Air Force Increases Early Promotion Opportunities

Newly promoted Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary, Team Eglin Public Affairs, receives her stripes from Col. Sal Nodjomian, 96th Air Base Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Tom Westermeyer, 96th command chief Nov. 9, 2010. (U.S. Air Force/Chrissy Cuttita)
Newly promoted Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary, Team Eglin Public Affairs, receives her stripes from Col. Sal Nodjomian, 96th Air Base Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Tom Westermeyer, 96th command chief Nov. 9, 2010. (U.S. Air Force/Chrissy Cuttita)

The Air Force has nearly doubled the number of promotions given to staff and technical sergeants this year through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program and, through new revisions, will provide additional promotion opportunities for enlisted airmen, the service said in a release last week.

Through STEP, a program designed to promote promising enlisted airmen early, officials in fiscal 2018 have increased the number of promotions available from 96 to 180, the service said.

"Increasing STEP allocations is another way we're empowering commanders at every level to identify and reward their top performers," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

The service will shift the STEP process to begin "no earlier than September, allowing in-cycle promotions to be announced prior to STEP nomination deadlines," the release said.

The Air Force will also streamline the process by reducing administrative requirements. For example, central and combatant command STEP boards have been aligned to more closely match the common Enlisted Force Development Process.

The board process now requires "up to the last three enlisted evaluations in the nominee's current grade," it said. Using an airman's 1206 nomination form, boards will consider up to five bullets detailing recent accomplishments that occurred since the close-out of the member's most recent enlisted performance report.

"This reduces the administrative requirements placed on units from previous requirements by up to 25 bullets per package," the release said.

"Not only does this help support our senior leaders' focus on revitalizing squadrons. but it also helps to save airmen's time," said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright in a statement. "We're allowing commanders more opportunities to recognize those airmen who have demonstrated sustained performance at the next level."

The increase provides all major commands and the Central Base Board with at least two STEP promotion opportunities for airmen.

Airmen must complete the appropriate level of enlisted professional military education to be eligible, the release said.

"An individual may not receive more than one promotion under any combination of promotion programs within a 12-month period," it said. "STEP promotion opportunities are limited; therefore, commanders are encouraged to recognize and promote their exemplary performers who meet minimum promotion eligibility criteria."

The Air Force Personnel Center will debut further guidance for the fiscal 2018 STEP process, including quotas for all major commands, combatant commands and units meeting the central board via the MyPers website.

The STEP program was established in 1980 to allow commanders to consider early promotions for deserving airmen. Under STEP, commanders of major commands, field operating agencies and senior officers in organizations with large enlisted populations have the opportunity to promote a limited number of airmen "who show exceptional potential" to the grades of E-5 and E-6, the release said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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