Air Force, Army Delay Promotion Boards Amid Coronavirus Disruptions

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A U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. is lauded during a celebration for the master sergeants selected for promotion.
FILE -- U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Zina Dromov, is lauded by her peers during a celebration commending the master sergeants selected to promote to the rank of senior master sergeant March 4, 2020, on Travis Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Christian Conrad

The U.S. Air Force and Army have delayed upcoming promotion boards amid concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus, the services separately announced this week.

On Friday, the Air Force said that its master sergeant promotion board (20E7), which was originally scheduled to convene March 23, has been rescheduled for the first week of June, with "a public promotion release projected for the end of July."

"We realize the importance and impact promotion boards have on airmen's careers but, for health and safety, it's important we make these prudent adjustments at this time," said Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Toth, commander of the Air Force's Personnel Center (AFPC), in a service release. "Given the importance of promotion boards, we are working on a number of process adjustments and facility mitigations allowing us to hold future boards while complying with health and safety guidelines.

"Unfortunately, we were unable to get those measures in place for the 20E7 board, which is the largest board we conduct," he added. "This is a rapidly changing situation, and we're constantly coordinating with Headquarters Air Force (HAF) to take care of our airmen and their families the best way possible."

Related: Coronavirus Will Delay Promotions for Nearly 160,000 Sailors

The personnel center will closely monitor record updates for the 20E7 promotion cycle, officials said.

The delay "does not impact the currently planned first 'sew-on' increment, which remains scheduled for Aug. 1," the release states. "At this time, we plan to have modifications in place allowing us to conduct all other promotion boards as scheduled."

The Air Force has not made any decisions regarding upcoming promotion testing cycles, said Mike Dickerson, AFPC spokesman. Dickerson reiterated Toth's message that the personnel center is coordinating with HAF on the best way forward.

Meanwhile, airmen who were recently affected by lost promotion tests for technical sergeant will test in the same cycle as other 20E6 promotion eligible airmen, Dickerson said.

In February, staff sergeants in 18 Air Force Specialty Codes up for promotion to technical sergeant were affected by more than a dozen lost "Specialty Knowledge Tests" after a shipment of questionnaires never arrived at their intended destination (the service would not comment on which base was affected or what delivery service was used).

The Air Force at the time said it would give these airmen extra time to test; Dickerson could not provide the exact date for that revised testing cycle by press time.

Army Changes

The Army issued similar delays in promotion selection boards earlier this week.

Based on Defense Secretary Mark Esper's guidance relating to travel restrictions within the U.S., the service said it has suspended promotion selection boards "and NCO evaluation board operations between now and May 11," according to Army Lt. Col. Mary Ricks, spokesperson for Human Resources Command (HRC).

"Suspended boards will be rescheduled to later months, and updated board guidance will be released in [the military personnel messages (MILPERS) index] specific to each board's conduct," she said in a MILPERS announcement, posted on the HRC Facebook account March 18.

HRC will release updated eligibility criteria for each board on the MILPERS site.

"This is a prudent adjustment, and we will do everything possible to see that this shift in the timing of promotion consideration does not adversely affect promotion, schooling or critical career development for our Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers and Noncommissioned Officers," Ricks said.

The latest promotion announcements come as the Navy already postponed selection boards, advancement exams and Reserve drill weekends that will affect more than 159,500 sailors and officers.

Navy manpower officials on Thursday said the service is suspending all active-duty and Reserve advancement selection boards scheduled to meet on or after March 24.

The delays will affect all promotion, advancement, milestone and other selection boards.

-- Matt Cox and Gina Harkins contributed to this report.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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