ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army has a shortage of active-duty sergeants and a plan to fix the problem.

On Thursday, 19,000 qualified corporals and specialists will automatically be placed on the promotion list for sergeant, instead of having to wait for a commander to recommend them for advancement to that rank.

Army leaders decided to change the way soldiers reach the noncommissioned officer ranks because of a chronic shortage, according to according to retired Sgt. Maj. Gerald Purcell, the Army’s personnel policy integrator for enlisted professional development.

The Army currently needs about 1,500 more sergeants from 31 specialties [see list].

Purcell said the reasons for the sergeant shortage include an “insatiable appetite” for E-5s due to the ongoing active-duty end- strength increase of 30,000 soldiers.

At the same time, “the number of eligible specialists who are on a promotion list have dwindled to the point where we can’t fill all the sergeant requirements,” Purcell said Tuesday.

Advancement through the pay grades E-1 (private) through E-4 (corporal or specialist) is automatic, based on time in service and time in grade.

The Army also has a minimum requirement for promotion to E-5, or sergeant, and entry into the ranks of noncommissioned officers or NCOs, who have leadership roles.

That minimum is 48 months in service and 12 months in grade, and an absence of negatives in their personnel record.

But until now, soldiers who hoped to move to the E-5 level also required a commander’s recommendation to go before a promotions board of senior NCOs.

If the board approves the recommendation, soldiers are awarded points for a variety of skills and achievements. The minimum number of points a soldier needs to qualify for promotion to E-5 is 350, while the maximum score is 800.

The higher the total score, the more likely an E-4 is to get one of the sergeant slots, whose number varies each month and by Military Occupational Specialty.

But commanders are recommending only 10 percent of all eligible soldiers, Purcell said.

The problem, he said, is that many unit commanders believe that soldiers should meet higher standards than the Army’s minimum before they are ready to assume leadership duties.

“The notion that you have to be fully ready to be a sergeant is a bad notion,” Purcell said. “I’ll tell you, if that were true, I’d never have been promoted.”

The new policy, which begins Thursday, “is really is a forcing mechanism to get soldiers in a promotable status to satisfy requirements, but it keeps the chain of command fully involved in that entire process,” Purcell said.

From now on, soldiers will automatically be placed on the E-5 promotion list, with a score of 350 points, as long as they meet the minimum requirements.

That means 19,000 active-duty soldiers who otherwise would not have been eligible for sergeant’s stripes will go on the March list, Purcell said.

But that does not mean those 19,000 troops will get promoted.

Unit commanders will get a copy of the new list, and will have 15 days to strike any of their soldiers they believe should not be promoted, Purcell said.

Even if they stay on the list, those soldiers who made it automatically are limited to 350 points, which in most MOSs is nowhere near enough to be competitive, Purcell said.

But for MOSs with severe shortages, soldiers with 350 points could be promoted.

Who’s eligible:

These are the first Military Occupation Specialties (MOSs) affected by the Army’s change in promotion policy. The list is subject to change on a monthly basis (see below).

13F Fire support specialist13W Field artillery meteorological crewmember15Y AH-64D armament/ electrical/avionic systems repairer (Aviation)19D Cavalry scout21C Bridge crewmember21D Diver21F Crane operator21R Interior electrician21U Topographic analyst21W Carpentry and masonry specialist25B Information systems operator-analyst Military Police:31E Internment/resettlement specialist37F Psychological operations specialist46Q Public affairs specialist45G Fire control repairer63A M1 Abrams tank system maintainer63M Bradley fighting vehicle system maintainer74D Chemical operations specialist88K Watercraft operator88M Motor transport operator88N Transportation management coordinator89D Explosive ordnance disposal specialist92L Petroleum laboratory specialist92W Water treatment specialist96B Intelligence analyst96D Imagery analyst96U Unmanned aerial vehicle operator97E Human intelligence collector98H Communications Interceptor/Locator98K Signal collection/identification specialistThe most current list, as well as a list of current promotion cut-off scores by military occupational specialty, is available here.

Source: U.S. Army Human Resources Command

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