Commander's Ranking

You may also see Commander’s Ranking referred to as Leadership Ranking, Cadre Ranking, or Relative Standing Score (RSS). All of the terms are synonymous.

What is Commander’s Ranking?

The Commander’s Ranking is the commander’s opinion of how any given cadet compares to their peers when looking at their potential to be a leader and officer in the USAF or USSF.

In small detachments this will likely be set by the detachment commander themselves. In larger dets, they will likely rely on the other cadre members to provide information and a proposed ranking, though it is always ultimately the commander’s ranking to make.

For instance, in a class of 50 cadets, the ‘best’ cadet in the class with the most potential would be #1/50, while an ‘average’ cadet would be #25/50, and a cadet that is doing poorly would be #50/50.

Try to shoot for the top third of your class. Other than that, don’t get too wrapped-up in what your commander’s ranking is. Being #4/50 versus #6/50 really isn’t that important. But being #4/50 versus #45/50 will have a big impact.

Also, some detachments/commanders/officers won’t tell you what your ranking is at all. I’d encourage you to ask, but for whatever reason, some think it should be a secret.

Commander’s ranking is a large portion of PSP, Rated and USSF board selection, and used for various awards and other opportunities as well.

Always under evaluation

An important thing to remember is that you are always under evaluation while in the AFROTC program. Think of it as a 3 – 5 year long job interview. Your cadre are human and they can’t separate their opinions of you during formalized training versus an interaction they had with you in the hallway, or even off-campus.

You may be a very professional cadet while in training, but then write emails like ‘hey, i wanted to see if you can sign this document for me, it’s for a cool training opportunity i want to do and it’s due by 5pm today. can you sign it for me real quick? thx.’ and that is going to lower someone’s opinion of you.

As an officer, I also always asked for feedback from the NCOs in the detachment, and even talked to other cadets. Most cadets will be very professional around me due to my rank and position to evaluate them, but how do they treat an enlisted member that they may not think they need anything from? How do they treat their peers? How do they treat cadets beneath them in the organization?

How is Commander’s Ranking Determined?

Unfortunately, there is no set guidance on how to determine commander’s ranking, and there will be as many methods as there are commanders in AFROTC (145).

Some commanders may rely on their NCO and officer cadre to provide inputs and advice and propose a draft list. Others may want to do it completely themselves.

Some commanders may start with a listing of the objective numbers like GPA and PFA score, then adjust the list based on leadership potential. Others may start with only the leadership potential score, because the GPA and PFA scores are already captured in the selection boards.

Some commanders may involve feedback from POC cadets that are training the GMC, others may not take their feedback.

Commander’s ranking is ultimately a subjective process and score, and as there are humans involved that have differing priorities and biases, it will never be 100% fair or perfect.

General factors

Despite it being a subjective and imperfect process, I believe that most officers could look at the same group of cadets and come out with roughly the same list of top/middle/bottom third cadets. Most cadets seem to have a good feel for who in their class have the most potential as well, as I’ve seen cadets ranking each other within their class and POC ranking GMC cadets mostly line up with a list that cadre makes.

In very general terms, the following factors will contribute to your commander’s ranking. Some may be higher or lower priorities depending on the person, but in general these should be helpful for any cadet.

In no particular order:

  • Show up on time to class, meetings, appointments, training
  • Have a helping attitude. Help your classmates. Help other cadets above and below you in the program. Offer to be helpful for your cadre.
  • Have a good attitude. Come to training and class with a positive outlook, ready to learn and improve yourself.
  • Participate during class. Raise your hand and answer/ask questions. Apply some thought in class and think about the ramifications a layer deeper and ask questions about it.
  • Always volunteer for leadership opportunities. The whole purpose of AFROTC is to develop as a leader. If you are always hiding in the back of the group and not putting yourself in uncomfortable positions, you won’t be able to improve as a leader.
  • Take initiative – Identify and propose solutions to make things better within your detachment. Don’t complete a task and then stand idle until told to do something else. That is what is expected of junior enlisted members, not officers.
  • Respond to feedback – When offered feedback on how to improve your performance, take it and act on it, no matter who it comes from. You can learn from people younger and less experienced than you just as much as you can from an older and more experienced person.
  • Decision-making ability. Do you freeze up if under pressure? Or do you stay calm and collected in stressful environments? Do you lash out at your team or criticize their ideas? Or do you take their ideas into account before making a final decision? Do you have analysis paralysis and not make any decision at all until it’s too late? * Do you make rash decisions without thinking about the second and third order effects of your actions?
  • Be mature – Your cadre knows you are young, likely just out of high school and away from home the first time. But, you need to be able to turn up the maturity while in training because we are also always questioning whether we can see you as a 2d Lieutenant or not, and whether we’d want you to work for us one day, or if we’d want to work for you someday.
  • Ask questions to improve – Each semester, at a minimum, each cadet will meet with their APAS for two separate meetings. Come prepared to these meetings. Bring questions about your own performance and how to improve as a leader. It shows you’re thinking about these things and trying to develop yourself.
  • Be confident – Or, fake it until you are confident.
  • Command Presence – This is hard to describe, but most people know it when they see it. Whether marching a flight in drill or taking charge of a long-term project, can you step into a leadership role and do people pay attention when you’re in charge?
  • Quietness – I’m very introverted myself and generally choose not to speak unless there is a need for it. But, if a cadet is super quiet and shy and barely speaks to me or around me, I have no way to do know what is going on in their head, how they think, what they’re thinking about. I’ve had cadets in my office that rarely make eye contact and give me one word answers to questions that I use to learn more about them, and it leaves me with nothing to go on.
  • Come prepared for class and training – Think ahead about what the challenges could be in a training day, or what you want to get out of that day.
  • Be polite – There are customs and courtesies in the military (which you will learn). Follow them.


A high-ranking cadet

Always shows up on time with a positive attitude and is prepared for whatever the task is. When at PT they put in 100% effort and are motivating their peers and helping those that struggle with the workout. Comes to one-on-one meetings with APAS and is able to carry on an interesting conversation and has questions about their own performance, about the military, about the detachment, or even about the APAS. Brings ideas to improve training to cadre. Doesn’t just bring problems, but solutions. Is liked by their peers and subordinates if applicable. Brings me leadership challenges they’ve experienced looking for advice (shows they want to solve problems and do it the best way, not just ignore the problem and hope it goes away). Thinks outside the box or questions why we do things. Always analyzing the situation and looking for ways to make it better. Always the first to raise their hand any time a volunteer is asked for.

A low-ranking cadet

Shows up late to classes or meetings, sometimes missing them altogether. Stands around during training, doing nothing unless specifically asked by another cadet or cadre. Visibly tired and disinterested in class or training. Falls asleep in class. When corrected by other cadets or cadre, they have an attitude and make excuses or don’t actually adjust their behavior for next time. Misses deadlines. Doesn’t raise hand or participate in class. Unprepared in class, obvious that speeches were written the night before, assignments turned in minutes before the deadline and with the bare minimum effort. Can be overheard during training criticizing the training, making fun of other cadets, and generally being negative about everything.

Commander's Ranking Timeline

The window to change a class's cadet rankings is only open twice a year for detachment commanders to make adjustments.

1 July - 13 September for the Fall semester.

1 December - 31 January for the Spring semester.

Outside of these windows, your commander's ranking is locked and cannot be updated in the WINGS system, which is what is used for PSP and the Rated Board, where these rankings matter. However, the detachment can of course keep an internal ranking listing which could be updated at any time, which they then load into WINGS when the window is open.