1. You held a demanding job and did so for a protracted period. Many commanding officers realize that in writing up their department heads they must get every eligible officer into a department head job-even if only briefly-so that every qualified officer has a chance when that individual's record appears before the XO and CO screening boards. Others cut right to the heart of the challenge and put the best officers in the best jobs-and keep them there.
2. You did so while deployed. You were tested in a demanding environment, and the fitness report narrative states the salient details of the deployment and your role in it.
3. You performed well compared to your contemporaries in similarly demanding jobs. A mark in the "must promote" box is acceptable until you can further prove you have the right stuff to make the "early promote" box.
4. The narrative supports with facts the quality of your accomplishments.
5. You are qualified for the next step in your career progression, such as department head, executive officer, commanding officer, or major command.
Although your fitness report principally documents your past performance, it should also forecast your future promise. You perform well not only for the satisfaction of doing a good job but also because that performance is a partial predictor of your future performance in positions of higher responsibility. Your fitness report is intended to speak to future screening and promotion boards, not the historical researcher or the record keeper. The whole report must be forward looking, using past performance as one indicator. The other indicators are your intellectual capacity, your suppleness of mind, your ability to learn from experience and observation, and your suitability for professional growth. As important as these other indicators are, they are crucially affected by proven performance.
Fashioning this linkage between the past and the future is the job of the screening and promotion boards. They can do no better than the raw materials they must work with, meaning principally your reports of fitness. Remember that the members of the boards who judge your suitability have been where you want to go. They know what it takes, and they are looking for what you have to offer that fits the requirement template. But their perspective must look through your promotion jacket and its fitness reports. In a sense your former skippers are their guides in making this assessment.