Originally published in 2012.
Now is a good time to talk about managing Army records. Coming back into the Army meant digging out my old paperwork so that I could properly update my personnel file. Graduating OCS meant getting a whole bunch of new paperwork that needs to be added to the pile. Then, I read this article from the Army Times (‘As drawdown looms, mind your personnel file, February 5, 2012).
It seems like the Army does a better job digitizing records than it did a few years ago. Most of the important paperwork I’ve received has already been uploaded to iPERMS – the Army’s digital file. That’s good, but sometimes paperwork doesn’t make it online and all you have is the physical paperwork.
That’s where the ‘I Love Me’ book comes in.
My first team leader in the Army told me that I needed to start putting together a book that has all of my important paperwork. He called it his ‘I Love Me’ book because it was his personal “paperwork shrine” to himself. All of his military accomplishments in one place. Basic training certificate, MOS orders, orders to report to Airborne School, Airborne School certificate, orders for the parachutist skill identifier, orders to report to the 82d Airborne Division, et cetera.
His binder was pretty elaborate. It was tough, and he had glued the 82d patch with a Ranger and Recon Tab on the side of it as decoration (we were in a Scout Platoon). I followed his lead and built an equally elaborate binder (which I’ve since lost track of – not the paperwork, just the binder). My current binder is pretty plain. It’s a floppy, blue binder with sheet protectors on the inside. I like the floppy binders better than the hard binders because they are easier to transport. They’re only as large as your important paperwork is thick.
Pretty much anything that authorizes the wear of any badges, tabs, or ribbons goes in the book. Orders to report anywhere goes in the book. Graduation certificates, ERBs/ORBs, NCOERs/OERs, they all go in the book. Any other paperwork I put in another folder and tuck it away in a closet. I’ve never had to retrieve that “other” folder for anything. If you do it right, you should only ever need to grab the ‘I Love Me’ book.
I like to organize it chronologically, from day one in the Army to the present. You can also put in other important documents that you might need, like college transcripts or civilian certifications.
Having an ‘I Love Me’ book is the first step in managing your own personnel file. The next step is digitizing it. Today, scanners are cheap. Scanning all of the documents in your ‘I Love Me’ book into PDFs ensures that in the event that the Army loses track of your paperwork and you can’t get ahold of your physical ‘I Love Me’ book for whatever reason, you still have the files stored digitally on your own computer. In the smartphone era, I can get access to a file I’ve stored digitally in a matter of seconds. And when people need your paperwork in the Army, they need it now. It’s pretty cool to be able to provide it just as fast.
Having all of your paperwork neatly tucked into a binder and stored on a computer is great, but it means nothing if the Army isn’t tracking that paperwork. It is a skill level one task to ensure your own personnel file is updated. Luckily, if you keep an ‘I Love Me’ book, you can grab it and head over to S1 to update your ERB/ORB with relative ease. Keeping records updated with Big Army ensures that when they look at you for promotions (or whatever else) they are looking at the most accurate reflection of your history and skills. Being a steward of your own file is going to be more important than it has been in recent years, and maintaining an ‘I Love Me’ book is the first step in making sure your records are straight.