AZNG Enlisted Promotion Process: Q & A with the AZARNG State Command Sergeant Maj.

AZNG Enlisted Promotion Process: Q & A with the AZARNG State Command Sergeant Maj.

The Arizona Army National Guard promotion process has changed for the up coming boarding season. Some of the most significant changes are to the to the pre-requirements to board and requirements to pin on new promotions. (graphic by Army Sgt. Wes Parrell)

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three article series focusing on the AZNG enlisted promotion process, a collection of features about the changes to the promotion process and tips to prepare Arizona guardsmen for career progression. Subsequent articles will focus on packet deadlines and promotion board tips. Comment on these articles with questions about the process you would like to see addressed in future articles.


PHOENIX – As the Arizona Army National Guard enters the promotion season many of the enlisted personnel have seen changes to the regulations regarding career advancement and the promotion process through guidance published by the AZARNG personnel office


In order to provide a better understanding of the changes and address some concerns expressed by guardsmen with the new process, the state public affairs office sat down with the Arizona Army National Guard’s State Command Sergeant Maj., Patrick Powers, to take a look at career progression for the leaders of tomorrow.


PAO: This new promotion cycle has seen many changes from previous ones. One of the most noticeable is the change regarding the Basic Leadership Course, and Advance leadership Course attendance as well as the Structured Self Development course requirements. Can you elaborate on the specifics as to how these changes will affect Soldiers who are striving to promote this year or next?


CSM: There are some significant changes to the Army National Guard promotion system, and hopefully I can clarify them a bit for everyone. SSD is now a prerequisite for promotion consideration (boarding). Soldiers must have the appropriate SSD for their rank completed before they can board for the next higher rank. After they board for the next higher rank, assuming they make the promotion list in the “Best or Highly Qualified” zones, they may be selected for and moved into a higher position. They will not be promoted to the rank of the higher position until they complete the Noncommissioned Officer Education System courses required for that rank.  This same process repeats itself at every stage of a Soldier’s career. As an example – a sergeant (E-5) that has already graduated from BLC must complete SSD-2. After completing SSD-2 and the time-in grade requirement, the sergeant submits a packet to board for staff sergeant (E-6). If the sergeant comes out high enough on the promotion list, and is selected for a staff sergeant position, the sergeant is moved into that staff sergeant position. After the sergeant completes ALC, he will be promoted to staff sergeant. After being promoted, SSD-3 is the next step in this NCO’s progression. So to board you must complete SSD, and to be promoted you must complete NCOES.


PAO: Some Soldiers have expressed a concern regarding the training funding available to the state to attend BLC/ALC. This year with the budget in place, many are being told funding is only available for Annual Training or school, not both. Currently there are Soldiers on wait lists to attend BLC/ALC near the end of the fiscal year and not scheduled for AT. If funding for a school slot becomes unavailable the service member risks having a non-creditable year. How are the state and units adjusting for this and who will make the decision on the priority for attendance for the Soldier?


CSM: Let me start by saying that commanders set priorities. With that being said, the reason the AZARNG is choosing to use AT funds to cover pay and allowance costs for schools is that by using AT funds for NCOES. This preserves funding in the schools account. What does that mean to you? More Soldiers are able to attend school. No Soldier or officer in this state is in danger of having a non-creditable year of service due to budget issues. Commanders will make the call between Unit AT and NCOES. If more funding becomes available then Soldiers may be able to do both.


PAO: Due to the mounting need to attend BLC, does the state have the capability, or will it be able to obtain the capability in the future, to host our own BLC courses similar to how we conduct Officer Candidate School, Warrant Officer Candidate School, or the Military Police re-class courses? 


CSM: I’m not sure there is any more need than we have ever had for BLC. There may be a higher urgency on the Soldier’s part to attend BLC (and every other NCOES) in the future, because their promotion depends upon completing it. BLC quotas have not generally been a problem for us to get. Our Regional Training Institute is not tasked to conduct BLC, and I doubt they will be in the near future. It is relatively inexpensive for us to send Soldiers to BLC in Utah where it is currently hosted. 


PAO: Previously, Soldiers could begin taking their SSD courses online before attending their respective BLC/ALC training. Now sergeants and above are unable to enroll in these courses until the training has been attended. With training slots limited, Soldiers have expressed concern that delaying access to the online SSD courses could make them pressed for time to complete the online courses and potentially unable to complete it in time for their board cutoff date, thus delaying their ability to promote. Others say rushing through the training to meet the board cutoff dates creates a scenario where the Soldier does not have the time to adequately process and learn the material as it is intended. Is there a potential fix to this issue or can there be a change that allows open enrollment to the SSD courses?


CSM: The new promotion system slows down the promotion process, and eliminates any rush to complete SSD. Soldiers won’t be promoted until they finish the NCOES required for their current position. At that point, the time in grade requirements for the next promotion eligibility begins. A sergeant is required 18 months minimum before recommendation to board for staff sergeant. So a newly promoted sergeant has 18 months to finish SSD-2. All subsequent ranks require 36 months time in grade, so they’ll have three years to finish their required SSD courses.


PAO: The National Guard has always had the unique challenge of dealing with slots available for promotion. On active duty, if a service member makes the promotion list and is promoted, if the unit they are in does not have a slot, they can be moved to another unit that does. In the Guard this option is not always available depending on the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of the Soldier. What advice would you give to a Service member who perceives themselves to be in a situation where advancement opportunity is limited in this factor?


CSM: Different MOS’s have different opportunities for advancement, based on the number of positions in the state and the rank of those positions. Most MOS’s in the AZARNG have a path from E1 through E7. For the MOS’s that do not, it takes a leader’s action to recognize the problem and come up with a solution. If a Soldier is in an MOS that has zero potential for promotion, it may be possible to reclassify that Soldier in another MOS, based on the needs of the AZARNG. All leaders should be aware of their Soldiers’ advancement opportunities and raise the issue to their chain of command if they find themselves in an MOS in which career progression is limited in this factor. If it is simply a matter of a very competitive MOS, I would advise that Soldier on how to improve their promotion chances. Improve civilian education, improve Army Physical Fitness Test scores, improve marksmanship scores, and do whatever is required to receive excellent evaluations, etc. If I were advising a specialist (E-4), I would say study and conduct mock boards with your leaders and/or peers. 


PAO: As the Arizona National Guard evolves and the force structure changes how do you foresee advancement opportunities in the future?


CSM: There will always be advancement opportunities for Soldiers who put forth their best effort and tell the truth. The changes to the ARNG enlisted promotion system didn’t change that. There are many ways a Soldier can rise above their peers. Competing to be Soldier or NCO of the year is one. Ask your leaders what it is they need you to do to make the unit better. When in doubt, act! Don’t sit around waiting to be told what to do.