Notes on Air Force Handbook 1, dated 1 Nov 21, Chapter 8, Enlisted Promotions


7 Feb 2022. The 2021 Air Force Handbook is not available yet. The E-5 and E-6 Study Guides were released and posted to the official Air Force website (https://www.studyguides.af.mil/) on 1 Feb 2022. This website was updated using the content from the E-6 Study Guide under the assumption that both study guides contained the same content. However, there are differences between the two study guides as noted below. Questions related to these differences have been removed or edited, as necessary, to avoid conflict between the two versions and ensure accuracy.


The phrases, "Air Force" and "Regular Air Force", were replaced globally by "USAF" and "RegAF" in the E-5 Study Guide.

AFI 36-2605, Air Force Military Personnel Testing System, was superseded by AFMAN 36-2664, Personnel Assessment Program.



Section 8A, Promotion Systems and Programs

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8.1. Enlisted Promotion Systems

The enlisted promotion system supports DoD Directive 1304.20, Enlisted Personnel Management System (EPMS), 28 July 2005, by providing visible, relatively stable career progression opportunities; attracting, retaining, and motivating the kinds and numbers of people the military needs; and ensuring a reasonably uniform application of the principle of equal pay for equal work among the services. While many significant changes have taken place with the enlisted promotion systems in recent years, there are some standardized, consistent aspects that Airmen recognize and rely on for fair and accurate consideration for promotion. AFI 36-2502, Enlisted Airman Promotion and Demotion Programs, 16 April 2021, provides detailed information regarding enlisted promotion systems. Note: This chapter applies to RegAF enlisted promotions.

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8.1. Enlisted Promotion Systems

The enlisted promotion system supports DoD Directive 1304.20, Enlisted Personnel Management System (EPMS), by providing visible, relatively stable career progression opportunities; attracting, retaining, and motivating the kinds and numbers of people the military needs; and ensuring a reasonably uniform application of the principle of equal pay for equal work among the services. While many significant changes have taken place with the enlisted promotion systems in recent years, there are some standardized, consistent aspects that Airmen recognize and rely on for fair and accurate consideration for promotion. AFI 36-2502, Enlisted Airman Promotion/Demotion Programs, provides detailed information regarding enlisted promotion systems. Note: This chapter applies to Regular Air Force enlisted promotions.

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8.2. Promotion Quotas
The Department of Defense limits the number of Airmen the RegAF may have in the top five enlisted grades. Promotion quotas for Staff Sergeant through Chief Master Sergeant are tied to fiscal year-end strength and are affected by funding limits, regulatory limits, and the number of projected vacancies in specific grades. Public law, as outlined in Title 10, U.S.C., Armed Forces, Chapter 36, Promotion, Separation, and Involuntary Retirement of Officers on the Active Duty List, limits the number of Airmen who may serve in the RegAF in the top two enlisted grades. The authorized average of enlisted members on RegAF status (other than for training) in pay grades E-8 and E-9 in a fiscal year may not be more than 2.5 percent and 1.25 percent, respectively.

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8.2. Promotion Quotas
The Department of Defense limits the number of Airmen the Regular Air Force may have in the top five enlisted grades. Promotion quotas for Staff Sergeant through Chief Master Sergeant are tied to fiscal year-end strength and are affected by funding limits, regulatory limits, and the number of projected vacancies in specific grades. Public law, as outlined in Title 10 United States Code, Armed Forces, limits the number of Airmen who may serve in the Regular Air Force in the top two enlisted grades. The authorized average of enlisted members on Regular Air Force status (other than for training) in pay grades E-8 and E-9 in a fiscal year may not be more than 2.5 percent and 1.25 percent, respectively.

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8.3. Weighted Airman Promotion System. NCOs and SNCOs compete for promotion and test under the Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS) in the control Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) held on the promotion eligibility cutoff date. Contributing factors are "weighted" or assigned points based on the importance relative to promotion. The PFE contains a wide range of USAF knowledge, while the SKT covers AFSC broad technical knowledge. The USAF makes promotion selections under the WAPS within each AFSC, not across all AFSCs. This means those who are eligible will compete for promotion with those individuals currently working in their AFSC. Selectees are individuals with the highest scores in each AFSC, within the quota limitations. If more than one individual has the same total score at the cutoff point, the USAF promotes everyone with that score.

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8.3. Weighted Airman Promotion System. NCOs and SNCOs compete for promotion and test under the Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS) in the control Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) held on the promotion eligibility cutoff date. Contributing factors are "weighted" or assigned points based on the importance relative to promotion. The PFE contains a wide range of Air Force knowledge, while the SKT covers AFSC broad technical knowledge. The Air Force makes promotion selections under the WAPS within, not across, each AFSC. This means those who are eligible will compete for promotion with those individuals currently working in their AFSC. Selectees are individuals with the highest scores in each AFSC, within the quota limitations. If more than one individual has the same total score at the cutoff point, the Air Force promotes everyone with that score.


