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Pen Picture

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Pen Picture - an analysis of an officer or soldier written in such a manner as to blow smoke up the subject's arrse and cunningly reveal the subject's shortcomings to the board.

The principle parts of a pen picture (love the alliteration) are post, performance, personality, promotion and potential. In the Officers' Joint Appraisal Report (OJAR) the first 3 Ps are in the 'Performance' box and the second 2 Ps in the 'Potential' box.


This part aims, in a few lines to outline the subject's principle and secondary responsibilities. Naturally presence of the words PMC, RATO and Project Officer signify that the subject has concentrated on his 'secondary duties' rather than his primary ones.


This is the reporting officer's opportunity to be as bland as he possibly can be without compromising his credibility.


This is the reporting officer's opportunity to be as bland as possible without having to suffer the ignominy of an industrial tribunal.


Some phrases that translate easily are included here:

'is recommended for promotion' - not recommended for promotion

'should be promoted with his peers' - not recommended for promotion

'balances work and domestic commitment marvellously' - not recommended for promotion

'he is wonderfully supported by his wife' - if it were not for his wife's ample cleavage I would not suffer this officer's presence for another day.

There are of course Service differences:

In the RAF if an officer receives the following recommendation: 'ready for promotion now' it will have to be followed by something along the lines of 'he routinely sits in a bath of jelly/baked beans/custard on national television for charity' otherwise he will not be promoted... unless he's a pilot.

In the RN if an officer receives the following recommendation: 'ready for promotion now' it should be followed by 'he showed remarkable personal leadership in the immediate aftermath of the incident in which his ship was almost sunk' but should exclude he line 'at the time his ship struck the Alexandria lighthouse he was in his bunk up to his nuts in the young Sub Lt who joined the ship at Port Said.' Said Sub Lt's report will comment on her 'loyalty and support to her Commanding Officer' which roughly translates as 'easy'.


Some lines which have been recorded on OJARs and their predecessors:

'I would not breed from this officer'.

'This officer has been elevated beyond his area of competence.'

'This officer only makes serious effort when cornered like a rat in a trap'

'Somewhere a village is missing its idiot'

'This officer reached rock bottom ... then she started to dig'

'This officer has used my vessel to move his genitalia from port to port and my officers to move him from bar to bar.'

'His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity.'

'When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.'

'She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.'

'This officer should go far, and the sooner he starts, the better.'

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