The number of airmen eligible for promotion to technical sergeant plummeted in 2017 to 25,552 — a decline of roughly 8,000-airman decline compared to the previous year, and the lowest eligibility in decades.
The eligibility decline helped drive the E-6 selection rate up to 31.96 percent — the highest in 15 years, and a 9.6 percentage-point jump over the 2016 selection rate. The number of staff sergeants selected for tech sergeant also ticked up, from 7,501 in 2016 to 8,167 this year.
The overall selection numbers were released by the Air Force Personnel Center Tuesday night. The list of selectees will be released July 20, AFPC said.
AFPC's news release didn't say why the eligibility rates declined so steeply, and the Air Force has not yet responded to an inquiry from Air Force Times.
But in February, the Air Force said about 9,300 airmen had missed the Jan. 1 deadline for finishing their online professional military education course and were ineligible for re-enlistment or promotion. In March, the Air Force partially backtracked and said it would allow those airmen to re-enlist or extend their service, but still left them ineligible for promotion.
When that change was announced, Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso said in a release that the continued promotion ineligibility was a deliberate decision, because "PME is critical to the development of all airmen, both officers and enlisted, as leaders in the profession of arms."
Staff sergeants hoping for promotion to E-6 have a static closeout date, when their enlisted performance reports are completed, of Jan. 31, the same day as their eligibility cutoff date. Their static closeout date was the first of any rank after the Jan. 1 PME deadline passed. Senior airmen hoping for promotion to staff sergeant have a static closeout date of March 31, and their promotions are likely to be announced later this month.
The previous record low for tech sergeant eligibility was in 2003, when 32,501 E-5s were considered for promotion. And for the past decade, at least 34,000 E-5s have been eligible for promotion each year.
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.