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How to write awards in the Army

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

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Are you struggling with writing award bullets for someone else or, more likely, yourself? Maybe you just can't think of much to write for someone or just don't have the experience to do so. I have a few tips and references for you. Let's get to it.

1. My first tip is to ask friends and leaders for copies of awards that they have processed before. This helps in a few ways. Each unit emphasizes different things or ways to fill out basic forms like putting entries in ALL CAPS or adding a period here or removing it there. Getting previous awards used in the unit allows you to see their standard of submission. You can also tell how well the achievements need to be written in order to pass.

Units also have different ways that they order the bullets. I've been in units that want the best achievement in the first block and then units that want it in the last block (not as common). I understand both ways of thinking but I default to best in the first block. You will also want previous awards to fill out administrative data and routing correctly.

2. Talk to the Service Member (SM) and ask what they have done. Even little things can be written up to sound glorious (some examples coming up). Many times there are common bullets that the unit uses like one focused on all of the training events attended, positions held, duties fulfilled, etc.. Even if there is a common standard like this, it's fine to break the mold if you have something better to write.

3. Visit Army publications that guide you on how to write and how to fill out the form. Good references for awards and military writing are AR 600-8-22 Military Awards, AR 25-50 Preparing and Managing Correspondence, and DA Pam 600-67 Effective Writing for Army Leaders.

4. Figure out what the hot topics and priorities for the Army and your unit. Right now big priorities are people first, equal opportunity, SHARP, and NCO C3 to name a few. You should have a good idea about what specific goals your unit is trying to focus on that will help you select a good topic to link the achievement to.

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5. You can write an achievement about anything, you just need to know how to tie it to Army priorities. Whenever I have this conversation with Soldiers I usually use the example of sweeping or mopping a floor in the barracks. Realistically, this is not an achievement that is worth an award I merely use it as an example to show that you can make anything sound like it is worth recognition. Here are a few examples of how sweeping or mopping can have a significant impact on an organization:

1. SPC Smith effectively reduced safety incidents across the battalion by 30% resulting in a 12% readiness increase through the implementation of safety zone sweeping to clear debris and trash from high traffic areas.

2. SPC Smith displayed initiative and innovative leadership to reduce safety incidents across the battalion by 60% resulting in cost savings of $234,637 through the implementation of safety zone sweeping to clear debris and trash from high traffic areas.

3. SPC Smith focused on training management and readiness by effectively reducing safety incidents across the battalion by 20% resulting in an increase of 253 man hours through decreasing recovery time associated with injuries concurrent with environmental hazards.

These are all tied into the NCO Common Core Competencies (NCO C3) which are readiness, leadership, training management, communication, operations, and program management (Army University Press, 2020). Some other hot topics to consider are safety and money.

The first example is used to suggest that sweeping or mopping an area reduced injury associated with slip hazards or possibly a dangerous object. Removal or clearing of the item lowered the number of profiles or safety reports filed across the battalion for this reason which overall increased medical readiness and deployability.

Example two still uses clearing dangerous items by sweeping or mopping an area and the reduction in profiles or medical treatment rendered from the injuries that previously occurred. The cost savings directly relates to the average money saved per person that had to seek care for an injury caused by the safety hazard removed multiplied by the number of incidents reduced overall.

Example three still uses clearing dangerous items and reduction in profiles or appointments then calculates the man hours saved from people not having to go to sick call or the hospital. You can add up the average amount of time listed for duty for Soldiers injured and add the amount of time it took healthcare providers to provide care as well. Man hours can easily be made into cost savings numbers as well.

Not too hard right? So just talk to the Soldier, find something they did, identify Army or unit priorities, and link the two together with a splash of highly articulated words found using a thesaurus using a word or a search engine.

Hope this helps someone on their way. Good luck and be the difference. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. Have a great day.

Read more:

Army University Press. (2020, June 5). NCO C3: Required Competencies for CTC Success.,%2C%20operations%2C%20and%20program%20management.

Department of the Army. (1986). Effective writing for Army leaders. DA PAM, 600(67), 1–15.

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