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How to Write an Enlisted Performance Report (EPR)

Writing an EPR is not hard. If it's your first time writing one, it might be confusing but once you're finished, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about. I know a lot of people groan about EPRs as if they were as hard to write as a college term paper. They like to give the impression that in order to write a good one, they have to lock themselves away somewhere and work through the night, or maybe all week, without food or water, to produce the holy grail of performance reports. And if they do, it's because that's what they want to do. They want to be dramatic and are probably the kind of people that make a big deal out of every little thing in their life anyway. Because writing an EPR is not hard at's easy.

An EPR is simply the documenting of a person's performance for a specific length of time --usually a year.   All large organizations have a method to rate and record the performance of their employees and the AF Form 910 is the Air Force's method.   The EPR is used to document performance but also serves as a public record of your career. They can be used to prove where you were and what you were doing (approximately) at any time during your career.   Years from now when you're running for congressman or president, some nosy reporter from the New York times will probably go through your military records and EPRs to see if they can dig up any dirt on you and sideline your political career!   Everyone in the Air Force has their careers and performance recorded this way and, if you're a supervisor, you'll be responsible for doing it for the people you rate. If you think about it, common sense will tell you that, if a large organization is trying to develop a rating system that's going to be used by a wide variety of people, in order to make it effective, they will make every attempt to make it as simple to understand and use as possible.   And it is.

I think the reason the EPR has a reputation for being so difficult is because the people who process the EPRs make it difficult. Supervisors routinely review EPRs submitted to them, mutilate them until they're bleeding red ink, and return them to the well-intentioned writer for editing. It's a fact of Air Force life that no matter how well you write and how well you comply with current guidance, some raters and senior raters will not be satisfied with any EPR you submit. This is due to any number of reasons:

  • Even a rater with good intentions tends to view other writers' work as inferior. Because they don't write with the same tone, it just doesn't sound quite right and will be returned for re-editing.
  • Some raters feel that the EPR submission process won't be recognized as the tough, exacting definition of a ratee's career that it's supposed to be if EPRs aren't continually returned for improvement.
  • Some raters appear to take pleasure in routinely returning EPRs for rework as an indication of their power and station and superior writing skills.
  • Sometimes an EPR has to be viewed in the context of all the other EPRs being written in the squadron. Your EPR might be adequately or even well-written but compared to the way other EPRs are being written, you might have to adjust your style.
  • And, of course, many EPR drafts do need improvement.

Whatever the reason, rejected EPRs are just a fact of life. Everyone receives rejected EPR drafts and you shouldn't get bent out of shape over it. If you start the process expecting to see your draft EPR returned for further editing, it will be much less painful.

This brings us to the topic of the "80 percent solution". My advice is: don't kill yourself trying to make your EPR draft perfect before sending it to your supervisor for review. I learned, through experience, that it served no practical purpose to labor over an EPR draft until every bullet statement, every sentence was "perfect". My carefully chosen words would be lost on my supervisor and he would just slash and mark up the EPR and return it with specific, if garbled, instructions written in the margins (with plenty of explanation points!!!). You can if you want to --turn in a "finished" draft --but, most NCOs agree that it's a waste of time and recommend the 80% solution: Get the product in pretty good shape, 100% complete, but don't waste a lot of effort on poetic nuances to get it just right. Your supervisor most likely won't understand the fine touches and will just mark it up with red ink. AFTER he returns the draft to you, THEN do your best work, dot all the i's and cross all your t's.

You can expect your supervisor to return your draft EPR several times for editing --with the justification being that someday, somewhere, at some mysterious, fabled Review Board, Senior NCOs will be reviewing stacks of EPRs to determine who gets the DREAM JOB of the Century. And if your EPR isn't juuuuuuuuuust right, it could mean that someone else will get that dream job instead of you. It could mean that, because you didn't take the time to use exactly the right word or list your bullet statements in the correct order, your rival, who DID cross his t's and dot his i's will get the job instead. I don't mean to dismiss their concerns entirely but... when was the last time you were interviewed for the position of Chief of the Atomic Air Force? Right. Me either.

I don't mean to totally dismiss people who place a lot of importance on EPRS --because they ARE important. They are a significant factor in whether you get promoted. Yes, promotion does depend on other factors (testing, time in grade, etc) but the promotion points of the EPR will almost certainly make the difference between getting promoted and NOT getting promoted. When I was a young airman, I used to think they weren't important and I'd get promoted by testing but I'm here to tell you, that's a hard way to go. For some career fields, it may be impossible to get promoted without a good (-5-) EPR. So I'm not saying they're not important --I'm just saying they're easy to complete. And complete accurately.

In summary, EPRs are easier to write than most people think. If you have all the information you need, which is the RIP and a list of the ratee's accomplishments, you can produce a pretty good draft in an hour or so depending on your ability. Click on the links below for specific instructions.

One of two forms is used for documenting performance. Use AF Form 910 for ranks AB through TSgt. Use AF Form 911 for MSgt and above. For an authoritative and comprehensive guide to acceptable format (abbreviations, punctuation, and general policy), see this Air Force EPR guide.

A word about confidentiality.   In the Air Force, EPRs are treated differently than other services treat their performance reports. An individual's EPR is extremely private. Only the rater and the person being rated will see it. Its contents and the document itself are never shared with anyone in the workcenter. It is written in private. It is stored securely and in a manner that prevents access by anyone outside the rating chain. Similarly, no one (except for someone's supervisor and others necessary for its administrative processing) knows what ratings any other Airman receives in their EPR.

Continue to directions for completing the Air Force Form 910