Policies governing a new promotion system for noncommissioned officers of the active and reserve components are included in a major update to the service's principal regulation for advancing enlisted soldiers through the service's rank structure.

The revised AR 600-8-19, Enlisted Promotions and Reductions, was published Dec. 18.

Six key points to the new regulation:

• The new reg incorporates the select-train-educate-promote, or STEP, policies.

STEP procedures took effect Jan. 1 for sergeant and staff sergeant promotions and will expand to the sergeant first class and master sergeant ranks later this year and into 2017.

Under the Jan. 1 changes to the promotion system, specialists and corporals must complete Structured Self-Development 1 before being boarded for E5, and the Basic Leader Course for pin-on to sergeant.

Also effective Jan. 1, sergeants must complete SSD-2 before being boarded for E6, and the Advanced Leader Course for pin-on to staff sergeant.

Beginning in June, staff sergeants must complete SSD-3 to be considered for advancement to E7, and the Senior Leader Course for pin-on to sergeant first class.

While SSD-4 remains a requirement for consideration by an E8 board, the timing of a new  promotion pin-on requirement for master is contingent on the fielding of a new NCO education system course, to be called the Master Leader Course.

Barring unexpected delays, the MLC pin-on requirement will apply to soldiers recommended for promotion by the master sergeant board that meets in March 2017.

The STEP concept initially was added to the NCO professional development track in 2008 with policies that require master sergeants to be selected competitively for the Sergeants Major Course, and to graduate from the resident or non-resident SMC before being scheduled for advancement to sergeant major.

The objectives of STEP are defined in the first chapter, paragraph 1-5, of the new regulation. Specific promotion pin-on rules are described in paragraph 1-28a.

Other significant changes appearing in the regulation include:

• Rules governing the non-promotable status of soldiers who have been recommended for promotion to one of the senior NCO ranks when they are flagged, and placed under suspension of favorable personnel actions.

If a flagging case is closed favorably, the soldier's promotable status will be restored, and he or she will be promoted on the date they otherwise would have been promoted.

If the soldier's case is closed with the notation "disciplinary action taken," or "other," for participation in a weight control, physical fitness or substance abuse program, the promotion pin-on date will be based on a future requirement, as determined by the Army.

Army continues to authorize battlefield promotions in designated areas for sergeants and below when their commanders determine they have demonstrated an extraordinary performance of duties while serving in combat or under combat conditions.

The number of soldiers awarded these very special promotions ebbs and flows annually with the number of troopers deployed into combat zones.

For example, in fiscal 2015 there were 24 battlefield promotions to staff sergeant, and 55 to sergeant, for a total of 79, according to tracking data maintained by the Army.

By comparison there were 569 battlefield promotions — 182 to staff sergeant and 387 to sergeant — in 2009, a high tempo year in which 164,200 soldiers were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soldiers can be conditionally promoted to sergeant or staff sergeant under this policy if they have not completed the Basic Leader Course and or Advanced Leader Course. However, to retain their stripes the soldiers must complete the BLC or ALC within 270 days after redeployment to home station.

• Army continues to authorize promotions for soldiers who are declared "missing in action."

Once declared missing for a period of 60 days, soldiers in the ranks of private through sergeant will be promoted to the next higher rank upon reaching the time-in-service and time-in-grade requirement for that rank without a waiver.

However, the STEP education requirements for promotion will be waived for soldiers who are declared missing.

MIA soldiers in the ranks of staff sergeant through first sergeant who meet the time-in-service and time-in-grade requirements for promotion will be included in the zones of consideration for promotion to sergeant first class through sergeant major. The STEP schooling requirements will be waived.

• Army continues to authorize the conditional promotion of terminally ill soldiers who are on standing selection lists.

In such cases, the approval authority for advancements to sergeant and staff sergeant is the commander of the local medical facility for Regular Army and Army Reserve soldiers, the state adjutant general for federalized National Guard soldiers and the director of the Army National Guard for Title 10 Guard soldiers.

The approval authorities for advancements to the senior NCO ranks are the commander of the Human Resources Command for RA soldiers, Regional Support Command or general officer commanders for Army Reserve soldiers, and certain senior-level commanders for National Guard soldiers.

Hospitalization for such soldiers must be based on disease/injury received in line of duty. Life expectancy, as determined by medical authorities, must be 12 months or less.

• Army continues to authorize promotion consideration and pin-on for soldiers who are pending a medical fitness determination under the Physical Disability Evaluation System.

While in the DES, soldiers will not be required to maintain their PT test or weapons qualification for the purpose of promotion eligibility or pin-on.

Soldiers determined unfit by the DES but approved for continuation on active duty or continuation in the active reserve may be recommended for promotion consideration, selection and pin-on.

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