Competition for master sergeant stripes is keen, with fewer than 9 percent of the nearly 19,000 Regular Army sergeants first class considered by the October E-8 board being picked up for promotion.
The board results stand in sharp contrast to the finding of the 2012 master sergeant board, which had an overall select rate of 16.2 percent.
The fiscal 2013 board, in session from Oct. 15 to Nov. 2, recommended 1,610 noncommissioned officers for promotion to master sergeant, with 1,007 coming from the primary zone and 603 from the secondary zone.
The 13,295 primary-zone soldiers considered by the board were promoted to sergeant first class Oct. 27, 2008, or earlier.
The select rate for these soldiers was 7.6 percent.
The secondary zone, which provides accelerated promotion opportunity, included 5,534 soldiers who started wearing sergeants first class stripes between Oct. 28, 2008, and Oct. 16, 2009.
The select rate for these soldiers was 10.9 percent.
There were 18,829 soldiers in the combined zone of consideration, about 470 more than last year.
While the overall select rate of 8.6 percent generated by the October board is well below the unusually high rate of 16.2 percent for fiscal 2012, it is not that far below the average of 11.5 percent for the past five years.
Selection objectives vary from year to year to satisfy projected requirements for soldiers in the promotion window.
Despite the low select rate this year, the Army had several military occupational specialty shortages at the grade of E-8, which prevented the board from selecting enough soldiers to meet its specialty-specific mission.
Additional soldiers could have been selected for promotion to master sergeant in MOSs 09L interpreter/translator, 29E electronic warfare specialist, 38B civil affairs specialist and 51C contracting NCO.
"Inventories (for these MOSs) had insufficient eligible soldiers in the zone of consideration," said an Army personnel official. "This is indicative of shortages where soldiers may want to consider reclassification."
Brig. Gen. Theodore D. Martin, commandant of cadets at West Point and the former commandant of the Armor School, was president of the 50-member selection board.
In its after-action report to the director of military personnel management in the Office of the G-1 (Human Resources) at the Pentagon, the board made these observations:
• Senior raters should mentor their subordinates about meeting MOS qualification gates and seeking broadening assignments.
At the rank of sergeant first class, two years in an MOS/branch qualifying position and three years in a broadening assignment are preferable.
Broadening assignments greater than 36 months tend to take soldiers away from their MOS for too long.
• NCOs who stayed at one location longer than 36 months with no lateral or upward transfer to another organization did not impress the board members.
"Deployments, lateral on-post transfers or nominations for positions at the same location, but at a higher headquarters, were viewed as favorable, provided the information was recorded on the Enlisted Record Brief and in evaluation reports," the board members reported.
• Many letters to the selection board contained information already in a soldier's official file.
Letters are most helpful when they explain breaks in service, recent awards earned while deployed and recent prestigious awards, such as induction into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, that are not reflected in the official file.
• For some NCOs, height, weight and physical training test scores documented over several evaluation reports were inconsistent.
NCOs who appeared overweight in their official photo; had not provided an updated photo for their board file; or had height and weight data that exceeded screening standards caused board members to question the credibility of information provided in the evaluation report.
• The board members viewed promotion candidates favorably if they had taken advantage of military and civilian education opportunities.
However, the board members noted that "there still are a large number of soldiers who are not taking advantage of the vast certification and education programs available to them."