Sound Off: Should the Military Change How Troops are Promoted?

Ashton Carter

Ashton Carter

How does the military know when a service member is ready for promotion? For most ranks and rates, a big chunk of the answer is simply time spent serving in the military. Defense Secretary Ash Carter thinks it’s time to change the process. In a recent address, Carter argued that promotions for service members should be based mostly on merit, not time served.

As the generation that joined after 9/11 begins to start civilian careers, Carter stresses the importance of attracting and retaining the next generation of troops. His suggested changes go beyond promoting based on merit: he envisions programs that allow new recruits to join at higher ranks that reflect the training and skills they might bring with them from the civilian world.

Would his suggested changes would have a positive or negative impact on the military? If they ever do go through, they will provide significant changes to the current structure.

Do Carter’s proposed changes to promotion go too far or are they a needed way to modernize? Sound off!

  • Rivrat1970

    This concept isn’t new…at least as far as the Navy is concerned. We had the “Instant Petty Officer” for the CBs for years. A master electrician, a certified civilian expertise etc, provided entry at an accelerated rate/rating.

    Another …not a civilian sourcing tho…was the “Ho Chi Minh” Chief Petty Officer…..combat service in VN was the major determinant.

    Did not sit well with those who did it the “hard” way. Military expertise was missing.

    Over the years though, I was always concerned about the well trained junior sailor being sent to mess cooking or compartment cleaners during a whole deployment and not working in his or her technical field.

    Not sure if that is still the tradition/system.

    • Leon Suchorski

      In the Marines, it is called “NEEDS OF THE CORPS, FIRST”. I operated under that ideal, and had many times been recommended for promotion. But CMC had a freeze on promotions then, and so I was not promoted. This was the primary reason that I did not ship for six, after my four were up. I saw too many Idiots get promoted because of TIG, or something like that. And it wasn’t just me that got that shaft, as I saw many other GOOD MARINES not promoted.

      • M.T. Majors

        The question that comes to mind is how do you measure merit? I have seen to many people proomoted because they played the political card very well. The problem is that in many cases these same people lacked professional experience and technical abilities, not to mention leadership skills.

        The Navy should absolutely adhere to sensible Time In Rate requirements as there no substitute for experience. It is little wonder to me that today’s CPO Mess is so fraught with problems; I have heard of Sailors making Chief at a bit over five years, that is simply ill advised. After all, what does a CPO with so little time in uniform really bring to the table? Just witness the case of the 15 year CMC that was relieved for the kind of behavior one normally associates with a PO3.

  • Dave S.

    Let’s start out by ending affirmative action and quota promotions.

    • Leon Suchorski


    • George Sweeney



    For me the real question is do we want a truly professional army! The present military is a 2 year draft replaced by a 4 to 6 year draft, a true professional army is one here more than 6% of the people who enter stay to retirement. NCO’s run the army and with the up or out policy of the current military only the E-8/9 actually stay beyond 20 years. The British Army has a skill pay system where if you are a tanker and speak Arabic you can get extra money. If you have skills with the computer or can work complex firing problem you can get extra pay. A Sergeant can earn as much as WO (Staff Sergeant). The current retirement system needs to be looked at also.

    • pegleg

      The “Up or Out” system is one of the problems with promotions… I know of heavy equipment operators wanted to work in their field (and on the equipment) and would have to stop being operators if took a timely promotion. I agree…. the British system makes a hell of a lot more sense. Longevity, skills and proficiency are far more important than someone being forced out.

  • Jeffm

    This is very similar to how the US Navy handled the “Specialist” ratings. When the Specialist W rating, that became the Religious Program Specialist (RP) rating, was started a person’s pay grade was decided by their skills upon entry to the service. If you had X skill set you were anywhere from a 3rd class to a Chief. Obviously that ended when the ratings were changed from Specialists to regular.
    I think the new enlistees would like it, but the current service-members & Veterans probably wouldn’t support it.

    • Leon Suchorski

      Yes, we vets got screwed so much in the past, and that is why we got out.

  • Ironbutt

    So does that mean that if you can reach the highest level at the vidio game “tour of Duty” You should go to Major General 2 weeks after boot camp….LOL

    • Mike Hansen

      Sarcasm (I hope) not withstanding, no. What is does mean is that, if there a reason why the military needs people who are particularly good at “Tour of Duty”, their pay – not their rank – goes up accordingly. Whether they also advance in rank is a separate issue, based as much as whether the person wants to be promoted as on whether the “system” thinks he/she ought to be promoted.

  • Dave Hudson

    Merit is a good idea. Take the politics out of the system totally and use the merits of the person only. The Navy uses a test worth so many points, awards worth some points, ESWS and EAWS worth more than either or both is worth, college worth so many points and for E-7 though E-9 a selection board. I have long been critical of the selection board process. The entire thing is an adventure in politics. Evaluations also are used and they are a picture of politics. The subjectivity of them is crazy and that needs a hard look. Doing away with the selection board process would greatly benefit many sailors trying to make CPO or above. I do agree that college should be a huge part of the system. Education is a strong asset to being a good leader and that is what being a non com is all about. Take out the politics and go with the things that produce good leaders and not just some thoughts of a board of people playing politics with evaluations that might well be totally political based on one persons opinion.

