The Air Force has postponed the Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS) exams for roughly 18,000 airmen, the service announced Monday.
In an effort to keep airmen from massing in testing centers amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) has given commanders the authority to schedule tests if social distancing can be accommodated. Otherwise, the tests will be put off until May 11, the service said.
"Approximately 15,000 airmen have completed testing for the 20E6 (technical sergeant) testing cycle, and about 18,000 airmen remain eligible to test during this cycle," AFPC spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com in an email Tuesday. "While WAPS testing is postponed through May 11, airmen can voluntarily elect to test prior to May 11 pending testing center availability, and we expect these numbers to change as airmen complete testing."
Under WAPS, airmen are required to take a promotion fitness exam, as well as a specialty knowledge test. Following that testing, they move to a central evaluation board.
Those airmen who are unable to test within the extended testing cycle window "will be automatically considered for in-system supplemental promotion once they are able to test," officials said in a release. It was not clear at press time when the window will close.
The news comes as the AFPC has already made adjustments to upcoming promotion cycles amid concerns about COVID-19.
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, AFPC commander, 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."