More than 1,700 airmen have made the cut for promotion to senior master sergeant, the service’s second-highest enlisted rank, the Air Force announced Thursday.

Nearly 11.5% of master sergeants who sought promotion, from a pool of 15,151 eligible candidates, are advancing — the highest selection rate since 2018, when it hit 11.9%, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

Those chosen to add a stripe have spent nearly 4.5 years as master sergeants and more than 17.5 years in service, similar to those selected in last year’s cycle. Senior master sergeants are experienced operational leaders who hold supervisory jobs like serving as the top enlisted airmen at the squadron and group levels.

The senior master sergeant selection rate continues to grow as the service rebalances its enlisted force, one piece of which is expanding the E-8 corps from 1.8% to 2% of enlisted airmen, according to Air Force data. The service expects its workforce to remain essentially flat through the end of fiscal year 2025.

If the restructuring succeeds, the Air Force will grow its pool of junior enlisted airmen and build experience among fewer midlevel noncommissioned officers before they reach a slightly larger senior enlisted corps.

For many, that means it will take slightly longer to climb the career ladder. But the service hopes the plan can help fill out understaffed units, rebuild atrophied skills in fields like maintenance, and improve leadership at higher ranks.

The percentage of master sergeants picked to advance is rebounding from its most recent low in 2021, when the E-8 selection rate fell below 7%, and is creeping toward its most recent high of 12.3% in 2016.

According to federal law, no more than 2.5% of an enlisted military force may hold the rank of E-8 at a time. The Air Force had more than 4,800 senior master sergeants as of the end of January.

Read the list of selectees here.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

In Other News
Load More