    • gary s.


    • mike Q

      Amen as well the current is full of shit my opinion…

    • Yes I agree with you the service should have this route as an option to tone down the politicking.

    • ATCS

      Sounds like someone didn’t make Chief and is bitter. There are some politics in the promotion process, but not as much as you make it out to be. Hell, there’s politics in everything you do in and out of the military.

  • Paul Bert Msgt

    we need to eliminate the up or out policy. when I was in both the navy and the air force had fleet wide exams for promotion. to be eligible for the exam you had to demonstrate proficiency in your career field and be recommended for the exam

    • Leon Suchorski

      I remember those Navy tests. A+B=C. A+B=?, A+?=C< ?+B=C> They are so inane, that I saw guys who entered the CORPS with electrical engineering degrees flunking out of school. Those tests are set up for idiots, and not for someone who has brains. I myself was assigned to a new outfit in Nam, on an aircraft that I had never worked on before, with less than 6 months to go on my hitch. Before I left that outfit, I was solving problems on that bird, that none of the other guys could solve, and they were all stateside trained. And you would wonder why I decided not to ship for six?

      • SMH

        No, just wondering why you are hanging out on a military site 40+ years later telling us how good you were compared to the dummies you worked with.

  • DBW86

    Give them extra pay such as; Flight Pay, Sea Duty, etc., etc.. But remember the Army attempted to solve this problem via the old Specialists E4 through E9 and it was a disaster! If this is handled the wrong way it will destroy the NCO and Senior NCO ranks causing great leaders to get out and you’ll be left with a lot of high ranking “specialists” who really don’t know how to do all the things necessary in the field and in combat!

    This has the potential to be another Pandora’s Box opened up by good meaning civilans who have never truly been in the military!

    • Chuck Henley

      Agree with this gentleman’s assessment totally — such a change cannot be charged into without a thorough study by miliary personnel, not some think-tank who never served a day in the military — this should be only attempted by those who are experienced military personnel.

    • GySgt Joe Marty, Ret

      Do away with all the “Special Pay”! I, as a grunt in the USMC, crashed three times in CH-46’s as a “Passenger”. I wasn’t receiving “Flight Pay”, but every Air Wing Marine aboard those birds were!. Why should certain MOS’s receive “Special Duty Pay” for doing their job, when other Marines are working side-by-side with these “Special Duty” Marines and are not receiving the same “Special Duty Pay” Marines?

      • BCUSART

        Agree, Was a SP 5 in the army medical when they started the program of allowing civilian trained Licensed Professional Nurses to come in right off the street as SP 5. Great for them, but it flooded the ranks and made it very difficult to get promoted.

  • 1sg usa ret

    it could make more kissa*** .

  • 11C5P

    Trying to fix something that is not broke. Good ole government at work.

    • Justonemoreopinion

      If that were only true. The system has always been broken to one extent or another. The question is, how does someone fix it? The square filling system created entire generations of careerist officers who knew how to take care of themselves but little of leadership. A merit based system sounds good on paper, but how exactly does one OBJECTIVELY enact such a system? Hard to know what the right answer is.

  • CTOCS77

    I don’t know. How did Ashton Carter get promoted? Maybe we can BS our way to the top.

    • Chuck Henley

      Excellent question — I guess he got the position because he was a really good Democrat, contributed the right amount of money and smooching the right persons — I don’t recall reading anything about his military background — when and where did he serve?

    • Policy Wonk

      It helped me a bit to review his BIO. Just Google, it’s ready available.

      He’s an academic. A physics geek and a straight up civilian policy wonk. His official BIO reads like a glorified FITREP and he refers to himself as DOD’s CEO. OK, a fair comparison, but why would he insist on that in his BIO? He’s the SECDEF, there is no CEO. He’s got no military experience or is too embarrassed to admit it in his BIO.

      He seems to jump back and forth between government and private sector – the old DC turnstile yet says he’s devoted to the men and women of DoD. We are considered lowly and stupid by guys like him, so we are expected to swallow that steaming pile of dung.

      He quit DoD when he wasn’t selected for SECDEF last time, in favor of Chuck Hagel. Did he pout and leave? Perhaps he refused to work for an inferior person? Screw the men and women of DoD I care so deeply about, I’m outta here in the best interest of myself.

      Now he’s back. Revenge of the Nerds. Ashon Carter seems 100% dedicated to nothing else but…… Ashton Carter. Any changes he makes to the force structure should be put in a sandbox for a cooling off period.

  • MIke Hansen

    Back in the late 1970s. the Air Force had a terrible problem retaining pilots. One of the supposed reasons pilots were getting out was because if they stayed in, they had to get promoted, effectively ending their career as a pilot. The counter was a “career pilot” track, wherein the pilot stayed in the cockpit but wound not be promoted above O-3. I never did hear a really convincing reason way this was a bad idea, but it never went anywhere.

