Got passed over for O3, advice on next steps?


10-Year Member
Jul 19, 2009
It's been awhile since I visited this site, but I found out today that I was passed over for O3 from my XO. I did not have any adverse OER numbers, so unsure why I was passed over.

Luckily, I am entitled to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, have another board for O3 to go up for, and a year and a half to go before I would ETS. I'm a big saver so have been doing well on that front (and could have a significant cushion for when I do transition). I'll be able to take a good chunk of terminal leave as well if I do ETS in 2019; I have over 40 days of leave currently and can save up to 60 by spring/summer 2019.

Has anyone ever faced this situation before? If so, how did you proceed? I would like to do graduate/professional school next with my GI Bill but am still weighing program options. I have an engineering degree but am not very interested in continuing on using it. Thanks everyone!
Sorry to hear that, the CG isn't the almost automatic to O3 on the first board as the other services, best of lick on the next board. Sounds like you're planning well so far with savings and leave, you can start getting yourself out there are far as civilian job prospects just in case.

Curious, how are you going to be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill since you will only have the required 5 years service to satisfy your obligation for the USCGA. It's my understanding that you need an additional 3 years to be eligible for the majority of the GI Bill.

Best of luck to you.
Thanks for responding, all I can do now is work hard and place myself in the best circumstances possible for the future.

USCGA graduates who graduated in 2014 or earlier are eligible for the GI Bill after 3 years of service. Congress forgot to write the exclusion for USCGA graduates, and amended it for those who graduate in 2015 or after. As you mentioned, normally you have to serve 3 years after the 5 years service obligation
First, you might talk to your XO and/or CO (or your detailer if they have those in the USCGA -- confess I don't know) to try to understand why you didn't select this time -- i.e., "wrong" assignments, "poor" evaluations, or something else. Try to figure out if it's correctable before the next board.

Next, I suggest you attend military-related job fairs. A number of non-profit organizations sponsor these fairs in various parts of the country. They will allow you to see the types of jobs that may be open should you want to work (vs. go to school). You can also talk to other former military folks about transition, working in the private sector, etc. IOW, educate yourself about what's out there and how to get there.

If you plan to pursue a graduate degree, spend time now focusing on what you want to study (and how you can make a living using that degree) and where you want to go. IOW, don't just go to grad school right away b/c you can't think of anything else to do -- attend with a purpose in mind because it's really expensive. Also, in certain professions, where you go to graduate school can make a huge difference in your job options (and income) down the road. It may not be fair, but it's true. For certain types of grad schools, you may need to have particular courses (e.g., med school) or have taken certain standardized tests (LSAT for law, GRE for most, etc.) in order to be admitted. Consider taking a prep course to prepare for those tests.

Another idea is to take some "interest inventory" type tests to see what you might be interested in doing beyond the usual working for a gov't contractor. You may be surprised (I was). Various non-profits should offer such testing at cost, and they're not very expensive.

The above is not so different from the path for someone who is voluntarily leaving. In your case, you may need to leave sooner than you anticipated. But 18 months is a long time to plan for the next stage of your career. And, if USCG comes through, then you'll have two great choices.

This is pretty self explanatory, but it may help you zero in on what @usna1985 is describing.
Thanks for all of the advice and feedback you two!

I'm meeting with my XO at a later date to develop a strategy on the way forward, as well as my immediate supervisor. I took an aptitude test at a non-profit last week and it indicated that I'm a "creative problem solver who needs a deep, personal connection to their work that enjoys developing expertise in a topic and applying their knowledge in an advisory capacity". So I have been reflecting and researching like crazy. My current plan is to attend one of the SACC in the spring, strive for greater numbers on my evals, and study for the appropriate graduate school admissions test.

I'm hoping to find a profession in which my natural talents can be profitable and that I find meaningful (which is what everyone is striving for I know)
Stuff like this: "creative problem solver who needs a deep, personal connection to their work that enjoys developing expertise in a topic and applying their knowledge in an advisory capacity" to me (being totally honest) is somewhat gobblety-gook. :) Seriously, it's nice to know your personality type, but that won't pay the rent. Lots of jobs would fit the above (everything from website designer to attorney).

