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Air Force drops two-phase process for master sgt. promotion boards

The Air Force is abandoning its short experiment with a two-phase process for deciding which eligible airmen will go before a master sergeant promotion board.

When the Air Force launched its first master sergeant board last year, officials worried that the promotion board would be overwhelmed if they tried to consider all 22,000-plus eligible technical sergeants. Senior master sergeant boards, for example, reviewed a little more than 14,000 eligible airmen last year.

So the Air Force set up a two-phase process to limit the master sergeant board to only the top 60 percent of promotion-eligible tech sergeants. Under the first phase, eligible tech sergeants finished their specialty knowledge tests and promotion fitness examinations, which were then combined with other weighted factors — time in grade, time in service, decorations, and enlisted performance reports. Those initial scores were sorted by Air Force specialty code, and those who made the top 60 percent cutoff went to the second phase — the actual promotion board.

Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso told commands of the master sergeant board change in an email, which retired Air Force officer and blogger Tony Carr posted on his John Q. Public Facebook page Monday.

Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson on Tuesday confirmed the board is now a one-phase process — identical to the boards for senior and chief master sergeant — beginning this year. Richeson also said EPR points will no longer be a separate weighted factor for master sergeants, similar to how senior and chief boards work.

"After going through the first master sergeant evaluation board in 2015, we were able to assess our capacity to review all eligible airmen," Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, director of military force management policy, said in an email to Air Force Times Tuesday. "We now know our systems, facility and annual board schedule can support boarding all eligible technical sergeants. This adjustment allows every technical sergeant a chance to have their performance reviewed on its own merit directly by the board."

And beginning this year, promotion boards for senior non-commissioned officers also will only review the last five years of EPRs. The redesigned SNCO boards last year looked at the last 10 years of EPRs, as part of an effort to ensure performance carried the most weight in deciding who got promoted.

Richeson said that reducing the number of EPRs considered "focuses the evaluation board's assessment on recent performance."

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Stephen Losey covers personnel, promotions, and the Air Force Academy for Air Force Times. He can be reached at

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