    It has always amazed me that the bedrock foundation of the military personnel system, enshrined in various federal statutes, is the Peter Principle. ( but it is.

    I think there should be a way to decouple skill and expertise – and pay grade – from rank. Why do we insist that has continually lose its most able practitioners simply because they must get promoted repeatedly simply to remain in the service?

    The retirement reforms, cutbacks to be perfectly honest, as they would not have seen the light of day if some bean counter hadn’t figured out they would cost less that the status quo, begin to nibble around the edges of a total rethink of how the military manages its people.

    What should be happening is dragging that can of worms to the middle of the floor, dealing with it, and then and only then, dealing with ancillary issues like the retirement system.

    • Onemoreopinion

      “Decoupling skill and expertise-and pay grade-from rank” would do nothing more than create an armed forces loaded with mercenaries, not create a professional military who put service before self. What’s next? Unions?

  • wtpworrier

    This concept is not new to the Army either…remember the old “stripe for skill” program old Soldiers?…same thing.

  • wtpworrier

    From E-1 through to E-4 is pretty much automatic, for E-5 and E-6 you have a formal board. The board is a good system, but the points system is old and outdated. A thousand points for some MOS’s is unreachable no matter how hard you try, even if you maxed out. You have to wait until the points drop, that didn’t happen a whole lot for some MOS’s.

  • ron

    “NO” Merit does not meet the requirement. time served meets and exceeds the requirement. due to the fact that time develops a persons character, their expertise, their knowledge, their ability to command other people with the capability and knowledge of how to maintain, develop, control, a body of men or an organization and the most important factor, To develop a working ,living ,entity that will and can be called a fighting force . other wise you will have people that use the system to advance and become a dictator type individual, are some one that buys a commission and can’t command.

    • Onemoreopinion

      I agree somewhat. Simply being around for a long time doesn’t mean you should be promoted. Having said that, a merit system is problematic. We already have below the zone promotions, and what we end up with are really junior people who lack experience and are full of “new” ideas that were tried and failed years before that the older people have been around to see come and go. This is a hard question and I’m not sure anyone has the answer. Certainly Ash Carter doesn’t.

  • Bob

    The first step is to SLOW promotion to becoming an NCO or PO, to carefully pick career servicemen, as explained here.

    • Leon Suchorski

      This will not work in the Marines. You see, once they enter boot camp, Marines are taught to take over and lead as the situation commands. Back in Vietnam times, I was assigned many tasks, and went in and changed the way they were doing things, and did the job better, and in less time. I was recommended for promotion on several occasions, but it was to no avail. And this is the main reason that I decided not to ship for six after my four were over.

    • wayne

      I agree. Advancement is too fast and based on vacancy (quota base) and not enough on leader ship qualities or experience. Junior Sailors need more “soak time” before advancing.

  • Eric

    The Navy needs to take a hard look at their evaluation system and start evaluating sailors based on their knowledge in their field.

    Since the merger of the dental tech and corpsman rating, I have seen a decline in senior enlisted knowledge base. Once corpsman make PO2 they start getting pushed to learn admin. The issue is, many of them don’t or can’t even perform their core job. On evals it assumed that you know your job, either as a medical coreman or dental tech, and you are largely graded on “collateral” duties. Many of these duties pull young enlisted out of the clinic setting so the learning stops.

    Also, the idea that enlisted should be able to swap back and forth between medical and dental is simply idiotic. If you equate productivity in the Navy with money produced in the civilian sector performing the same job, how on earth can you expect someone who has NEVER worked in dental, be expected to efficiently manage and ensure competency of a dental clinic? If they don’t know the job, you have a hard time making sure those you manage are doing theirs. It’s so ridiculous on a basic level that I can’t believe anyone doesn’t fix it or see the inherent problems.

    Walk into a dental or medical clinic and besides the PO3 and under, look who is actually doing most of the work, i.e. treating patients, assisting docs, working as a technician, etc – sadly most of the skilled workforce are civilian contractors. The simple reason is that our young enlisted don’t know their basic jobs and are more than likely learning to do admin or organizing some function for a collateral duty. All so they can show on paper “how hard you work” when we don’t even know our job. You will never see that on an eval for simple fact that the senior enlisted and Chiefs writing the evals, more than likely don’t KNOW that the person being evaluated doesn’t know their job, because they (the Chiefs) don’t know the job either! If they write the evals honestly and say they can’t perform their job, it makes the Chiefs look bad. So guess what – they lie. Plain and simple. The Chiefs have sold their integrity and honor to keep promoting young enlisted that can’t perform on a basic level. They should be ashamed of what they have let the rate become instead of standing up and saying this needs to be fixed. I understand that we will always need to work with what we are given – but to the point of not being honest with our superiors, I think not.

