Writing to a Selection Board

Navy – Professional Development:


CAPT G. Mark Hardy III, USNR National VP for Professional Development


The FY selection board season is getting underway, and as always, it prompts a flurry of last-minute correspondence. Here is guidance on how to write effective letters to a board.

One may ask, does writing a letter to a board improve one’s chances for promotion? Possibly, but only if it provides important missing information. In most cases, the best letter to a board is no letter at all. Sailors who review and correct their official records in advance do not need letters. Nonetheless, there are times when a letter is important.

Limit correspondence to only those items that are relevant to the promotion decision, such as missing fitness reports (FITREPs), awards, photographs, Naval Reserve Qualification Questionnaires (NRQQs), etc. Third-party correspondence (e.g., a letter of recommendation) is permitted, but only if the officer submits it as an enclosure and requests it be reviewed (Third parties may not communicate directly with boards, by law.) Do not include copies of AT orders, travel claims, letters of designation as assistant wardroom mess treasurer, etc. Briefers are required to view every page in a letter to a board. To my knowledge, the record is 121 pages. That officer probably didn’t fare very well in the voting.

If there are unusual circumstances in one’s career, or if the OSR/PSR doesn’t look right, or if there are gaps in service, write a letter of explanation. Keep it brief, and to the point. For example, “I was in the IRR from 1999 to 2001 while providing full-time care to my aged parents,” is a reasonable explanation of a gap in service. “I did not request a command assignment as a CDR because I supervise 500 people in my civilian job, and could not devote the necessary time” (might help, might not.) “My performance decreased in 2002 because we had quintuplets.” Don’t blame anything on the dog, however. An experienced mentor can help identify what can be explained in a letter, and what is simply a matter of record.

Include a cover letter in proper Navy format (some board members are sticklers for this) with appropriate enclosures. Ensure every page contains the correct social security number – preferably in the upper margin. Do not staple correspondence or put sheets in fancy plastic folders – recorders have to scan each page, and this just slows them down. In the cover letter, include the birth date in yyyymmdd format – the customer service center (CSC) uses this to activate the personal page on the Stay Navy website.

Recognize that any correspondence sent to a board does not update the official record. After the board adjourns, all correspondence is destroyed. Therefore, do not send original documents. Moreover, send copies of board correspondence to the appropriate address to ensure updates are made to the official record.

Correspondence must arrive by the board convening date. See reserve board dates by clicking on “Selection Board,” then “Reserve Officer Promotions.”

Per the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018, LTBs submitted to statutory officer promotion boards must be received by Navy Personnel Command not later than 2359 (central time) 10 calendar days before the convening date of the respective board.

Also read the Navy Personnel Command webpage, “Reserve Officer Promotions” for instructions on how to submit a Letter to the Board (LTB) via mail or email.

Because there are nearly 90 boards each year, it’s extremely important to include the correct board number on the envelope and the cover letter. Board numbers are listed on the Web page mentioned above. If you sent a letter to a board to the MNCC via postal mail or encrypted e-mail, you may check on its status by calling the MyNavy Career Center (833) 330-MNCC (6622) or DSN 882-6622) or Email: askmncc@navy.mil.


Effective letters to boards can make a difference. Be brief; write succinctly. Keep to the point. Avoid redundant or superfluous information. Mail or email early. Floss daily. Ensure your record can be presented in the best possible light. And don’t forget to invite me to your wetting down party. Good luck!

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