This change greatly altered how all units in the AR conduct junior enlisted promotions. Moreover, this change has produced a tremendous amount of concerned angst among an entire generation of Soldiers who entered the AR after Sept. 21, 2003 and have grown accustomed to seemingly rapid advancement to the ranks of Pvt. 2 and Staff Sgt. Applicable to all Soldiers eligible for a junior enlisted promotion, this reaction is deservedly most strong among our E4/Cpl. personnel who have completed the Drill Sergeant Candidate program and graduated from the Drill Sergeant School, only to find themselves unable to get promoted to the rank of Sgt.
Staff Sgt. Nicoli Gardner, 108th Training Command (IET) successfully graduated from the Drill Sergeant School (DSS) on Feb. 27, 2010. In a lengthy interview, Gardner said, “My entire class consisted of very motivated Drill Sergeant Candidates (DSC). There were 16 DSC’s in particular who had to be more motivated than the others, and they were all corporals. They had to continue through the course knowing there was a chance they might not be able to wear Drill Sergeant Hat and badge. All 16 corporals not only graduated, but one of them was the class honor graduate. It is an injustice that these well-deserving Soldiers graduated from DSS, but cannot wear the Drill Sergeant Hat and Badge because they can’t get promoted to sergeant. Since I work in the 108th Training Command G-1 section, many of these Soldiers came to me for more information concerning promotions. Time and again, I had to tell them it was not looking good. Almost two months later, we are finally hearing about good things to come in regards to the promotions of these Soldiers. Once again, these promotions are well-deserved and I am proud to call all of them Drill Sergeant.”
While Soldiers who entered the AR after Sept. 21, 2003 did have to prepare junior promotion packets mirroring the packets prepared by their senior enlisted peers, they did not undergo lengthy delays in promotion as well as possible transfers to other units based on promotion parameters established by cumulative vacancy reports and the existence of valid position vacancies. Promotion to the ranks of Sgt. – Staff Sgt. quickly followed recommendation, especially as division-level units with general officer commanders could publish promotion orders. Junior enlisted Soldiers undergoing promotion to the ranks of Sgt. – Staff Sgt. are now experiencing such delays for the first time in seven years.
Concern over junior enlisted promotions is shared by the 108th Training Command’s commissioned, warrant, and senior non-commissioned officer leadership. Leaders at all levels of the 108th Training Command are as concerned about our ability to conduct junior enlisted promotions as Soldiers impacted by the ETP’s expiration. Soldier care is an integral responsibility of leaders, and the command’s entire leadership is aggressively coming to grips with the new junior enlisted promotions policy so assigned junior enlisted Soldiers can get promoted.
Since the AR is now over strength, the United State Army Reserve Command’s (USARC) primary personnel goal is to re-shape the force. USARC first wants to get the number of Soldiers assigned to the AR to 100%, or just below. After that, USARC wants to shape the number of assigned AR Soldiers first into the right mix of grades and then into the right mix of mission occupational specialties (MOS). To re-shape the force, USARC will adjust the influx of Soldiers caused by retention or recruiting personnel, the processing of voluntary separation or transfer actions, and the processing of involuntary separation or transfer actions.
USARC’s junior enlisted promotions policy, first articulated verbally on Oct. 01, 2009, then supplemented by draft guidance during the 1st Quarter of Fiscal Year 10, and finally published officially on Dec. 07, 2009, supports the overarching goal to re-shape the force. By making junior enlisted promotions like senior enlisted promotions, USARC can adjust its overall personnel end strength while getting its enlisted grades shaped into the right mix of ranks. Regional Support Commands (RSC) are the lowest level in the chain of command that may now generate junior enlisted promotion orders, just like senior enlisted promotions.
The promotion of Soldiers to the ranks of Sgt. – Staff Sgt. now involves three interconnected processes with regard to vacancies. These processes include the Board Process, the Slotting Process, and the Vacancy Process. While AR units have great latitude in performing the Board Process, the Vacancy Process drives the Slotting Process; vacancies thus are the primary regulating mechanism at work in regards to junior enlisted promotions.
