Army Has Temporarily Promoted 52,000 Soldiers, But Over 10,000 Still Haven’t Completed Required Schooling

by Braxton Taylor

About 52,000 noncommissioned officers in the Army have been promoted over the course of more than two years under what the service initially billed as a temporary pandemic-era policy allowing soldiers to move up in rank without attending leadership academies, data provided by the service shows.

The Army data obtained by Military.com also shows 20% of those soldiers — 10,588 — had not yet attended those schools, highlighting a concern service leadership has quietly raised behind the scenes. NCOs are supposed to lose their new rank if they don’t attend the proper schooling within a year of their promotion, but Army planners don’t want to demote front-line enlisted leaders en masse.

The one-year deadline may cause a challenge for many NCOs who have a difficult time scheduling their schooling. Limited slots for some military occupations, a constant string of deployments and long-term training rotations have made it difficult for some units to send their troops to school. Most courses can be a month, or longer.

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In the National Guard, soldiers also have to balance civilian obligations and are not entitled to child or pet care, which can make leaving home for an extended period of time to complete schooling a significant challenge.

“Our goal is to ensure our soldiers’ careers do not suffer from factors outside of their control.” Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Weimer said in a statement to Military.com in December.

In late 2021, the temporary promotion policy was put into place as NCO schools faced capacity issues worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The service had to extend the policy another year as it played catchup. And they begrudgingly extended it again in 2023 as senior service planners aimed for that to be the final year of the policy.

Now, temporary promotions have effectively become the status quo since the service extended the policy at least through 2024.

Each NCO rank has a corresponding leadership school that was required by promotion rules set in 2016. But as the service struggled with school capacities and scheduling conflicts, it made a deal with those NCOs that if they got their promotion, they would attend school within a year — or revert back to their old rank.

The move has been unpopular with some service leaders, over concerns it raises questions over the relevance of NCO academies. The academies broadly center around Army policies relevant to the NCO’s rank, such as the military justice system, awards processing, and the service’s sexual assault and harassment prevention program.

However, failures are typically rare or due to unique situations, and the schooling itself is not usually a hurdle to being promoted to a higher rank.

Meanwhile, the service is offering fast-track promotions for NCOs who become recruiters.

Sergeants who complete the service’s recruiting school are automatically promoted to staff sergeant regardless of time in grade or whether they completed the appropriate leadership course, a move with little precedent in the conventional Army.

In December, the first batch of 56 NCO students were promoted after the policy was implemented.

Related: First Wave of Army Noncommissioned Officers Gets Automatic Promotions for Completing Recruiting School

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