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The forgotten eligibility requirement

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jayson Watson
  • 82nd Aerial Port Squadron
As a new Airman in 1989, most of my career focus was on my next stripe and what was required to become eligible for promotion.

Given the first three stripes were dispensed on a time schedule, my preparations were sadly, little more than showing up on a daily basis and waiting for the magic day of promotion.

Eight stripes and 25 years later, my view of promotion preparedness has changed. Unfortunately, many Airmen and NCOs still hold true to the concept that checking boxes means promotion preparedness.

In reality, the exact opposite is true. The checking boxes promotion mentality leads to an inflation of promotes and ill-prepared NCOs. These NCOs are easy to identify and we have all worked with them. When you wonder, "How did that guy become a technical sergeant?" you have identified someone who checks boxes. Whether you are a fast burner or currently stalled in progression, let's look at what it should mean to promote.

Air Force Instruction 36-2502 details the minimum requirements for promotion. Most everyone knows the time-in-grade, time-in-service and professional military education requirements. However, few pay attention to the final column, "recommendation."

What does this mean and why would the AFI require such a nebulous step? How do you get this recommendation? What can you do to ensure you are truly ready for the recommendation? The answer is simple: Perform at the rank to which you look to promote. This means, you are already doing what would be expected of the next rank.

Senior airmen are leading teams and making sure upgrade training is properly performed and documented for junior Airmen. NCOs are taking on duties at the unit or group with a wider level of impact and at the same time properly ensuring the care of their Airmen. Senior NCOs are participating at the wing level while ensuring their home unit needs are met. These members are working, often late into the night, to fix problems before they impact the mission.

Several months ago, Col. Matthew Burger, 349th Air Mobility Wing commander, launched an initiative he calls "The Crucible." What is a crucible? According to the third definition by Merriam-Webster, a crucible is a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.

Apply that definition to your situation and ask why you are not being promoted. Perhaps developing your skill set requires more time and experience. This dwell time may just be your personal crucible. You can grow and emerge, better equipped to handle the tasks and responsibilities placed before you or you can wallow in self-pity and become less effective in your current position. Consequently, you distance yourself from that much desired promotion recommendation.

Developing leadership skills takes time. It requires us to be deliberate about whom we choose to be our mentor. If your current position doesn't afford you the opportunity to have a wide scope of influence, there are plenty of professional organizations who would be happy to have you step up into a leadership role. There's plenty of room for high performers to co-exist in today's force and contribute to the overall mission.

Remember, in today's Air Force we require the best from our members. In order for our members to deliver the best, they must be properly prepared for every assigned task. The box-checking approach to promotions will only get you to the minimum and does not indicate promotion readiness. Learn to enjoy your crucible, seek mentoring and have fun.