Army Will Approve Temporary NCO Promotions Before Soldiers Go to School

A squad leader discusses live-fire exercise training.
Sgt. Robert Fonner (left), a squad leader assigned to A Company, 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, discusses the next phase of their squad live fire exercise training lanes with his team leaders, Cpl. Kayttie Lambert (center) and Sgt. Jesus Quezada, during a security halt at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii on March 30, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Alan Brutus/U.S. Army photo)

Army noncommissioned officers and specialists will be able to earn temporary promotions before attending mandatory courses, officials announced Monday as the service struggles with a bottleneck at schools due to the large number of troops hoping to attend. 

The new rule, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022, and extends through the entire calendar year, allows all enlisted members in ranks from specialist to master sergeant to be promoted without mandatory schools. For example, sergeants won't have to attend the Advanced Leader Course before being pinned as a staff sergeant. Less than a month ago, the Army made the same policy switch for senior NCOs

"This is about talent management and promoting the best soldiers available," Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston told reporters, adding that the top reason enlisted troops are passed over for promotion is that they haven't attended required schools. 

However, those NCOs must graduate their respective courses within a year. If not, they'll be demoted, but pay will not be recouped. Grinston told reporters that the problem is that schools are unable to handle the large number of troops seeking promotions. 

School capacity is generally calculated four years in advance as Pentagon planners factor in estimates for the size of the military. Leaders previously underestimated the size of the Army and attendance at NCO schools. 

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Allowing soldiers to be promoted without attending a school doesn't constrain them to their current rank if they have all the other qualifications needed for promotion, allowing their careers to advance if they could not secure a school slot. In some cases, troops deployed abroad cannot attend professional development schools, and this new policy would not force them to wait to return to the U.S. to attend school for promotion. 

Grinston said that the new policy will be evaluated throughout 2022; in September, leaders will determine whether it should stay in effect. In the meantime, Army planners will consider adding instructors at schools and beefing up class sizes. 

Soldiers who do attend a mandatory school before their promotion still will earn promotion points, giving them a leg up against those who are unable to attend the required course. 

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

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

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