Senior Army personnel officials unveiled a new policy Tuesday that will allow soldiers to be temporarily promoted without completing required professional military education, or PME, courses if they are deployed to a combat zone, on a pregnancy-related profile or attending the longer version of the Sergeants Major Course.
Previously, sergeants to sergeants major were required to complete the mandatory PME -- such as Basic Leader Course, Advanced Leader Course, Senior Leader Course, Master Leader Course and the Sergeants Major Course -- before they would be authorized for promotion to the next rank.
But as of Jan. 1, 2021, soldiers who have been selected by their command for promotion but are serving in a named operation deployment in a hostile-fire area, serving on a pregnancy or postpartum profile, or attending the non-resident Sergeants Major Course can be temporarily promoted to the next rank, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston told defense reporters at a Nov. 23 roundtable discussion on the new Temporary Promotion Policy.
"In order to attend these [PME] courses, the soldier cannot be on profile of any kind; we found this routinely impacted women who were pregnant and postpartum because they were unable to take the required [fitness] test," Grinston said.
It's also common for units to decline to send soldiers to PME courses so they can meet manning requirements for a deployment, he added.
And the master sergeants enrolled in the non-resident version of the Sergeants Major Course typically finish later than those in the resident version; as a result, they get promoted later "despite being part of the same cohort of students," Grinston said.
"I believe that none of these scenarios -- starting a family, deploying to combat zones or selection to the non-resident sergeants major course -- should be a reason that soldiers' careers should be delayed," he said.
Under the new policy, soldiers promoted early on a deployment have one year after they return to successfully complete their required PME. Women on a pregnancy-based temporary profile who are promoted early have two years after their profile ends to complete their PME, Army officials said.
"If they fail to complete it in that time, they will revert back to their original rank," Grinston said.
Senior noncommissioned officers enrolled in the non-resident Sergeants Major Course may be promoted early as long as they have completed the roughly two-week portion of the course at the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, according to Army officials.
Master sergeants attending the mostly online, non-resident Sergeants Major Course have two years to complete it, while NCOs who do a permanent change of station to Fort Bliss for the residents course complete it in 12 months, said Sgt. Maj. Mark Clark, the Army G-1's senior enlisted leader.
"So those who go to the non-res would have to wait an additional 12 months to be promoted with their peers," Clark said. "This temporary promotion policy allows for us to promote the non-resident graduates at the same time as their peers who went to the resident course."
Currently, soldiers deployed to a combat zone have to make an exception-to-policy request to be promoted early without their PME, Clark said, adding that about 300 soldiers requested such an exception for early promotion in 2019.
At this time, there is not an option to request an exception to policy for female soldiers on a pregnancy-related profile, he added.
"Those soldiers were not allowed to be promoted because they could not attend their professional military education due to their profile for pregnancy," Clark said. "These soldiers now have the opportunity to be promoted as long as they are otherwise fully qualified."
If a soldier attends PME and fails the course, they would then be automatically reduced back to their previous grade, he explained.
Army officials said they are confident that granting temporary promotions to soldiers who haven't completed their requisite PME under certain conditions poses a very low risk of leaders moving into jobs before they are ready to assume them.
"In order for a soldier to get to the point to be qualified for these temporary promotions, those soldiers have already demonstrated that they have the potential to perform at the next higher level, and they have been recommended for promotion by their commander," Clark said. "These are well-deserved promotions of soldiers that have demonstrated their ability to perform at the next level."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.