About 9,300 airmen were ineligible to re-enlist or be considered for promotion after missing a Jan. 1 deadline to finish their professional military education distance learning.

However, it is possible that some of those airmen purposely didn't take the PME course because they already planned on leaving the Air Force. The Air Force Personnel Center said in an email that it has no way of accurately measuring how many of those 9,300 airmen may have already decided to separate.

But in all, the number of airmen rendered ineligible due to PME requirements amounts to about 15 percent of the roughly 61,000 enlisted airmen who were told in June 2015 that they had a year to enroll in and finish the distance learning courses for the noncommissioned officer and senior NCO academies, also known as Course 15 and Course 14 version 6, respectively. The Air Force warned those airmen that if they didn't get it done, they could be ineligible for re-enlistment or ever testing for promotion again in their now-final enlistment.

Officials repeatedly warned airmen that failing to finish the PME could be a career-killer.

"Failure to complete the requirement within the timeframe could be potentially catastrophic for your career," Master Sgt. Jeffery Jewell, the 2nd Force Support Squadron base education and training manager at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, said in a March 2016 release.

In May 2016, shortly before the original deadline, the Air Force gave airmen an extension until Jan. 1, 2017, to finish the courses because problems emerged. Former Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody acknowledged then that there were excessive errors in the Course 15 materials, not enough facilities to test airmen, testing backlogs of up to a month, and said some airmen may not have even been notified they were supposed to start distance learning.

The Air Force warned airmen in an August 2016 release that if they were projected for promotion but failed to complete the course by New Year's Day, they would lose their projected line number for good, even if they later finished the course.

The Air Force began moving to a blended learning model for PME, including both an online distance learning course and in-person classes, in 2014.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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