If you’re a captain and have managed to keep your nose clean, your lucky day is coming.

The Air Force on Wednesday announced that the pool of line officers being considered for promotion to major will have a 100 percent promotion opportunity, beginning in December. As long as a captain is qualified, is recommended for promotion by his senior rater, and has exhibited exemplary conduct, his golden oak leaf is a sure thing, Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kate Atanasoff said.

Officers who receive a “do not promote” recommendation, or a “promote” recommendation with derogatory information such as an Article 15, a court-martial, a referral report or a letter of reprimand in their officer selection record, will need a promotion recommendation form to be considered, the release said.

“I fully trust raters and senior raters to continue to ensure the Air Force‘s high standards of conduct,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in the release.  

There are now 2,671 captains eligible for promotion, Atanasoff said in a Thursday email. That number could grow as some above-the-zone officers turn in their continuation contracts. There are no below-the-zone promotions to major, she said.

In the release, the Air Force said it is taking this step because it’s falling short of needed field-grade officers, such as majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels. The Air Force is now at 92 percent manning for Line of the Air Force field-grade officers. And when it comes to non-rated field-grade officers, the undermanning is even worse at 74 percent.

“With this change, captains whose conduct has been exemplary can expect to be promoted to major,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in the release. “We‘ve been letting capable people leave the service and we need them.”

The Air Force has grown increasingly worried in recent years about pilots and other skilled officers leaving the service. This move is intended to develop leaders and improve retention, according to the release.

The last time major promotions were announced, in July, the overall selection rate was 85.3 percent. In-the-zone candidates had a selection rate of 93.1 percent, and above-the-zone major candidates had a 17.2 percent rate.

The Air Force has researched multiple officer performance management tools over the past year and developed recommendations to better identify talented officers and plan for current and future officer shortage, according to the release.

The changes are sorely needed, said Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso.

“There have been no major changes to the officer evaluation system in nearly 30 years, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements and how our performance system reflects what we value in others,” Grosso said.

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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