In a Thursday interview, Maj. Gen. Andrew Toth, head of the Air Force Personnel Center, said that the testing window for those career fields — which was originally supposed to run from Feb. 15 to March 15, along with all the other jobs — will now close on April 30. This will give Air Education and Training Command time to rewrite the specialty knowledge tests for those Air Force Specialty Codes and re-mail them to more than 80 locations around the world, and give the affected airmen enough time to take them.
The testing extension should not delay the announcement of the E-6 promotion results, Toth said. AFPC plans to send messages to each affected airman, as well as their commanders, force support squadrons, and test control officers, to let them know what happened.
Toth said there is no indication anyone has obtained the missing tests and used them to cheat or for other nefarious purposes. But AFPC decided to rewrite the tests to ensure the integrity of the process remains intact. The affected airmen represent nearly 18 percent of the 33,883 staff sergeants who are eligible to test for E-6, he said.
“We think it’s our duty and our responsibility to make sure that we maintain that integrity of the [promotion testing] system,” Toth said, even though they don’t think anyone obtained the tests with the intent to cheat. Even if they were to show up now, Toth said, the Air Force would not have a full chain of custody accounting for their whereabouts throughout the shipping process.
The affected career fields include security forces — which is the biggest single career field in the Air Force — contracting, special investigations, religious affairs, and a variety of medical-related career fields such as health services management. Airmen in unaffected career fields will still have to finish testing by March 15.
The Defense Logistics Agency mailed out the testing materials in mid-January, Toth said. However, one box that contained nine envelopes of tests — Toth declined to say where it was headed — somehow became damaged while the shipping company had it and some envelopes spilled out. The envelopes were addressed, so most ultimately made it to their final destination by the end of January, but one remains missing.
By early February, the Air Force decided that the missing package could potentially have compromised the rest of the tests for those 18 AFSCs around the world, Toth said, and began making preparations to re-do the tests.
AFPC was not aware of any instance in the past when promotion testing booklets themselves were lost in the mail. But similar problems happened in 2014. In July 2014, Pope Air Field in North Carolina confirmed that answer sheets for 99 senior airmen there — a significant majority of the airmen testing for staff sergeant at Pope — were mailed to AFPC at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas but never arrived. Those airmen had to retake the test.
And in March 2014, some technical sergeants enrolled in an Air University distance learning course were accidentally mailed the wrong study guides for the Course 15 program, which was a prerequisite for the Noncommissioned Officer Academy.
Toth said the Air Force will investigate how this happened, and DLA will review its shipping processes. Toth would not say which company mailed the tests.
“It’s important we maintain integrity of the enlisted promotion process while taking care of airmen,” Toth said in a Thursday release. “That’s our commitment and that’s what we’re doing.”
The 18 affected AFSCs are:
* 3P071 security forces craftsman, including the A and B shreds
* 4A071 health services management craftsman
* 4A171 medical materiel craftsman
* 4B071 bioenviromental engineering craftsman
* 4C071 mental health service craftsman
* 4E071 public health craftsman
* 4J072 physical medicine craftsman
* 4M071 aerospace and operational physiology craftsman
* 4N071 aerospace medical service craftsman, including 4N0X1 and the 4N0X1B and 4N0X1F shreds
* 4N071C aerospace medical service craftsman, independent duty medical technician
* 4P071 pharmacy craftsman
* 4R071 diagnostic imaging craftsman
* 4T071 medical laboratory craftsman
* 4Y071 dental assistant craftsman, including the H shred
* 4Y072 dental laboratory craftsman
* 5R071 religious affairs craftsman
* 6C071 contracting craftsman
* 7S071 special investigations craftsman
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.