Read the full military personnel message about the program here.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Junior enlisted soldiers who perform well under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan may now qualify for a battlefield promotion to the rank of sergeant or staff sergeant.

The battlefield promotions are a one-year pilot program introduced by the Army without fanfare in a military personnel message dated April 1. It’s set to expire April 9, 2009.

Active Army, Reserve and National Guard soldiers are eligible for the promotions, which will be granted “based on extraordinary performance of duties while serving in combat or under combat conditions,” the message said.

Only soldiers who are assigned or attached to a unit participating in Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom and working “within the geographic boundary of Iraq or Afghanistan” qualify for the program.

The battlefield promotion waives some of the major hurdles soldiers face in making sergeant, the first Army rank where promotion is not automatic; and staff sergeant, the first time most soldiers are required to face a promotion board.

Specialists and corporals recommended for a battlefield promotion won’t have to meet either the time-in-service or the time-in-grade requirements for promotion to sergeant, and staff sergeant.

And sergeants who are recommended for promotion to staff sergeant will not have to face a promotion board or have met the minimum military education requirement.

That means the E-5s won’t have to be graduates of the Army’s Warrior Leader’s Course, or WLC, which is normally required before sergeants are eligible for promotion to staff sergeants.

However, if a freshly minted E-6 promoted on the battlefield made rank without attending WLC, the soldier will still have to graduate from the course within 270 days of redeployment.

If not, the staff sergeant will lose the stripe earned in battle, and get an administrative (not punitive) reduction back to sergeant.

Soldiers who earn battlefield promotions are also exempt from the Army’s service-remaining rules, which require them to remain in the service for a minimum of six additional months from the effective date of promotion after making sergeant, and 12 months after making staff sergeant.

According to the rules of the pilot program, soldiers are eligible for only one battlefield promotion — which means that a soldier who is elevated to the rank of sergeant on the battlefield will have to make staff sergeant the usual way.

Commanders are not supposed to offer soldiers battlefield promotions instead of personal commendations or awards, the message said.

Nor is the program intended as a way to recognize the bravery of a soldier killed in battle: A soldier must have had a battlefield promotion approved before death in order to qualify for a posthumous advance in rank.

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