me of where I stood in correlation to receiving the position before it even reached their command. This information was helpful. It allowed me to determine exactly what positions I could exclude from my preference list. I did however, encounter some S1/G1/J1’s that told me blatantly “you are not the guy we want for this position”. This sometimes became an emotional event for me. Especially when it came from officers in my peer group. Lastly, there were some instances, I attempted to communicate with units and received complete “radio silence”. This is when an officer sends the unit a message and does not receive a reply back. This can also be difficult experience. I remained calm, stayed focused and updated my preferences accordingly.

There were several challenges I experienced as well throughout my journey in AIM 2.0. One of the challenges I encountered was the power of control over assignment preferences shifting from me to unit. Before AIM 2.0, I possessed the majority of the power to control my own career path. I simply preferenced my assignments and submitted them, via spreadsheet, to HRC for final approval. Now however, under AIM 2.0, the S1/G1/J1 of the unit determines whether or not my OER’s get included with the other officer’s OER’s for the command’s interview process.

Another challenge was determining quantity over quality assignments. Depending on what an officer believes is most important when choosing their next assignment i.e. installation, position, organization, etc. they may be forced to choose quantity over quality assignments in AIM 2.0. For example, if an officer wants to PCS to a specific installation, instead of choosing a position to prepare the officer for the next rank (quality), the officer may choose any position (quantity) just to get assigned to that installation. If an officer is requesting a quality position and the S1/G1/J1 tells them another officer has already been selected for that position, it might force the officer to choose a less quality position. Lastly, if the officer is attempting to PCS to a specific organization, they might choose any position (quantity) in that organization over a position in another organization that might better assist them with their career progression (quality).

The last challenge was HRC not communicating with me enough before the marketplace opened. HRC, in particular my Career Coach, should have taken the time to analyze my present career path to determine which assignments would best fit my goals. For example, I am married serving a one year unaccompanied assignment in Korea. If my career coach considered these circumstances prior to PCS Cycle 20-02, he could have taken out the over 150 overseas assignments, including 30 in Korea. I am also KD complete. If my Career Coach would have accounted for this prior to PCS Cycle 20-02, he could have also taken out the 100 KD assignments for me in AIM 2.0. Lastly, instead of merely coaching, I believe HRC should be more involved with officers throughout their entire AIM 2.0 engagement. Although this technique may require more time dedicated to officers by their Career Coaches, I believe it would allow officers to see more streamlined assignments during all phases of their AIM 2.0 experience.

To better assist my fellow officers as they prepare for their future AIM 2.0 engagement, I have developed some keys to success. First, officers must understand the AIM 2.0 Rules of Engagement (ROE). Officers must understand the six principles of the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP) and how it is operationalized through AIM 2.0. Officers must be familiar with how the AIM 2.0 system works and the significance of the information provided in each column. Officers must also ensure they understand which assignments are really “available” to them in AIM 2.0. Secondly, officers must contact units early and often. I contacted approximately ten S1/G1/J1’s that encompassed over 30 units, on three different installations. During the two months the marketplace was open, I followed up with all the S1/G1/J1’s at least three more times to find out where I was on their units preference lists. Lastly, officers must be proactive. Being proactive lets the unit know you are serious about an assignment. Although you may not get an answer right away, persistence just might be the difference between you being selected or overlooked for a position.

In conclusion, as the Army moves forward with the ATAP as a decentralized regulated assignment marketplace, operationalized through the Assignment Interactive Module 2.0 (AIM 2.0), it must recognize that there are still flaws in the system. The six principles currently used by HRC to ensure AIM 2.0 remains fair and impartial to its officers are lacking some critical considerations. Before the marketplace opens, at a minimum, HRC should consider the following circumstances for each officer. Is the officer KD complete? Is the officer married and currently deployed or serving in an accompanied assignment? What was the officer’s previous assignment location? Is the officer qualified for all assignments they will see in AIM 2.0? HRC, in particular Career Coaches should contact their officers before the marketplace opens to discuss these considerations. Once these considerations have been annotated, HRC could then adjust the officer’s assignments in AIM 2.0 to reflect the officer’s circumstances. By doing this, HRC could help alleviate the amount of time officers use to preference the hundreds of “available” assignments. This would also better assist officers as they prepare to engage in their own AIM 2.0 experience.

Major Michael Spears is Staff Action Control Officer (SACO) assigned to United States Forces Korea (USFK), at Camp Humphreys, Korea. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on curriculum and teaching from Northcentral University. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course, Petroleum Officers Course, Mortuary Affairs Course, Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, Intermediate-Level Education, and the Advanced Operations Course. MAJ Spears is projected to be assigned to III Corps at Fort Hood, TX based off his #1 for #1 match in AIM 2.0.

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