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Selection for master sergeant continues to be one of the toughest promotion cuts in the Army, with fewer than 9 percent of the 21,227 soldiers considered by the 2010 board recommended for promotion.
Despite a small increase in the number of master sergeant promotions projected for 2010, the overall selection rate generated by the board that met Oct. 14-Nov. 4 was 8.7 percent, with only 1,866 soldiers being approved for advancement to master sergeant or first sergeant.
E-8 promotions currently are being made from a 3,241-name list compiled in August 2008, and used for the first time in December of that year.
January 2010 promotions reduced that list to just 833 names.
The select rates for the two boards was markedly different, with the 2009 panel selecting 3,241 of its 20,552 candidates, for an overall select rate of 15.8 percent, which was the highest pickup rate since the post-Cold War era, which saw active component end-strength reduced by about 200,000 soldiers.
During the drawdown, E-8 select rates fluctuated between about 11 percent to as must as 17 percent, but began stabilizing during the wars on terrorism and the reorganization of combat forces into brigade, rather than division, organizations.
Army personnel officials predict there will be 45,669 promotions to the ranks of sergeant through sergeant major in 2010, which is 4,500 fewer than in 2009.
Despite the downturn, and the recent downturn in E-8 select rates, Army planners expect there will be 2,423 promotions to master sergeant in 2010, an increase of nearly 1,000 promotions over last year.
During the past year, soldiers promoted to master sergeant had, on average, 18 years of service.
Average pin-on points to the other NCO ranks in 2009 were four years for sergeant, seven years for staff sergeant, 12 years for sergeant first class and 21 years for sergeant major.
The dynamics of the NCO career timeline changed in 2009 as the Army set new tenure rules, called retention control points, for the entire enlisted force.
Included in the change is an increase in the RCP for sergeants major and promotable master sergeants from 30 to 32 years of service, while the retention control point for master sergeants, first sergeants and promotable sergeants first class increased from 26 to 29 years.
Under a plan conceived by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston in consultation with senior command sergeants major, newly minted master sergeants are being given additional time to serve in such developmental positions as first sergeant before attending the Sergeants Major Course, which now is a requirement for promotion to sergeant major or appointment to command sergeant major.