The Air Force is roughly doubling the percentage of airmen being considered for supplemental promotion to staff sergeant next month, as a result of testing delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Air Force Personnel Center said Thursday that about 15 percent of airmen and space professionals eligible for promotion to staff sergeant will be considered for supplemental promotion this year, which is tentatively scheduled for the second week in October. That’s a much greater percentage than the 5 to 8 percent of promotion-eligible airmen typically considered for supplemental promotion.
The Air Force said Monday that 13,864 senior airmen had been selected for promotion to E-5. That’s a selection rate of 41.58 percent of the 33,341 airmen who were up for promotion.
But it’s also noticeably lower than the selection rates in previous years. Last year, for example, 14,235 airmen, or 48.79 percent of those eligible, were selected for promotion. And in 2018, 15,669 airmen were promoted to staff sergeant at an astounding selection rate of 51.12 — the highest since 2002.
AFPC also on Thursday released the list of airmen who had been selected for promotion to staff sergeant.
The pandemic threw a wrench in the Air Force’s promotion process this spring. Testing for staff and technical sergeant promotions was suspended in March as the pandemic spread. But even after testing resumed May 11, social distancing requirements severely limited how many airmen could take their required tests at any given time.
By June 30, only about 32 percent of airmen eligible for E-5 had taken their test. So the Air Force in early July extended staff sergeant testing by a month, to the end of August. This also delayed the announcement of staff sergeant promotions, which typically occurs in mid-to late August.
In Thursday’s release, the Air Force said that because of the safety precautions and restrictions, some airmen’s tests were delayed or had not yet been scored. This resulted in fewer airmen being selected for E-5 than expected.
Airmen with delayed or not-yet-scored tests could be promoted as part of the next larger-than-usual supplemental promotion cycle, to help the Air Force reach its necessary staff sergeant manning levels, AFPC said.
The average time-in-grade of selectees was 1.66 years, and their average time-in-service was 4.16 years, AFPC said in a Thursday release detailing the promotions. The average overall score of selectees was 348.
The list of airmen selected for staff sergeant 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 Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.