    Case in point – I have worked in a clinic, dental in this instance, where the LPO was a med tech that had never set foot in a dental clinic?? So tell me, who is going to make sure the new recruits get trained? They have no training standard and have to rely on the most senior enlisted in the clinic – an HM3, and civilians to properly train them.

    • cabgx2

      I retired from the Hospital Corps almost 30 years ago. I think that Dental Techs and Corpsman rates should be broken up again. Dental Techs and Corpsman shared the same building and ships spaces, but they really did not have a lot in common. I hope your career path becomes smoother.

    • Stan & Heather

      Evaluating sailors based on their knowledge in the field based on their rate is not always best for the sailor who is working outside of his rate. Example, my neighbor ABH is assigned to a fuels unit. Because of the previous down sizing there is not ABH billets available. His training now is entirely fuels related, yet his test for promotion is for an ABH, a rate he has not been allowed to keep current with. He handled F16’s, he is tested on F18’s. His collateral duties take up most of his spare time. Should he not be tested on his most current assignment and training?

  • ron

    In Vietnam . there was a program that the army tried it was called shake and bake NCO’s well it got a lot of people killed. due to the fact that after the Korean war the NCO let the officers run the army . the NCO is the back bone of the military. he is suppose to train not only the troops but the officers. and that takes time in the service and time in grade. so instant NCO’s are not the answer. once the officer is trained then he makes a training schedule and gives the NCO the order to carry out the schedule and the NCO sets up the logistics, the time for the training, the personnel to instruct, the troops to be in instructed and then he tells the officer the time and the place is set and the troops are there then the officer oversees the training . And any good NCO will vouch for what I’ve just said. But it has all got to be by the book.

    • Leon Suchorski

      When I was crossing the big muddy to Nam, I sat with a Marine Master Sergeant, as us Marines stick together. Over 95% of the plane was Army LTs, and I could not help but wonder how long it would take for these guys to get killed. They were all treating this as a BIG PARTY, rather than what it was. Top and I both knew that their ncos would have a tough job ahead with these guys. We just hoped that they did not get anyone killed along the way.

      • Robert Carothers

        I was one of the oldest in Nam enlisted in 62, Nam 66 I was good at my job and was was a squad leader with higher ranks under me. Taught a new 2nd Lt how to stay alive sent up 2 ranks and ETSd out as I wouldn’t go home for 30 to come back with another stripe to same outfit. I had figured to make it to 20 but not another year when We lost a good General to a Sorry one that only reason to be there was for a 3rd star!

    • C.V. Compton Sha

      I served as an Infantryman in Vietnam. The “Shake and Bake” NCO’s who I encountered in Vietnam, including my own squad leader (before I became squad leader), were excellent NCO’s. So the difference in opinion on this topic might reflect different personal experiences such that a definitive study on the subject might be more appropriate.

  • conradswims

    You bet! I should have been made Admiral by now!

  • cabgx2

    Leadership will have to make sure they don’t stop quickly.

  • Bill Schrier

    Stay the hell out of the military promotion system. Commander’s should overview, senior enlisted give input. Bottom line,earn it by time on site and doing the job. Yes it’s fair and yes it’s the military way..

    • Joe

      Right on Bill. Ash Carter doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Time served can surely give credence to merit. Practice sure can make perfect.

  • guest

    The problem is that the changes this administration have made in the military have not been for the best or in the best interests of the military.

  • Casey

    Although the Army Promotion Point System works in some aspects, it is dead in another. For a lot of MOS’s stuck at 798, you know what I mean. You gauge every correspondance you can find, attend every school your unit can afford, get a degree, deploy eight times, and you still fall short of the promotion list. Their should be a merit system in place and it should be for each MOS and not a unit board of every Soldier, Airman, Sailor and Marine for themselves.

  • JJMurray

    Skill at a job are important but those do not transfer over to the authority and yes, responsibility, that comes with RANK. Rank is more than just being good at splicing wires or knowing which fuses to change out for an electrician. Rank also involves being able to LEAD your troops and that isn’t something you are picking up in civilian life. Should a person who was captain of their football team come in at a higher rank because they had more time as a leader than others did?
    Extra pay maybe for more skills – at least at the start – might be worth considering, but rank? NO!

  • Retired E-7

    The Army has a program for promotions based mostly on merit, not time served, in the medical field, ( a nurse/doctor with a special skill comes-in the Army at higher rank. A soldier with a degree can enter the Army as an E-4/specialist. There are some MOS that need/require a skill set and if civilian meets that skill set than they should enter the Army at a higher Rank, but MOS(s) like infanty, Armor skill set can only be learn over time and promtions should be set by time.

  • JWoodruff

    I am a retired Army 1SG. Merit promotions can be a good thing, but I have seen instances when a soldier can know FM’s inside and out, can have good bearing, can be a model soldier (enlisted, NCO of he year), and you put him in the field and he is completely lost. Can’t lead soldiers, gets lost, hardly makes the right decision. EER’s and OER’s to some extent are fudged for these soldiers. I think their is a point where soldier need that time in grade, time in service to learn from mentor soldiers. I have 2 son’s in the Army at this time and both are good soldiers and I would like to see them get promoted ahead of their peers, but they still need mentoring from good NCO’s and Officer’s. (One is E4 and one is 2LT)

  • Retire O-4 NFO

    Time in grade for promotion, but extra pay for proven skills. Leadership and “just how the military” works takes time. Have to agree that sticking everyone in the laundry room/mess deck is not smart, but they are needed, just not for entire deployments.

