Snagging a promotion to Air Force senior master sergeant is becoming even harder, as fewer than 7 percent of eligible airmen made the cut in the latest selection round announced Tuesday.

Only 1,194 of 17,107 eligible master sergeants earned a promotion to senior master sergeant this time, for a selection rate of 6.97 percent, according to the Air Force Personnel Center. That’s down from 7.62 percent in February 2020.

On average, airmen tapped for senior master sergeant this month have spent more than four years in that grade, and over 18 years in the Air Force.

Last year’s E-8 promotion list saw the lowest rate since 2014, when the U.S. military was drawing down in Afghanistan. The percentage selected this year is also much lower than the recent peak of 12.3 percent in 2016.

While the promotion rate is dropping, the number of airmen seeking a step up continues to grow. About 15,500 airmen were eligible to become an E-8 in 2020, up from around 11,800 in 2017.

Read the list of selectees here.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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