In Major Promotion Shift, All Soldiers Will Serve as a Corporal Before Moving to Sergeant

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Infantrymen at a fire support coordination exercise, Fort Carson.
Infantrymen identify possible targets during a fire support coordination exercise, Fort Carson, Colorado, May 15, 2021. (U.S. Army/Maj. Daniel Parker)

The Army wants every junior enlisted soldier to serve time as a corporal before moving up to sergeant, the service announced in a news release.

Starting July 1, all soldiers with the rank of specialist who complete the Basic Leader Course, or BLC, and are recommended for advancement by a promotion board will be laterally promoted to corporal. BLC is a required Army school to transition troops from the junior ranks to noncommissioned officers.

The new policy impacts active-duty soldiers and both full-time and part-time National Guard and Reserve troops, but it won't take effect for reservists until Oct. 1.

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Corporals and specialists are both under the E-4 paygrade; that means a corporal, despite being considered a junior NCO and having more responsibilities, makes the same pay as a specialist. It is unclear whether the corporal rank will come with time-in-grade requirements or if pinning on the stripes will effectively be a placeholder for the soldier to finish up their time as an E-4.

Because corporals and specialists earn the same pay, corporal is a relatively rare rank in the Army. Both ranks can hold junior leadership positions, typically as a team leader responsible for three to six soldiers. Previously, specialists were promoted straight to sergeant in most cases, skipping the corporal rank.

"This is a change in culture," Sgt. Maj. Kenyatta Gaskins, directorate of Military Personnel Management sergeant major, said in a statement. "This is not something we're used to. … It's a visual reminder that the soldiers have transitioned from junior ranks to become a member of the NCO Corps."

The Army also announced that troops must be recommended by a promotion board before attending BLC. That goes into effect June 1, 2022, for active-duty and full-time Guard and Reserve soldiers, and Oct. 1, 2022, for part-time soldiers.

Promotion boards are an interview process for the soldier to proceed to the next rank. The process typically involves analyzing a soldier's score on their physical fitness test, marksmanship performance, and a quiz on Army policy and job-related skills.

"We want to get after leading, teaching and mentoring our junior enlisted soldiers early," Gaskins said. "This is a junior leader development process, and that's how we're looking at this."

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Army Approves Fitness Test Exception for E-4s to Keep Up Promotion Potential

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