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HighDragLowSpeed 6 July 2017 06:21

Article Analyzing USAF Promo Boards and Impact on Pilot Retention
Even though the extent of my involvement with anything Air Force was high school Civil Air Patrol and a declined appointment to the Air Force Academy, I found this article very interesting. The article discusses the LTC promotion rates, what the LTC promo board "values" and the selection criteria's impact on pilot retention (including AFSOC flying positions).

One thing I didn't know is that the USAF selects their potential general officer candidates earlier than any other service.


This article provides initial forensics and argues two factors are at work: 1) USAF’s words said it valued combat leadership, but its actions incentivized staff and managerial roles; and 2) USAF failed to procedurally differentiate line officers while simultaneously redirecting pilots out of the incentivized staff roles. The combined effects diffused promotions away from combat leaders it is desperately trying to retain toward specialists on staff for which it had no shortages.

For those joining the discussion from outside USAF, evaluations for promotion to lieutenant colonel generally occur three times: two years below the promotion zone (2BPZ), “one below” (1BPZ), and “in promotion zone” (IPZ). If you don’t make it IPZ, USAF may offer you continuation, and your commander can recommend promotion “above the zone” (APZ), but you are “passed over” and historically have a four percent chance of recovering. Additionally, unless promoted early (three-four percent chance), you are effectively eliminated from competing for group or wing command, or general officer rank.

I manually coded 2,432 USAF workplaces, though differently from categories AFPC uses, to better model officer career experiences. AFPC does not delineate PME schools, Joint Staff, Field Operating Agencies (FOAs), or Air Force “Centers” like Lifecycle Management, from objective wings. This approach calculated 51 percent of “in the zone” Majors at the wing/base level selected on-time, while rates were 100 percent at schools and 94-98 percent at staffs. BPZ selection rates were 4.1 percent on staff, 11.9 percent at school, and 1.7 percent from the wing/base level. The board selected non-flying officers at a 3 percent higher on-time promotion rate than their flying counterparts. Meanwhile, Air Command and Staff College (ACSC)’s latest class gave more seats to intelligence officers than fighter pilots.

— Zero early promotions of flying officers in Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) combat wings.

surprisingly, the one Reaper pilot that made it to a Joint staff assignment was passed over. His two-star general boss said, “I’m not sure why you didn’t get selected.” His records consistently indicated between top third and top 10% performance for a decade and a half, yet somehow ranked in the bottom 15 percent at the board.
Good read for anyone interested in the USAF promotion process as well as those interested in more general workforce development issues.

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