In the Board Process, commanders of any unit authorized a commanding officer in the grade of Lt. Col. or higher may convene junior enlisted promotion boards (JEPB) for promoting Soldiers to the ranks of Sgt. – Staff Sgt. These commanders, moreover, may consider in their JEPB’s eligible Soldiers that are attached or assigned to their command. JEPB’s must occur at least quarterly at battalion or brigade level, unless there are no eligible Soldiers to consider. Soldiers can be boarded even if there are no vacancies to promote Soldiers into. Each board requires one voting president, two other voting members, and one non-voting recorder as a minimum. The board president (a Command Sgt. Maj.) will prepare and sign a Promotion Board Proceedings (PBP) memorandum, then forward it to the convening authority (the commander of a unit authorized a commanding officer in the grade of Lt. Col. or higher) along with a DA Form 3355 and a USARC enlisted promotion packet checklist on each Soldier recommended for promotion. The convening authority will approve or disapprove the PBP via another memorandum of endorsement. The officer that signs the approval memo must also sign the DA Form 3355’s.
HHC, 108th Training Command completely overhauled its junior enlisted promotions program, like all units have had to do. Staff Sgt. Vickie Williams, who oversees HHC’s junior promotions activities, said in an interview, “On behalf of the commander, HHC is conforming to the new regulation. We are holding quarterly boards and have incorporated the USARC checklist into the JEPB packet to follow all the appropriate guidelines.”
Units will forward the approved PBP’s (APBP), DA Form 3355’s, and USARC enlisted promotions packet checklists for each Soldier recommended for a junior enlisted promotion to the 108th Training Command G-1 Enlisted Management Branch. After review, the 108th Training Command G-1 Enlisted Management Branch will retransmit the documents to an appropriate RSC for addition onto an RSC-level permanent promotion recommended list (PPRL). RSC’s in turn have up to 90 days from receipt of promotion documents to add Soldiers onto their PPRL’s. Home location for a Soldier recommended for a junior enlisted promotion determines the servicing RSC. See page 2 of USARC Pamphlet 600-5 (dated 01 FEB 10) for a state-by-state breakdown of each RSC’s area of responsibility (AOR). Soldiers placed onto an RSC-level PPRL may remain on the PPRL for up to two years before removal by the RSC.
This process takes much longer to result in promotion. Command Sgt. Maj. James Franks, 2nd Brigade, 98th Division, has had many conversations with his Soldiers about the new junior enlisted promotions policy.
“From talking with the Soldiers that were recruited to become Drill Sergeants, these Soldiers believe that the new system is unfair to them. Yes, I can attend DSS, but I cannot be promoted, nor be considered a qualified Drill Sergeant, nor receive Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP), nor receive a bonus until I have been promoted, and even worse, my two years I have to give the unit as a Drill Sergeant does not start until I get promoted. Other Soldiers in the unit feel that the new promotion system is not fair because it focuses on the Soldier’s MOS, regardless of the fact they are a qualified Drill Sergeant in an 00G position. The new promotion system also keeps a soldiers career on hold, not knowing when or if they get promoted,” said Franks.
The Vacancy Process is the primary regulating mechanism at work in regards to junior enlisted promotions. It begins with cumulative vacancy reporting, which is performed on the enlisted ranks of Sgt.- Sgt. Maj. The authorized strength for 108th Training Command units in the enlisted ranks of Sgt. – Staff Sgt. is 110%; it is 100% for the enlisted ranks of Sgt. 1st Class – Sgt. Maj. A cumulative vacancy report is prepared for each “AA” unit, which must include any associated derivative units. If a unit’s cumulative vacancy report results in a positive number, then that “AA” unit must report a number of vacant positions equal in number to the cumulative vacancy report. RSC’s furthermore may promote a number of Soldiers in this “AA” unit equal to the value of the positive cumulative vacancy report.
Units with a cumulative vacancy number of zero, or a negative number, cannot report any vacancies. RSC’s cannot promote any Soldiers against any positions from such units. RSC’s, additionally, can only promote Soldiers from such units by transferring them to another unit, either within or outside of the 108th Training Command per the stated mileage and other preferences indicated on USARC’s enlisted promotion checklist.
Vacant position reporting follows cumulative vacancy reporting. Units may report valid vacant positions from three grades each month. Monthly reported vacant positions include the following two grades each month: E5-E6. In addition, units have the opportunity to report one senior grade each month. Units get to report vacant E9 positions during the first month of each quarter (October, January, April, & July, vacant E8 positions during the second month of each quarter (November, February, May, & August), and vacant E7 positions during the third month of each quarter (December, March, June, & September).
