Support our mission

Petty Officer 1st Class Jesus Manabat doesn’t mind taking a written test to seek promotion to the paygrade of E-7 — even if candidates in the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps don’t have to.

Tests help weed out those not ready for advancement, said Manabat, who on Thursday was one of about 37,000 eligible sailors worldwide who took the required advancement exam toward the Navy’s coveted rank of chief petty officer.

“You have to take the test so they can measure you,” said the 38-year-old sailor, a nearly 16-year veteran. Sailors at the junior enlisted levels must take and pass written exams, but do not face a promotion board until they vie for E-7.

“If you pass the test, that determines if you make it to board,” which is a panel of master chiefs who determine the sailors who get promotional nods and those who don’t.

Sailors will learn in April if they will be promoted to the senior NCO ranks.

Progressing through the other services’ enlisted ranks does not require written tests of skill, but being promoted to upper enlisted ranks can be trying all the same.

In the Army, for example, getting to the rank of specialist, equivalent to a Navy 3rd class petty officer, happens automatically — with the commander’s approval.

Senior enlisted personnel make up promotion boards, and competing soldiers answer questions on everything from basic soldier skills and knowledge to military regulations, field manuals and history, and current events.

Soldiers also are judged on appearance and ability to follow commands. They receive promotion points for physical fitness, weapons qualification, duty performance, awards, and military and civilian education.

The process is similar to that in the Marine Corps, though promotions to E-7, or gunnery sergeant, are determined by a panel of 21 officers and senior enlisted members, said Staff Sgt. Fred Zimmerman, a candidate for promotion. Of those members, 20 are voting members with one serving as the board leader.

The selection process takes several weeks as board members scan through and score candidates’ packages, which include a rundown of career performances, awards, extra duties and physical training test results.

Generally, the highest scorers are promoted into the available jobs, or billets. Last year, the board considered 6,714 staff sergeants eligible for 1,611 slots.

“They consider everything, from rifle and pistol range proficiency to martial arts belt qualification,” Zimmerman said.

As in the Army, Air Force unit commanders are the promotion authority for junior enlisted promotions. Unlike the Army, Air Force E-5, E-6, and E-7 promotions do not involve a promotion board.

The service promotes using the Weighted Airman Promotion System, or WAPS, a complex system that does not rely on promotion percentages or how many vacancies exist in a particular job field.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up