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RAF MILDENHALL, England — Noncommissioned officers who volunteer for new career fields or are told by the Air Force to find a new one will not be hurt by the switch when it comes to promotions, said the chief of the enlisted promotions branch at the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Billingsley said the Air Force will not punish senior or midlevel NCOs who switch when it comes to promotions.

The Air Force is asking 1,100 NCOs to move from about 35 career fields with a surplus to others where people are needed. They have until Feb. 23 to step forward or the Air Force will make the move for them.

In an article in Stars and Stripes about the effort, a master sergeant with 17 years of Air Force duty, all of it in the traffic management field, expressed concern that a change would hurt him at promotion time when he competed against people who had years of experience in whatever his new career would be.

Billingsley said there is no need to worry.

“Senior NCOs — master sergeants and senior master sergeants — compete based on a whole-person concept,” Billingsley said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon.

The promotion board will look at 10 years’ worth of records when considering the promotions.

“What they’re looking for is leadership potential,” said Billingsley.

“They don’t become fixated on whether anyone has 10 years of experience in security forces or 10 years of experience in manpower. The retraining is sort of a nonfactor.”

That’s true, too, for staff sergeants and technical sergeants who might be affected by the need to shift people from job specialties. Billingsley said the Air Force allows them time to become proficient in their new field before testing them on it for promotions.

“We have allowed these individuals to be exempt from testing on the technical part of their [new] careers for two years,” Billingsley said.

That allows them time to become proficient at the task before it becomes a factor in their promotion.

“That puts them back on equal footing,” he said. “That balances the playing field.”

Billingsley said he had no empirical data to back it up, but he said the evidence is that the sergeants accept this.

“The way NCOs speak is with their feet,” he said, meaning they leave the service when they don’t like their treatment. These people tend to stay with the Air Force for full careers despite the job change, he said, which is what the Air Force wants.

“They’re changing seats at the table,” Billingsley said, “but they’re still part of the family.”

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