Units will forward cumulative vacancy reports plus any resulting valid vacant position reports to the 108th Training Command G-1 Enlisted Management Branch on the 5th of each month, which will then retransmit the documents to the appropriate Regional Support Command (RSC) for consolidation on the 10th of each month. Unit location determines the servicing RSC in the case of cumulative vacancy reports and valid vacant position announcements. See page 2 of USARC Pamphlet 600-5 (dated 01 FEB 10) for a state-by-state breakdown of each RSC’s area of responsibility. Cumulative vacancy reports and vacant position announcements remains valid for a month in the case of junior enlisted promotions; for senior enlisted promotions, they remain valid for a quarter.
“I work in the G-1 enlisted management branch and handle Cumulative Vacancies for the entire command. Considering this is a new process, there have been quite a few obstacles to overcome, but we’re pushing forward on the right track. I would ask that everyone remember the timeline for Cumulative Vacancy submissions as this currently seems to be our biggest hurdle. As we continue to smooth out the kinks, these reports should become an easier and more efficient means of tracking the strength of our command and assisting with our promotions process. I appreciate everyone’s hard work and patience in completing these reports, and I look forward to continued progress in the months to follow,” said Mrs. Courtney Frieberg, 108th Training Command G-1.
Proper cumulative vacancy and vacant position reporting is essential to getting our junior and senior enlisted personnel efficiently promoted. A failure to properly report cumulative vacancies along with any resulting vacant positions may delay promotions by a month in the case of junior enlisted promotions, and by a quarter in the case of senior enlisted promotions. The 108th Training Command can only perform junior enlisted promotions expeditiously if it gets accurate as well as timely cumulative vacancy and vacant position reports.
During the Slotting Process, each RSC will promote Soldiers from its PPRL per the parameters established by cumulative vacancy reports against reported vacant positions based on order of merit (mileage and other preferences from the USARC promotion packet checklist is taken into consideration). RSC’s first try to promote junior enlisted Soldiers against positions from their unit of origin, but only if cumulative vacancies permit and a valid vacant position exists. If not, then RSC’s then try to promote junior enlisted personnel into sister units, or units entirely outside of the 108th Training Command, based on the mileage and other preferences indicated in the USARC enlisted promotions checklist again if permitted by cumulative vacancies as well as the existence of valid vacant positions.
Each RSC maintains a junior promotion (E4-E5) PPRL for its AOR. This PPRL, by the way, is eligible for public distribution. During junior enlisted promotions slotting, the RSC will take E4-E5 Soldiers from its PPRL and prepare a slotting report during the 17th to the 22nd of each month promoting these Soldiers against valid vacant E5-E6 positions as permitted by cumulative vacancy reports. RSC’s per USARC policy should coordinate slotting with operational and functional commands during the 17th to the 22nd of the month. The RSC’s will then process promotion orders, and if necessary, reassignment orders, by the 27th of the month. Promotions are effective the 1st day of the following month, and if necessary, reassignment orders are effective the 1st day of the month after that.
“I’m the subject matter expert for junior enlisted promotions. An over strength among Non-Commissioned Officers in a pay grade will affect the possibility for all NCO’s to get promoted. This has sparked a lot of questions and concerns in the field. The increase of strength [to over strength levels] has stunted promotions [within the command]. The Army Reserve has incorporated measures to downsize in order to make rooms for our future leaders. Please be patient during this transformation,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sebrenna Parks, 108th Training Command (IET), G-1.
As a footnote, each RSC maintains a senior promotion (E6-E7-E8) PPRL for its AOR that is not eligible for public distribution. Only the senior enlisted selection list can be publicly distributed. During senior enlisted promotions slotting, the RSC will slot only one senior enlisted grade per month. Vacant E9 positions get slotted during the first month of each quarter (October, January, April, & July, vacant E8 positions get slotted during the second month of each quarter (November, February, May, & August), and vacant E7 positions get slotted during the third month of each quarter (December, March, June, & September). Depending on the month, the RSC will take E6 or E7 or E8 Soldiers from its PPRL and prepare a slotting report during the 17th to the 22nd of each month promoting these Soldiers against valid vacant E7 or E8 (MSG) or E9 (SGM) positions as permitted by cumulative vacancy reports. RSC’s, per USARC policy, should coordinate slotting with operational and functional commands during the 17th to the 22nd of the month. The RSC’s will then process promotion orders, and if necessary, reassignment orders, by the 27th of the month. Promotions are effective the 1st day of the following month, and if necessary, reassignment orders are effective the 1st day of the month after that.
