The Air Force has chosen 5,166 airmen for promotion to master sergeant, resulting in the highest selection rate in years.

There were 20,169 technical sergeants eligible for promotion to E-7 this year, meaning the selection rate hit 25.61 percent, Air Force Personnel Center officials said Wednesday. That is up from 23.34 percent in 2016. The last time the E-7 selection rate was higher was in 2012, when 27.58 percent of tech sergeants were promoted.

Selection rates for all enlisted ranks hit recent lows in 2013 and 2014, around the time the Air Force conducted a massive drawdown and the competition for the few available promotion slots became extremely tough. That year, 17.96 percent of eligible airmen were promoted to technical sergeant.

But since then, selection rates have recovered, moving closer to historical averages, as the Air Force has slowly begun the process of rebuilding its end strength.

AFPC officials also said Wednesday that 1,303 active-duty officers were selected for promotion to colonel, lieutenant colonel and major in the 2017A selection boards. Of those, 13 Medical Services Corps officers were selected for promotion to colonel, 1,223 Line of the Air Force officers were selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel, another 31 MSC officers were selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel, and 36 MSC officers were selected for promotion to major.

Of the colonel selectees who were in the promotion zone, 45.5 percent of those eligible were selected, according to data released by AFPC. 

Of the in-the-zone LAF officers selected for O-5, the overall selection rate was 72.6 percent. Mission support officers had the highest selection rate of 76.3 percent, and pilots had the second-highest rate, 74.9 percent. Non-rated operations officers, air battle managers and navigators had the lowest selection rates — respectively, 70.4 percent, 63.9 percent and 61.6 percent.

AFPC data also showed 63.9 percent of eligible in-the-zone MSC officers were selected for lieutenant colonel, and 97.3 percent of eligible in-the-zone MSC officers were chosen for major.

Inside the E-7 selections

For the enlisted airmen selected for promotion to master sergeant, their average total weighted score was 148.74, and their average board score was 374.48, for an average total score of 523.22. The average time-in-grade was 3.86 years and the average time-in-service was 14.36 years, though longevity no longer gives airmen any points toward their promotion.

The lowest cutoff scores, indicating where competition was lighter — for Air Force specialty codes with more than 10 selectees — were: 1N2X1C signals intelligence analysts with a communications specialty; 3E1X1 heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration; 2T3X7 fleet management and analysis; 3N0X5 photojournalists, and 2T0X1 traffic management.

But the jobs with the highest cutoff scores and toughest competition, with more than 10 selectees, were: 4E0X1 public health;, 1T0X1 survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructors; 4C0X1 mental health service; 3D0X4 computer systems programmers, and 3E8X1 explosive ordnance disposal.

The list of master sergeant selectees can be found here.

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 He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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