In “Ideas on Cavalry” (ARMOR’s October-December 2013 edition http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/earmor/content/issues/2013/OCT_DEC/Suthoff.html), the authors used promotions data in their “Identity crisis” section that misrepresents the original study conducted and should be not be considered in evaluating the authors’ arguments.

In March 2013, Armor Branch in the Maneuver, Fires and Effects Division, Officer Personnel Military Directorate, U.S. Human Resources Command, compiled the data used for the article (including the article’s Figure 1) and, after thorough analysis, came to conclusions drastically different from those stated in the article.

Our study indicated that company-grade armor officers have a statistically near-equivalent chance of being selected for major in the primary zone (PZ), regardless of the formation type in which they complete their company command. If we use the metric established by the authors of “Ideas on Cavalry” (armored brigade combat team (ABCT) against every other BCT type combined), the statistics they provided and some basic math, we find that ABCTs had a 89.7 percent (44 selected out of 49 eligible) PZ selection rate, where the other BCT types – infantry BCT (IBCT), Stryker BCT (SBCT) and battlefield surveillance brigade (BfSB) – combined for 87.1 percent (27 selected out of 31 eligible). The difference is 2.6 percent. Hardly reason enough to take the drastic actions recommended by “Ideas on Cavalry.”

However, the authors chose to focus their analysis on below-the-zone (BZ) selection results. Anyone who has studied Army officer promotions boards and their results will tell you that BZ statistics cannot be used for any constructive analysis. Those results are completely unpredictable and variable. Anyone familiar with the board system can tell if an officer is competitive for BZ selection, but competitiveness usually encompasses 20 percent to 30 percent of the eligible population. Getting from the 20 percent to 30 percent who may be competitive to the final 6 percent who are normally selected resists successful predictive analysis.

To analyze board results, data on the number of officers considered BZ who had completed command in each BCT type is required. The article does not cite those totals (and I don’t have them either), but a prudent extrapolation is to use the relative percentages of the PZ candidates and apply them to the BZ candidates. When we do that, we find that there were 80 officers in the PZ, with 49 of them serving in ABCTs, coming to 61.3 percent of the population (not 40 percent as stated by the article), with the remaining 31 (38.7 percent) serving in IBCTs, SBCTs and BfSBs.

So about 60 percent of BZ selects should have come from ABCTs (five or six out of nine), and the rest from other BCT types (three or four out of nine). That did not happen, as eight out of nine came from ABCTs and only one from an IBCT. An obvious discrepancy, but we are talking about an error of two officers in a board that selected nine out of 151. Again, this is not enough to justify the drastic actions recommended by “Ideas on Cavalry.”

Also, due to its erratic and unpredictable history, BZ selection has never been, and should never be, considered a metric of success. Success is selection for the next grade, not BZ selection.

The promotions study referenced in this article was created to relay trends to senior leaders and to inform the expectations of captains soon to be considered by boards. It did not include data elements that would be required for the analysis used in this article. The authors likely did not have access to the full study, nor to any of the systems required to conduct independent queries. I ask the reader to disregard the data and analysis on promotion results cited in this article and to judge the authors’ recommendations by the strength of the other arguments made.