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ARLINGTON, Va. — A new Army policy that halts all conditional enlisted promotions after Jan. 1 will help ease an enormous backlog of soldiers waiting to attend the requisite school for the higher rank, the Army’s top enlisted soldier for personnel issues said.

“The numbers of soldiers [waiting for NCO schools] kept increasing, and we didn’t have the capacity to train them” as long as conditional promotions existed, Sgt. Maj. Julian Edmondson, the personnel policy integrator at the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, said in a Thursday telephone interview.

A “conditional promotion” almost always happen on deployments, when a soldier is needed to fill a higher position and otherwise qualifies for the job. The soldier sews the higher rank on and receives the pay increase.

Until now, Army rules allowed conditionally promoted soldiers a certain amount of time to attend the school or lose the rank.

Thanks to high deployment tempos, however, there is now a backlog of more than 36,600 conditionally promoted soldiers waiting to attend various NCO courses, Edmondson said.

So even as Army officials scramble to develop a “priority list” of soldiers to attend NCO schools, they decided to break the backlog by adopting a new policy: as of Jan. 1, no more conditional promotions.

The thousands of conditionally promoted soldiers will be allowed to keep their current ranks, Edmondson said.

The same policy also has a special provision that will make it easier for specialists and corporals to jump into noncommissioned officer status, even without conditional promotions.

Army policy had stated that specialists and corporals could conditionally be promoted to sergeant — but if they did not graduate from Primary Leadership Development Course within one year of sewing on the stripe, they could not keep the rank, Edmondson said.

As of Jan. 1, however, specialists and corporals who otherwise score enough points on their promotion boards can make it to sergeant, and keep the rank indefinitely, without attending the course.

However, any sergeants who want to advance to the next rank, staff sergeant, will have to graduate from the course, Edmondson said.

“Before, we would promote you to [sergeant] conditionally, upon your going to school,” Edmondson said. “Now, we’re saying that you need school to make the next grade.”

The Army adopted conditional promotions as a “temporary” policy in 1992, when cuts in the service’s training budget prevented many soldiers from attending their next NCO school on time, Edmondson said.

Before the policy could be rescinded, however, the Army became involved in a near-constant series of deployments that began in the mid-1990s with Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti, and continues today with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Conditional promotions “accelerated pretty quickly when deployment tempos increased,” Edmondson said.

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