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Army Enlisted Promotion System

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There are some exceptions to the rules on the previous page. First, in the Army, it's possible to join an an advanced rank (up to E-4) for certain accomplishments, including college credits, Junior ROTC, or even referring other appllications for enlistment, while a member of the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP).

Second, soldiers in Special Forces (18X) can be promoted to E-4 with just 12 months TIS, and no specific TIG requirement.

An E-4 can be either a "specialist" or a "corporal" in the Army. So, what's the difference? Well, they both get paid the same. However, a corporal is considered a noncommissioned officer and a specialist is not. A corporal has more authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and has a greater degree of leadership responsibility. An E-4 is normally designated an NCO (corporal) if they are a team or section leader. Corporals are more common amongst the Combat Arms, but many Combat Support MOS's (jobs) may have them.

Semi centralized Promotions (E-5 and E-6)

A Semi centralized Promotion process means that the unit (company) plays a part in the promotion selection process, but it's the Army (Army-wide) who decides who actually gets promoted. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, within each Army MOS (job) there are limited numbers of who can hold the ranks of E-5 and E-6 at any given time. When vacancies open up (due to people getting promoted or people getting out), the Army has to decide (Army-wide) which E-4s (within that MOS) to promote to E-5 and which E-5s to promote to E-6.

There are two promotion processes known as "Primary Zone" and "Secondary Zone." Most enlisted are promoted in the "Primary Zone." The "Secondary Zone" gives an opportunity for commanders to give "exceptional performers" an early shot at promotion. Time-in-Service and Time-in-Grade requirements for promotion consideration in the two zones are:

Primary Zone

  • Sergeant (E-5) - 8 months TIG as an E-4 and 36 months (3 years) TIS.
  • Staff Sergeant (E-6) - 10 months TIG as an E-5 and 84 months (7 years) TIS.

Secondary Zone (Exceptional Performers)

  • Sergeant (E-5) - 4 months TIG and 18 months TIS.
  • Staff Sergeant (E-6) - 5 months TIG and 48 months (4 years) TIS.

The process (for either zone) begins with "Administrative Points." A soldier receives promotion points for various accomplishments, such as military decorations (medals), and PFT (Physical Fitness Test) scores.

Administrative points consist of the following:

  • Duty Performance (maximum 150 points) - The unit commander awards duty performance points, based on recommendations from the individual's supervisor(s). The commander may award up to 30 points in each of the following areas: Competence (Is the soldier proficient and knowledgeable? Does he/she communicate effectively?) Military Bearing (Is the soldier a "role model," in the areas of appearance and self-confidence?) Leadership (Does the soldier motivate others, set high standards, show proper concern for the mission?) Training [Individual and Team Training.] (Does the soldier share knowledge and experience? Does he/she teach others?) Responsibility/Accountability (Equipment, facilities, safety, conservation).
  • Awards and Decorations (maximum 100 points) - Some military awards (medals) are given a specific promotion-point value.
  • Military Education (maximum 200 points) - Many military training courses (Ranger School, Platoon Leaders Development Course, military correspondence courses, etc.) are worth a certain number of promotion points.
  • Civilian Education (maximum 100 points) - The Army gives promotion points for off-duty education, such as college courses, or business/trade school courses.
  • Military Training (maximum 100 points) - Points are given for scores achieved on the Army Physical Fitness Test, and scores achieved on the Rifle/Pistol Range.

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