In terms of an aptitude test, recommend taking one that will tell you the types of work/professions that might appeal to you and that you might be good at -- not just the type of person you are. For example: art (artist, interior decorator, museum curator), education (teacher, principal, professor, corporate trainer), law and law enforcement (policeman, lawyer, legal assistant, FBI, US Marshal), medicine (doctor, nurse, physical therapist, team trainer), computers (cybersecurity, software engineer, software designer, help desk person). And on and on.

Once you have a couple of topics in hand, figure out what additional education or training you'll need. Figure out how long it will take and how much it will cost. For example, you're into medicine and want to be a doctor. But if you didn't take organic chem and biology in college, you'll need to pick up those courses and prep for the MCAT and apply to med school and spend another 7+ years in school and residency . . . . The time and money involved may be more than you want to take on. Or not.

When I did my assessment, I was told that I appeared to like and have aptitude for two things. The first was the military. Well, I'd already been there, done that.:) The second is what I've now been doing for 20+ years and very much enjoy. There is a world of jobs and professions out there that are not tied to government contractors. Most military folks go the gov't contractor route -- and that's fine if it's what you want to do. But a lot who do that find themselves dissatisfied. So consider a bunch of different things -- talk to people who are doing those things. Find out what your career path is, how much money you are likely to make now and later, and what your lifestyle will be. The process can actually be quite fun and exciting -- and a bit nerve-wracking to leave something you've know so well for so long.

Good luck!
I thought an O-2 to O-3 was a mail in. Can someone tell me what exactly happens during this process. O-1 to O-2, O-3...... Then how you move to O-4 and O5.
O-1 to O-2 is qualified (or something like that)... so as long as you haven’t had a big issue it’s automatic. After O-2 it’s, what, best-qualified or something like that.

If you think of the ranks as a pyramid, there are more lower ranks and less as you move up to the top. Some of this attrition occurs naturally with people choosing to leave the service after their five years or obligatory active duty service. Some won’t be promoted because there is a process to shrink numbers.

These cuts (being passed over for promotion) are more common with higher ranks, but it’s also the season. I’ve heard of 50% bloodbaths for O-5 one year followed by 80% the next.

I got passed over for O-3 because I had a less than impressive first review once I made O-2. Once you make O-2 the reviews (OERs) stay with you. No matter how well I did later, that first O-2 OER wouldn’t go away and made me an easy target for being passed over. That’s on me.

That said, it’s a job and there’s life after which ever service you leave.
Good luck on the next board. I'm an active duty AF officer but my father was a CG pilot back in the 80's, he was passed over for O-4 and didn't bother staying for the next cycle - punched out in '89. He told me that the CG being such a small service, an officer's career is pretty much over if he is passed over. On a higher note, maybe you could look into switching services if you wanted to stay in the military? It might be hard to do especially if they know you were already passed over, but who knows. Perhaps the Navy could use your services?
He told me that the CG being such a small service, an officer's career is pretty much over if he is passed over.

Don't fool yourself, that is pretty much the same for the AF too. In the 21 yrs that Bullet served I don't recall anyone getting picked up as an APZ (Above Promotion Zone) for O4, and I am talking about rated officers in fighters. These people did not crash a plane, they just didn't fill the right squares.
~ IE no grad school degree or PME.

The military is no different than any corporation, as LITS stated things from early on in your career can and will impact you later on in your career. A commander is signing their name to that PRF. They are not going to risk their career for yours unless there is something huge that caused you not to be promoted while IPZ (in Promotion Zone). Even than you probably would need a DP, not just a P. Thus, should they support that "golden" ticket for someone that didn't make it for their board over giving a younger officer a better chance, and the opportunity to go to PME in residence? An APZ, even if selected for O4 will have slim to no chance to go in residence, and to make higher ranks you need that PME, at least for the AF.
Not quite that automatic in the USCG, and not always that easy in the other branches depending on the promotion climate.
Target selection rate for the last CG O3 board was 94% and actual selection rate was 91% in zone.

Sure, but look back about two years ago and it was in the mid 70%. The Coast Guard's O3 and O4 selection rates are notoriously volatile. You just have to hope that you make it in on the bubble year. Some years a candidate will get passed over who, in any other year, would have been a shoe in.

Thus is life though.