The selection rate for senior master sergeant promotions greatly increased this year, to 12.32 percent of eligible airmen.

Airmen at JBSA-Lackland, 2010, attempt to exceed their run times for the final physical training assessment while in their seventh week of Basic Training.

Photo Credit: Melinda Mueller/Air Force

Air Force Maj. Tyler Ellison administers the oath of enlistment to Florida's newest airmen during an air show in Lakeland, Fla.. April, 25.

Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Manuel Martinez/Air Force

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on Capitol Hill about the use of Russian rocket engines, Jan. 27, 2016.

Photo Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

staff

Photo Credit: staff

The Air Force Personnel Center announced the supplemental promotions of 26 airmen Friday.

Photo Credit: File

The Air Force would not be able to add active-duty airmen if Congress fails to pass a National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2016.

Photo Credit: Air Force photo.

The Air Force Personnel Center announced the supplemental promotions of 26 airmen Friday.

Photo Credit: File

That selection rate is a significant increase from the 8.75 percent E-8 selection rate last year, and far higher than the 6.74 percent selection rate in 2014.

In all, the Air Force selected 1,467 master sergeants for promotion to E-8 out of 11,904 airmen eligible, the Air Force Personnel Center said in a Facebook post Tuesday. AFPC plans to release the names of selectees Thursday morning.

The E-8 promotions are the first to be released this calendar year, and suggest the trend of increasing selection rates may continue in 2016.

Promotion selection rates for enlisted airmen hit their lowest point in years in 2013 and 2014. This was largely due to the high retention rates in the Air Force, and the service's push to steeply cut its ranks through measures such as the 2014 force management programs. As the Air Force tightened its belt, the competition to get promoted grew even steeper.

But now, the Air Force is trying to grow again, if slowly. The Air Force is hoping to grow to about 317,000 this year. And Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she could use her authority to add as much as another 6,300 in 2017 to beef up key career fields.

The end of drawdowns and the slight increase in end strength is creating more space for additional promotions today. Not only is the selection rate increasing, but so is the number of actual senior master sergeant promotions. Last year, 1,257 were selected for E-8, and 999 were promoted in 2014.

The unofficial Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco on Tuesday posted slides from an AFPC webcast to test control officers and military personnel section promotion offices, which referred to "1,036 missing tests" and "97 missing EPRs," or enlisted performance reports, for the E-8 promotion cycle.

But in an email and follow-up phone call, AFPC officials said that no tests or EPRs have been lost. The vast majority of those "missing" airmen referred to in the slide are airmen who did not test because they were deployed, AFPC said. The remaining airmen either separated or were on terminal leave, or had declined testing, or in a handful of cases, may have incorrectly filled out tests.

"It's very easy to misunderstand" the reference to missing tests, AFPC spokesman Mike Dickerson said. "This was personnellists, talking to personnellists."

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter at Defense News. He previously reported for Military.com, covering the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare. Before that, he covered U.S. Air Force leadership, personnel and operations for Air Force Times.

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