Master Sgt. James Hester, a recent graduate of the non-resident Sergeant Major’s Course, is the 108th Training Command G-1 enlisted branch’s point of contact for senior enlisted promotions. “I highly encourage all Soldiers looking for that next senior promotion to utilize the AR G-1 website. This website can be accessed via the link https://army.mil/akog1/personnelmgt/personnelmgt.htm and has a wealth of information and will normally answer any questions you many have in reference to senior enlisted promotions,” said Hester.
RSC’s attempt to minimize the number of Soldiers declining a junior enlisted promotion during the Slotting Process. However, promotions as well as transfers may still occur for Soldiers not wanting them. Soldiers slotted for an unwanted promotion may elect to decline within 90 days of the effective date of orders.
Soldiers who decline a promotion for which they are qualified also meeting their stated preferences as set forth in their USARC enlisted promotion checklist will undergo removal from the PPRL by the responsible RSC. On the other hand, Soldiers who decline a promotion for which they are not qualified, or that did not meet their stated preferences as set forth in their USARC enlisted promotion checklist, may remain on an RSC-level PPRL.
If a Soldier assigned to a drill sergeant (DS) position completes the required training and is qualified for duty in the position, he or she may be promoted off the PPRL to the ranks of Sgt. – Staff Sgt. without regard to PPRL standing against DS positions only. However, the Soldier will not be promoted off the list ahead of another qualified drill sergeant on the list who is within a reasonable distance of the position, is available for assignment or assigned, and possesses the required duty MOS plus skill qualification identifier (SQI). A qualified DS can decline the promotion and remain on the PPRL without until a DS vacancy becomes available.
Finally, Troop Program Unit (TPU) Soldiers including Military Technicians (MILTECH) who do not decline promotion and also do not report to the gaining unit within 90 days of the effective date of promotion will have their promotion orders revoked.
Proper cumulative vacancy and vacant position reporting also demands that the all units aligned under the 108th Training Command reduce assigned strength to 100% or less. On March 16, 2010, the overall personnel strengths for the 108th Training Command were as follows: 111% for commissioned officers, 50% for warrant officers, and 125% for all enlisted personnel. Under-strength fill exists in only two enlisted ranks, with Sgt. 1st Class’s at 78% and Staff Sgt.’s at 74%. Over-strength fill exists in all other enlisted ranks, with Sgt. Maj.’s at 173%, Master Sgt.’s / 1st Sgt.’s at 139%, Sgt.’s at 284%, and E4 or below at 796%.
Mr. D. Peter Stewart, team chief of the enlisted branch from the 108th Training Command G-1 section, has oversight for all enlisted personnel matters. “It is imperative that we get our enlisted personnel strength reduced to 95-100% of authorized fill; only then can we smoothly and efficiently get our Soldiers promoted to junior or senior non-commissioned officer ranks,” said Stewart.
At USARC and at the 108th Training Command, suitable tools exist for leaders at all levels to reduce their over strength ranks to appropriate levels. Many units in the 108th Training Command already have done so, and can continue to get their E4-E8 Soldiers promoted to the ranks of Sgt. – Sgt. Maj. Other units will do so during the next six to twelve months. Once all units get their over strength reduced, and enlisted grade composition back into balance, then leaders at all levels will be able to get their junior enlisted Soldiers properly taken care of via timely, well-deserved promotions. These promotions, finally, will not only take care of Soldiers, but also enhance the ability of the 108th Training Command to accomplish its missions by having the right mix of enlisted ranks.
Ending on a positive note, the 108th Training Command’s G-1 staff continues to work this issue with USARC, TRADOC, and DA. All three of these higher level commands recognize the impact of the new policy on the 108th Training Command’s ability to successfully execute junior enlisted promotions. They also recognize that the command is reducing its over strength while increasing the number of its DSC’s and Drill Sergeants. New information coming from all three of these higher level commands indicates that they may grant the 108th Training Command some form of an exception to policy in certain cases to expedite junior enlisted promotions. As this information gets released, the G-1 staff will relay to the leaders and Soldiers of the 108th Training Command.