E-4 - PO3

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Becoming an E-4 in the United States Navy or Coast Guard is a monumental jump in both position and responsibilities. One does not simply advance in pay grade when they are selected for promotion to E-4 and “tack on the crow,” rather they carry on a time-honored tradition by taking on a new role entirely as a Petty Officer (NCO) in the Navy or Coast Guard. Being a Petty Officer is about being a leader, and becoming the living embodiment of the Navy’s Core Values that include honor, courage, and commitment! Welcome aboard, shipmate!
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Best part of holding this rank

As one segues through the junior enlisted ranks (E-1 through E-3), they come to expect a certain amount of scrutiny as the result should be a newfound attention to detail that is a vital component of Navy life. From ‘day one,‘ we are taught that attention to detail could very well save your own life or the life of a shipmate. Though a very large portion of the entering fleet is quite young, becoming an adult in the truest sense of the word is not an option, it’s a requirement.

Feedback, whether positive or negative, from the leadership within ones chain of command is an essential part of serving in today’s Navy. As one spends more time in the service and gets a feel for military life, certain aspects become engrained within them. Obviously, the more junior one is, the more military instruction that will be warranted. This part is just plain old, vanilla flavored common sense. Before one realizes it, days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, as they become a more confident and capable sailor. The capstone of ones junior enlisted career will be their promotion to Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) as it is the literal turning point where a junior sailor attains the opportunity to lead in his or her own right.

This transition from sailor to Petty Officer comes with many rewards for the effort and patience put in to attain this rank. One is no longer scrutinized nearly as much which is arguably the best part of holding this rank. The reasoning is simple, if a sailor is worthy of advancing into one of the select few billets opening-up that particular advancement cycle, they are expected to be “squared away” in all aspects of their military and personal lives. Being “squared away” means that one does not have to be supervised in the same capacity as they once were in the not too distant past, and they will begin to get a taste of supervising or more importantly leading their peers. Junior sailors look up to the Petty Officer and Chief ranks, and having such freedoms come along with the those responsibilities gained with their well deserved promotion.
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Worst part of holding this rank

One could argue that there are two major milestones within the enlisted ranks of the United States Navy or Coast Guard, and those are promotion to Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) and selection to Chief Petty Officer (E-7). Advancement to these pay grades are highly competitive in nature, and bring about a whole new level of respect for the sailor “tacking on” the rank, albeit with an entirely new cluster of responsibilities. If one is going to be promoted into the time-honored ranks of being a Petty Officer, their every action will be scrutinized as only a select few billets will open-up each advancement cycle. Only the top sailors in each rate will be promoted Navy-wide. This is probably the worst part of holding this rank, it takes both a substantial amount of time and effort to earn the promotion, and further advancement doesn’t come any easier. Though the process is a demanding one, it will be well worth the spiritedness put forward.
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Advice on how to be selected for this rank

Some of the best advice on how to be selected to the rank of Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserve include:

  • Being recommended for advancement is the single most important eligibility requirement. Be “squared away,” and aim to be in the top percentile in your performance evals and all you do!
  • Be patient, aside from the ‘time in rate’ requirement, one is highly unlikely to be advanced on their very first (or sometimes even first few) attempt(s). Do well on your advancement exams, and keep stacking-up the qualifications, awards, etc., as they will add points to each subsequent attempt at advancement.
  • Go To “A” School for your selected rate, request to do so if you have not already done so.
  • Completion of the Petty Officer Selectee Leadership Course (POSLC) is required prior to frocking or advancement.
  • Ensure your qualifications are completed well ahead of time, if trying to be selected for PO3, try to complete both your PO3 and PO2 requirements now.
  • Work on that Warfare Pin! Even if not required for advancement per se, the added points will become very handy when it comes down to the wire.
  • If your rate requires a security clearance, don‘t do anything to put said clearance in jeopardy. 

The above represents a summary on the best advice for advancement to E-4 from my personal experience, however if you would like to see the Navy’s official 154-page document that outlines the “Advancement Manual for Enlisted Personnel of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserve” (BUPERS INSTRUCTION 1430.16G), a copy may be downloaded here:

Best of luck on your advancement to Petty Officer Third Class, and all you do!

Most recent contributors: PO3 Jay Rose

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