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Airman Comprehensive Assessment: user's perspective

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- "Hey ma'am, can we have a feedback session before you leave for your course?"

Most of us would not ask their supervisors to initiate feedback, but the new Airman Comprehensive Assessment promises supervisee input and that promise is tempting enough to initiate feedback.

Although it seemed a bit daunting at first to learn how to use the new form, I was excited to see how the Air Force is implementing change in the enlisted feedback system to further develop the enlisted core into well-rounded, resilient Airmen.

I will preface my experience with the new form by saying I was not a fan of the previous feedback form. The old feedback process would require me to prepare myself for what seemed like an hour-long scolding session, even when my rater had good things to say. The situation just seemed to leave Airmen powerless of how their official records would reflect on them.

Immediate relief washed over me as we began the feedback session and my voice in the matter was half of the feedback. My supervisor was still able to comment, criticize and write down standards expected of me to uphold.

She was able to get her messages and expectations across to me in a more relaxed, conversational format, as opposed to the strict way the old feedback was performed. I definitely feel the back-and-forth conversation helped us find common grounds and a better understanding for each other's expectations, and others will undoubtedly notice this aspect as well.

We traversed the checklist including responsibility, accountability and Air Force culture, where we each rated myself in the categories, before moving on to the components carried over from the previous feedback form.

My supervisor and I were thorough and honest in the job performance, community involvement and self-improvement sections of the assessment, which are the areas most enlisted Airmen are already familiar with. The section has phrases next to the ratings including most Airmen, some Airmen and few Airmen, to help you figure out where you would place yourself in comparison to your peers. Hopefully, this new system encourages honesty and accountability in more Airmen to eliminate the skewed "firewall five" ratings which were far too prevalent in the past.

The experience with the new assessment was great, minus a few hiccups understanding how it works, and it allowed my supervisor and me a better opportunity to set goals and measure performance in my job and personal life. Anyone who transitions from the old feedback system to this new one will notice the day-and-night difference.