Enlisted airmen will navigate several changes to their career development and promotion processes in 2022 that aim to reward experience and critical thinking.

The updates could also offer more flexibility for people who want to gain certain job skills or live in certain areas.

Perhaps the most prominent updates are in the enlisted promotion system. In the new year, airmen seeking promotion to staff sergeant or technical sergeant will face 20 written scenarios that test their judgment as part of the Weighted Airman Promotion System exam.

They also have an official slate of leadership qualities, like inclusion and accountability, that supervisors can use to offer constructive criticism on personal and professional growth. Those traits will become part of new evaluations for both officers and enlisted that is scheduled to debut later in the year.

When filling out enlisted performance reports, airmen will pivot to full sentences and paragraphs that explain their accomplishments instead of shrinking them into bullet points. Service leaders hope it will save people time and be easier to understand than bullet lists are now.

USAF wants to rectify promotion scoring quirks that mean less-qualified airmen can rise through the ranks faster than others.

“Airmen with the same level of performance in a current year, and with more experience, ended up with less overall points,” the service said in October. “The new score removes this outcome and allows sustained performance and experience to be valued.”

Expect to learn more about a plan to revamp enlisted force development in 2022. The Air Force had hoped to roll that out in fall 2021.

PME changes will dovetail with other initiatives, like a blueprint app that lets airmen better manage their career progression, and building a more transparent job assignment system through Talent Marketplace or another IT platform.

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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