Chief Master Sergeant Promotion Rate Ticks Up to Seven-Year High

The Air Force is promoting 22.5 percent of eligible senior master sergeants to chief master sergeant in 2023—the highest rate for E-9s in seven years. 

Some 506 Airmen were selected from a pool of 2,249 eligible candidates, the Air Force Personnel Center announced Nov. 28. The full list of selectees will be released Dec. 1,

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, promotion rates dipped to under 19 percent, as fewer Airmen elected to retire. Then last year, the promotion rate rebounded to just over 20 percent. All the while, the total number of promotions held relatively steady as the field of eligible Airmen was constrained. 

This year’s pool of 2,249 senior master sergeants was the smallest since 2018—and more than 500 fewer than in 2020 and 2021. That shift translated to a higher selection rate.

Enlisted promotion rates have been a source of intense interest in the past two years after the Air Force announced in July 2022 that it was expecting lower rates for some enlisted noncommissioned officers due to enlisted grade structure revisions and high retention. 

In particular, grades E-5 through E-7 have been hit hard—both the staff sergeant and the technical sergeant ranks saw their lowest promotion rates in 27 years in 2023, while the master sergeant rate bottomed out in 2022 and recovered only slightly in 2023. 

In contrast, prootion rates for the two most senior NCO ranks—senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant—have held steady.

The Air Force is also revamping its weighted Airman promotion system (WAPS), replacing the pencil-and-paper tests with a new digital solution in 2024 for E-5 and E-6 candidates. At the same time, USAF is also updating enlisted career development, introducing mandatory “Foundations Courses” that Airmen must attend at their duty stations in order to be eligible to attend more advanced resident courses, such as that Airmen must attend at their duty stations in order to be eligible to attend more advanced resident courses such as Airman Leadership School and the NCO and Senior NCO academies.

Data compiled by Air & Space Forces Magazine