    For myself I think retirement should be at 30 years with combat time/deployments used to reduce that to no less than 20 years. For example – 30 years minus 1 year for a combat tour plus another 6 years for 6 deployments equals 23 years for retirement.

  • Anthony

    If you want to be promoted in the Army just don’t let anyone know your from the south. Loose your southern accent

  • Anthony

    Just to add you also need to keep your religious beliefs and points of view to yourself

  • rickb54

    The promotion system is and has been corrupted for years. In my day, people were being promoted to E7 and E8 based on who they knew on the DA Promotion board. Many fat guys got promoted because records were falsified. The worst part was promotion based on race, saw it all the time. For the last 15 years, females have been promoted because of sex…. its been called equal opportunity, but it is nothing more than reverse discrimation.

    • James L

      Been there and seen a bunch of the same crap. Chiefs in the NAVY are still the same. Who you know counts more than what you know.



    • James L

      It’s not that simple if it was on one’s skills I should have been an admiral. I could run circles around 95% of those in my rate (mos for non navy types). Yet I didn’t get promoted. I had the evaluations, college degree, warfare designator, and time in rate. But was passed over for those who had less qualifications. You want to institute change. Start by doing away from the chief’s and officer’s promotion boards. Make it transparent…

  • titi

    Promotion by merit will no doubt be a welcome development in our present day military. If impliment, It will however attract experts, scientists and lots of college degree holders going through the enlisted route without fear or dissatisfaction of getting stuck in a lower rank E1 to E4 or even over staying his time under the control of a high school E6 to E8 without a college education.

  • babb

    You need both. A ship’s captain needs the experience of being a division officer and a department head before they take over full command of a ship. This takes time. Conversely the selection process gives each officer only one real chance for promotion to the next grade. This is arbitrary because some year groups are overpopulated to the point that large numbers of otherwise good officers are passed over and mustered out/retired. In other years, anyone with a pulse is promoted due to lack of numbers. There will never be justice. The question is what criteria do you use to replace time in grade? It is all subjective. In the old days of wooden ships and iron men, there were tests and indpendent studies to complete to be eligible. As luck would have it, only those who cloistered themselves had the time to complete the requisite courses. Worse, still, no one has come up with an adequate definition of ‘leader’ that allows any sort of consistency in determining who is the next admiral/general/Chief.

  • James L

    This is such a sore subject to address. As a retired vet, you cannot replace time in grade experience. You just can’t. I had a Chief Petty Officer try to convince me that an electrician doing clerical work deserved a 4.0 in rating knowledge verses something lower as the member was not working is his rate. Under the system (then) having 4.0 evaluations went a long way in getting you promoted your first time eligible. So this young man did get promoted but in all reality he wasn’t ready because as an electrician he couldn’t wire his way out of a wet paper bag. Just think it’s a really bad idea.

  • Guest

    I remember when I went before the E-6 board when I was in the Army, my squad leader at the time had a few years on me and Viet Nam service behind him. He languished for years on the list until he finally got promoted due to the numbers game with our MOS. I always felt that it was grossly unfair that someone like me, who did not have near the service record that he possessed, had it easier just because of timing.

  • Russ Streiber

    Time in service leads to experience and leadership. All have priority over merit. You may be good and warrant nerit in your MOS but do you have good leadership abilities? Good leaders are made and not born and good leadership derives from time, experience and training. Not necessarily in that order.It takes time, schooling and training to develop a good NCO. The flip side of the coin is that you can master your job possibly in a short period time but will you be a good leader to be awarded a promotion? Don’t think so. I am from the old school and the “brown shoe” army. Retired MSG, Infantry. (Queen of Battle)

  • Dennis L. Maxberry

    What is merit? A bunch of groupies demanding their 1st Amendment rights to use other soldiers names?

  • Dennis L. Maxberry

    Is merit? Time. Or is Time merit? Is the friends of this claim to merit to Civil structure the Children of the Corn or can the be made to address this merit of time by using their real names and own social security numbers E. O. 9397?

  • sen

    Promotions are based on merit and the potential to serve in the next ranks. Where timing comes in is the ability for the service to get useful time of the member following the promotion. Promoting a major at 21 years does no good for the service so they don’t do it, timing is much more a restrictor than a enabler.

  • tom

    the Air Force has automatic promotions for e-1 to e-4. From that point on promotions can be by 1 of thee following written testing which is accomplished annually, and “step” promotion done annually and only 1 per rank for e-5 to e-7. this works why change it. though i am retired i see the focus of our civilian leaders are not where they should. My response is leave the military alone.

