USAF boosting available promotions for 'exceptional' airmen

The STEP program allows the promotion of airmen to the ranks of staff sergeant through master sergeant

USAF boosting available promotions for 'exceptional' airmen

Master sergeant stripes are pinned on a newly promoted technical sergeant. The Air Force Personnel Center said May 15 that 6,176 tech sergeants have been selected for promotion to E-7 — the most since 2011. (Tech. Sgt. Mike Meares/Air Force)

William Howard
Stars and Stripes

The number of airmen who can earn immediate performance-based promotions will nearly double in the coming fiscal year, Air Force officials announced.

Available slots throughout the Air Force for the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program, or STEP, will rise to 180 in October from 96, the service said in a statement Thursday.

The Air Force will release full guidance and a breakdown of how many slots each command will receive on its personnel website.

“Increasing STEP allocations is another way we’re empowering commanders at every level to identify and reward their top performers,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in a statement.

The STEP program allows major commands, field operating agencies, direct reporting unit commanders and senior Air Force officers with large enlisted populations to promote airmen to the ranks of staff sergeant through master sergeant.

Selections for STEP promotions are based on recommendations from subordinate commanders with personal knowledge of airmen — the intent being to avoid time-consuming administrative boards.

“Not only does this help support our senior leaders’ focus on revitalizing squadrons but it also helps to save (airmen's) time,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright in a statement.

Only one STEP promotion is allowed during an airman’s career, with selections based on multiple achievements rather than isolated acts of heroism.

Two examples of top performers from the Air Force’s STEP guidelines include:

A technical sergeant who recruits three times the number of quality enlistees than the previous year at an underperforming detachment, while starting innovative programs for future recruiting; and, a staff sergeant involved in long exercises who for six months filled her own position and that of a senior master sergeant. Her work unit was judged noteworthy based on major improvements to the exercise.

For STEP eligibility, airmen must meet minimum Air Force time-in-service requirements and have completed their professional military education.

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