Air Force E-7 Promotion Rate Hits Lowest Point in Years

The Air Force Personnel Center announced May 24 that just 14.8 percent of eligible tech sergeants were selected for promotion to master sergeant in the 22E7 promotion cycle, marking the service’s lowest E-7 promotion rate since at least 2010.

All told, 4,040 technical sergeants were selected to become master sergeants out of 27,296 eligible candidates—both the lowest number of promotions and the highest number of candidates going back more than a decade, according to data compiled by Air Force Magazine.

In a press release, AFPC credited the drop in promotions to a “recent enlisted grade structure revision conducted by the Department of the Air Force” that resulted in a 0.5 percent decrease in master sergeant authorizations. 

At the same time, record-high retention that accompanied the start of the COVID-19 pandemic drove up the number of eligible candidates, the release noted, creating a historically selective year.

An AFPC spokesperson confirmed that the final figure of 14.8 percent is the lowest promotion rate the service has had for E-7s since the 2019 cycle, when the Air Force switched to its current system of using promotion boards to evaluate all candidates. Prior to that, the service used some form of testing as part of its evaluation process.

Yet even prior to that, E-7 promotion rates generally stayed above 20 percent in the decade prior. The exceptions were in 2013 and 2014, when force reductions slashed the number of promotions. Even then, however, the promotion rate stayed just above 15 percent—the lowest it had been in decades, according to Air Force Times.

Direct comparisons between the most recent numbers and those from under a different promotion system aren’t “apples to apples,” the AFPC spokesperson noted.

The full list of those who earned promotions this cycle will be posted at 8 a.m. Central time May 31, AFPC said in its release. However, many on social media noted that the list was prematurely posted May 23 on myPers. Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass acknowledged the mistake in a Facebook post.

“In this digital age, we are going to have information leaks, and it’s easy to share without thinking. We must do what we can to prevent that, there’s no doubt about it … promotion lists, operations, missions … we need institutional rigor online,” Bass wrote. “Concerning yesterday’s spillage … I appreciate the Airmen who held fast and allowed command teams the time to properly notify their people.”

While Bass asked for Airmen to avoid looking at the list, copies have already been widely shared on unofficial Reddit and Facebook pages, where hundreds of Airmen have seen them.

Air Force E-7 Promotion Rates Over the Years

YearEligiblePromotedPercent Rate