  • Retired Army

    As stated by Retired E-7, promotion by merit is reward to those who are willing to go above and beyond. Who show the desire to excel, willingness to learn and accept responsibility. People who do not complain but take the task given and get it done in a right smart manner. When others see what can happen when your do your best, well it rubs off onto everyone. Sure we have to have a gauge. This is where your educational system comes into play. Those who excel in the NCOES should be rewarded over their peers. Not everyone is going to make the top ranks. They can’t, there is not enough room. But to tell someone you have to go because you haven’t progressed to where some idiot thinks you should be, is crazy. To many good troops have been sent down the road, and hundreds of thousands dollars have been lost or wasted because someone was happy with their job and the rank they held. What a waste of talent and experience. Something else to be considered is a person who retires at a lower grade will not cost as much to support for the rest of their lives, I should not say that. That goes against the grain. One thing to remember, our armed forces is all voluntary! Treat that with some respect.


    I went before a promotion board at FT SHERADIN, Illinois for the grade of E-7 in the spring of 1970 and in May 1970 I was thirteenth on the list for promotion . The first week of June 1970 department of the U.S. Army decided to go to CENTALIZED PROMOTIOND and did away with local board standings and I retired as a chapter 61 (MEDICAL RETIREE) in 1976 from Walter Reed AMC . I watched over the years as people who worked under me were promoted and I was U.S. Army Recruiter of the year in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I served from 2/69 -7/72. I think that we had reverse discrimination and to this day I am very bitter and still have my standing list from 1970 yet. I tried the correction board and was disapproved. I would like to know WHO changed the regulation and WHY?

  • David Cram

    Retired E-7 Vietnam Veteran
    Any system would be acceptable, providing fair selections were promoted with-in the ranks. Worked an E-8 slot for 3 years as E-7 Had more than enough time in grade and points. The E-8 slot was held by a company clerk. Had heart problems, was told could not re-enlist by retention board, but could finish enlistment to qualify 20 year service. Was qualified for VA for further assistance. Thank you for your service. (My sour comment should take politics out Military.) I’m to old now to care.

  • jrmar13

    Just like in business everyone starts from the bottom. Yet I do think changing how promotions are done within the branches is a great idea. Some MOS’s points are so high it doesn’t matter want a soldier does they will not be able to reach it. So the options are stay in or change jobs. Same thing about higher ranks it is not about the points but who you know and how well you play the game. We are not the Game of Thrones. If you are exceeding in your job and contributing to new way of strategy everything else that you have done should be included to how you are the right stuff for the next step in your career.

  • joe

    As a 30 year retired E-9 from the USAF, I would like to comment. In the system I was promoted in, it all depended on how well you preformed and were recognized by senior officers. Most importantly it really depended on how “well” your supervisor could write your performance reviews and the rank of the final senior officer who endorsed the performance. To make E-8 & E-9 in the USAF unless you had at least a 2 or 3 star endorsement you would never get selected. Education plays a role but is not always the deciding factor. Some said, “without a college degree you would never get selected”. I proved that wrong. I only had two years of college and was selected to E-9. How well you do your job above and beyond what is considered the norm really must be included in the overall evaluation. Senior enlisted promotions must focus on management and communications skills due to the various backgrounds of the enlisted force today. Also, senior promotions must consider time in service and time in current grade to promote the most qualified individual.

  • Edwin Westman

    I agree that promotions should be based on merit based on your past performance. I retired from the Air Force in Jul 71 after serving 20 years, and was promoted to CMSgt prior to retiring; however, I had to enlist for two more years in order to get the promotion. What I did in the past was enough for my promotion; however, the policy in effect said you have to stay another two years. I didn’t think that was fair as I always planned on retiring in 20 years, and I also felt I deserve the promotion.

  • I retired in 1995. From my knowledge the program hasn’t changed from E-7 through E-9. Correct me if I am wrong?

    We were always informed on what we needed to do in order to be promoted above our peers. Your DA Photo was critical bc it was at lest a picture in uniform to match up to your records. It’s the individual that had yo I sure they have accomplished what is needed to be promoted such as Education (col degree), PT Score, Marksmanship, NON-Comiisioned Officer Evaluations and of course your duty positions held. The tougher the job the better points to you. Examples are Recruiting or Drill Sergeant.

    So selected officers and Command Sergeant Majors are sent to Department of the Army to perform these evaluations and final selection of the individuals who will be selected for the number of alloted promotion slots authorized.

    I’m not a believer in the system!

    From E-5 to E6 was based solely on Promotion Boards and the points awarded through achievements as I mentioned above. The major difference is the Board is made up of your Chain of Command and they recommend you for the promotion. As an individual you must still work through the millstones to be selected.

