Promotions for new master sergeants remained under 20 percent for the third year in a row, as retention held strong and increases in end strength leveled off, the Air Force announced May 25 before the finalized list is released May 31.
Some 4,998 technical sergeants were selected for promotion, out of a total pool 28,831 eligible Airmen. The 17.34 percent promotion rate was the third lowest since 2010, but up 2.5 percentage points from last year, the lowest in at least 14 years.
The full list be published May 31 at 8 a.m. Central time on the Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs home page.
This year’s list includes 958 more names than in 2022, when just 4,040 of 27,296 were promoted. At the time, officials cited retention and restructuring of the enlisted force among the reasons for its historically low promotion rate.
Retention, which spiked amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but with a reduction in overall authorized end strength and an ongoing enlisted grade structure revision that won’t be done until fiscal 2025, there are fewer overall slots.
The restructuring of the enlisted force was driven by concerns about a lack of required experience among some newly promoted Airmen—the result of a force structure model that had become out of balance between lower, middle, and higher grades, according to Col. James Barger, Air Force Manpower Analysis Agency commander. The Air Force’s response has been to slow down promotion allocations for grades E-5 through E-7—all of which saw their lowest promotion rates in years in 2022.
For example, of 45,991 eligible Senior Airmen, just 9,706 were selected in 2022—a 21.1 percent promotion rate, the lowest in nearly a quarter of a century. Out of 33,935 eligible staff sergeants, only 5,430 became tech sergeants, the fewest in at least a decade.
In 2013 and 2014, the Air Force saw a significant downturn in promotion rates due to drastic force reductions. Since then, the service has seen significant swings in promotion rates year to year based on retention and end strength.
Air Force E-7 Promotion Rates Over the Years