    Here lies the problem- I accelerated to E-5 (SPC 5) in about 2 1/2 years. I worked hard accomplished all the goals and performed as I was taught. I always pushed for more responsibilities and leadership positions. This. got me an excelerated promotion. I spent about 6-7 years as an E-5 because of being promoted early and the military moving to s more consolidated promotion system.

    i finally made E6- the Army had centralized the Army wide promotion system and on top of this they started reclassifying E-7 and E-9 by stove piping MOS’s at the senior level. The army would combine similar MOS’s into one at the senior level. This reduced Army wide the available slots in the senior ranks. As an example I was Signal and they consolidated about 10 MOS’s at the E-7 and above rank into one MOS at this level. So instead of having the MOS as a 29V which would allow you to be a Sergeant First Class or Master Sergeant or assigned as a Command Sergeant Major In your MOS. Now you were competing for one slot with 10 MOS’s competing for one slot. Before this change there were 100’s of Master Sergeants everywhere in the early to late 70’s and when I retired in 95 you were lucky to even see or know any Master Sergeants. There were only First Sergeants of Command Sergeant Majors.

    My problem was I spent my 20 years taking the hard jobs. Always holding a leadership position usually 1 or 2 grades higher than I actually was. Always assigned as the NCOIC of organizations (repair facilities, shops, specialties) while I’m the a Signal arenas. Then in the 101st Airborne as a Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant and Communications Chief. I volunteered to return to the 101st even though I could have had an easier job at another post. I figured this would help me “Be All I Could Be” and retire at the Top as an E-8 and hopefully max out as an E-8.

    I was assigned to the Signal School at Fort Gordon and thought I would be an instructor. I was selected to see the Brigade Command Sergeant Major. He had reviewed my recorded and is was selected for Platoon Sergeant for students and was the last one in the position while the Drill Sergeants were coming in to replace us. Again I vlunteered!

    I became eligible for E-8 in 94. Double checked records scores ticket punches and no promotion. I was in a leadership position NCOIC Electronics Repair for the Command and Control of the Department of Defense communications station. I was responsible for all of the defense communications going in and out of Washington,DC. Additionally I was responsible for all of the Presidential Direct phone systems from POTUS and all Country leaders in the world.

    My prior unit in Europe I was assigned as the Station Commander for the Network Communications Control Station providing Tactical Communications to Ground Tactical Nuclear Weapons Systems in 10 locations throughout Europe. I volunteered for this position and volunteered to Lead the High Frequency Comminication Group and deploy to Samolia. Thought it all would help my career.

    Well 1995 I received the bad news that I wasn’t selected for E-8 and I was over 20 years in service E-7. I retired and have no clue and will never know why I wasn’t promoted. Spoke to CSM who had sat on the board and DA and nothing.

    I wouldn’t trade my military service for anything in the world. I just don’t trust the centralized promotion system.

  • Combat Infantry

    Carter needs to go he has never been in the military much less a combat leader….Just saying….sounds like more politics and picking and choosing…….Just Saying…..

  • Sabin

    I served in the Air Force for a short time in the late 90s. As an E-3 serving my first term, I commanded a small detail which included an E-5 and an O-1. It was very much a “Sir would you please” and “Thank you sir” day for me. Point is that as important as rank is (and it is), it is not the end-all and be-all of a servicemember’s ability or value (just ask any E-9 who has had to salute butter bars).

    All that said, I haven’t read into the politics, and can’t say that I have a solution. Just that some corners of the military are already picking up on how things should be.

  • Wilk

    Been out for awhile. Politics always been there. Back then could make E5 in four. And if the stars lined up could make E6 in four. Requirements 1 time in rate. 2 recommendation. 3 grade on fleet wide rate test. 4 number of fleet openings.
    Problems. 1 egos. A. Enlisted rates who felt no one of lower rate should know more than them. B officers who felt all enlisted were out to get them. B is the reason I only did 4 left as a E5. From the sound of it many things have changed E8 and E9 were new then so I realy cannot speak to E7 and above but I believe at that time it was same as lower rates. I agree with earlier comments most of the work was done by E3 through E5. E6 and above were more administrative at least in the ET rate and my experience

  • James O’Donnell

    i am a viet nam vetran. i was chosen to go to “SHAKE AND BAKE” what B/S that was. i turned it down, i wanted rank the old fashoned way “EARN IT”. time and grade and merit no favores that womould get me or someone else killed.

    • Russ Streiber

      Know what you mean. I knew of a “shake and bake E-6 on orders to Vietnam as an Infantry squad leader. Said he didn’t mind going but not as a leader responsible for the lives of the men in his squad . Did not have the experience and knowledge of a leader.

  • Peter Hanrahan

    To me there is a larger problem and that is the military awarding medals and ribbons. To view a photo of some person with 9 rows of ribbons is ludicrous. You would think these folks were the Audy Murphy of the day but even he, the most decorated hero of WWll hardly had that many ribbons. In many cases these awards are meaningless and degrade those who have truly experienced situations deserving of an award. How do I get my Cold War warrior medal?

    • Russ Streiber

      I am quite sure that all ribbons and/or medals authorized to wear must be listed on your DD Form 214. Was also told that any or all foreign decorations had to be approved in writing by your branch Hq’s such as Dept of the Army to be authorized to wear.

      • Peter Hanrahan

        Russ, although authorized to wear the aviation wings of the USAF, Germany, and Korea(2 tours), and a medal for flying with the Vietnamese I am jesting about a ribbon for serving during the cold war…what are we trying to prove with all these ribbons? Very few people know what they are for, much less what they mean. I guess the it is the amount of space they take on the breast that is meant to impress…or is it the amount of space it takes to record them on the DD Form 214 that is impressive for promotion boards!…oh well.

      • Russ Streiber

        Pete, I agree with you. I do know of some people who are on an ego trip and all that stuff on their uniform Sometimes they try to impress someone? Earned combat decorations are in a different category I think and should be worn proudly, however should be earned and not just by being there.

      • Peter Hanrahan

        Nice talking with you Russ, have a great weekend.

  • T Ellis e9 ret

    Promotion should be based on hard work and the ability to do the job in a professional manner . I have seen many who were not able to do well on test s, or look good in a classroom ,but could out perform those who did . They also made better supervisors by working with their subordanants and sharing their jtechnical experience.Although teck school is a very important and necessary requirement , , it should not be The deciding factor detication and the ability to perform all tasks assigned , efficiently in a timely manner should be proven prior to promotion.

  • CMC Retired

    Fix the system don’t blow it up. TIR and TIS are the best means of gathering experience. Politics can and does play a role but I doubt that you can replace evaluations. Leaders need to be taught how to write effective evals!!! Oh yea education should play a role but you must be careful how big a role it is given. Some of the worst leaders I knew were very bright but couldn’t lead a thirsty horse to water!!!

  • Ken

    Time in service and time in grade should be contributing factors, but the knowledge of your job should carry the greatest weight.

  • DonUSMCarty

    In the USMC you get PFC and LCPL automatically ( minus any trouble or pending legal action ). CPL and SGT are completely on that individual to earn by completing training such as rifle, MCI’s, NCO Course etc…….SNCO is completely in the hands of random individuals consisting of E-8’S and E-9’s who look at your record book to determine your fate. I had a Master’s Degree as an enlisted man and retired an E-7 so my ability to earn a degree had pretty much no bearing on my promotion. Sounds like Mr. Carter is kind of out of touch with how the USMC promotes. No amount of college degrees will ever make you a better leader. Leadership comes with practice and failing along the way.

    Long story short having a degree as an enlisted man doesn’t get you any brownie points, at least in the USMC. I would never follow or listen to some kid that came in and got an automatic promotion to E-4 in a certain amount of time just because he had some type of specialized degree. Nor would I take his opinion into account when it came to important matters. I will always take the experienced NCO or SNCO who has been there and done that over some young kid who has a degree.

    Not off to a good start Mr. Carter. When you walk a day…..or two in our shoes then make statements on this. You graduated from Harvard and never served in our military. This idea sounds typical of someone who graduated from an Ivy League school. Your a pogue who will sit behind a desk and think your making good decisions when in fact you are not.

  • Terry Weaver

    Why not use the system that the government uses for civilian employees, let try brown nosing or yes sir to everything, or kiss the king behind the desk. That usually gets you something. Time served is important because you learn each day something new about your job and the Navy you serve. Just because you complete a college course, doesn’t mean you know it all, you have to apply it sometime, but experience is knowledge that sometimes is not in the college course. Merit is good, but you have to show and earn it each day on the job and off the job.

  • Joseph Rogish

    A typical response from a Harvard man who has never spent a day of his life in the military, but because he has been nominated to a position, supposes that he knows more about the military than the military men and women who have given their lives to the profession of arms. The current promotion system allows for deep selection for promotion, but uses the time in grade requirement to ensure that people promoted to a new rank or grade have had the requisite experience to assume the next higher position. Secretary Carter should learn to listen to the advise of his senior military personnel rather than trying to second guess the system.

  • Frank Bue

    Reverse discrimination, as the army practices it will not go away whether you change the system or not. People will still be promoted in accordance with their gender and skin color, so why change anything – new politics, same problem – different day.

  • 1ISDF

    When I was in the Army, I was in a Unit that was known for partying etc. our 1sgt needed a driver, a brand new private fresh from AIT got the job as his driver and a promotion to PFC. Cant imagine what her qualifications were can you?

    I can see all kinds of merit promotions going on this way. I’m sure most will say, crazy, this would be far and in between, and I say BS. Brown nosers and ass kissers could have a detrimental effect

  • teeman2

    How did the merit systembof NSPS work for Mr. Carter? If it didn’t work for the civilian force will it eork for the military?

  • ken f

    Just remember, if you have a female in the infantry squad who dosen’t like the idea of leaving her boy/girl friend to go to the field, your career may already be over! In todays military their accusations are to be believed at any cost. That is why the military in over run with rapist, pedophiles and abusers. I would never advise a smart young man to join because of what people like Ash have done.

  • Shawn McFadden

    Whatever program they suggest doesn’t cover what happens when you have troops in MOS’s that are overstrength.