Section 8B, Promotion Cycles

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8.4. Promotion Cycles and Eligibility

The USAF establishes promotion cycles to ensure timely periodic promotions and to permit accurate forecasting of vacancies. Promotion cycles also balance the promotion administrative workload and provide promotion eligibility cutoff dates (PECD). Factors for promotion eligibility may include: proper skill level, sufficient time in grade, sufficient time in service, commander recommendation, completion of enlisted professional military education (PME), completion of a college degree, cumulative years of enlisted service, and high year of tenure. Note: Air Force Reserve promotions are based on a combination of position vacancy, time-in-grade, time-in-service, fitness, and completion of appropriate professional military education.

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8.4. Promotion Cycles and Eligibility

The Air Force establishes promotion cycles to ensure timely periodic promotions and to permit accurate forecasting of vacancies. Promotion cycles also balance the promotion administrative workload and provide promotion eligibility cutoff dates (PECD). Factors for promotion eligibility may include: proper skill level, sufficient time in grade, sufficient time in service, commander recommendation, completion of enlisted professional military education (PME), completion of a college degree, cumulative years of enlisted service, and high year of tenure.

Note: Air Force Reserve promotions are based on a combination of position vacancy, time-in- grade, time-in-service, fitness, and completion of appropriate professional military education.


Section 8C, Preparation and Responsibilities

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8.11. Enlisted Promotion Test Compromise
Airmen must use a self-initiated program of individual study and effort under the Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS). Group study (two or more people) for the purposes of enlisted promotion testing is strictly prohibited. This prohibition protects the integrity of the promotion testing program by ensuring promotion test scores are a reflection of each member's individual knowledge. Enlisted personnel who violate these prohibitions are subject to prosecution under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for violating a lawful general regulation. Conviction can result in a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to two years. Information concerning enlisted promotion test compromise is contained in AFMAN 36-2664.

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8.11. Enlisted Promotion Test Compromise
Airmen must use a self-initiated program of individual study and effort under the Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS). Group study (two or more people) for the purposes of enlisted promotion testing is strictly prohibited. This prohibition protects the integrity of the promotion testing program by ensuring promotion test scores are a reflection of each member's individual knowledge. Enlisted personnel who violate these prohibitions are subject to prosecution under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for violating a lawful general regulation. Conviction can result in a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to two years. Information concerning enlisted promotion test compromise is contained in AFI 36-2605, Air Force Military Personnel Testing System.

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8.12. Distribution of Enlisted Promotion Test Study References
The Barnes Center for Enlisted Education, Air Force Career Development Academy is responsible for providing promotion-eligible members access to WAPS Career Development Courses. They are available on-line at: http://cdc.aetc.af.mil/. The site is updated to coincide with release of the EPRRC. Study materials, such as instructions, manuals, or technical orders, are made available online at: http://www.e-publishing.af.mil or other approved repositories. Individuals may ask unit WAPS monitors to order study reference material listed in the catalog that is not locally available. According to AFMAN 36-2664, promotion eligible Airmen must have access to reference materials at least 60 days before the scheduled test date. If not, the Airman may request a delay in testing.

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8.12. Distribution of Enlisted Promotion Test Study References
The Barnes Center for Enlisted Education, Air Force Career Development Academy is responsible for providing promotion eligible members access to WAPS Career Development Courses. They are available on-line at: http://cdc.aetc.af.mil/. The site is updated to coincide with release of the EPRRC. Study materials, such as instructions, manuals, or technical orders, are made available online at: http://www.e-publishing.af.mil or other approved repositories. Individuals may ask unit WAPS monitors to order study reference material listed in the catalog that is not locally available. According to AFI 36-2605, promotion eligible Airmen must have access to reference materials at least 60 days before the scheduled test date. If not, the Airman may request a delay in testing.

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8.14. Data Verification Record

The Data Verification Record (DVR) is the document utilized for promotion consideration and is the most important tool to review to ensure information on a promotion record is complete. All eligible Airmen must review their DVR in the Automated Records Management System/Personnel Records Display Application (ARMS/PRDA). If an error or omission is noted, the Airman must immediately contact his or her military personnel flight for assistance. The military personnel flight will update the Military Personnel Data System with the correct data and update the DVR on virtual military personnel flight. Airmen should review the updated record to verify changes have been completed accurately. Data reflected on the DVR should not be confused with the Data Verification Brief or a Single Unit Retrieval Format, commonly referred to as SURF.

Data Verification Record Review Steps:

-Access the USAF Portal.
-Access PRDA.
-Under My Sections, select PRDA.
-The Selection Folder category within PRDA is the "As Is" record.
-The Board category within PRDA is the "As Met" record.

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8.14. Data Verification Record

The Data Verification Record (DVR) is the document utilized for promotion consideration and is the most important tool to review to ensure information on a promotion record is complete. All eligible Airmen must review their DVR in the Automated Records Management System/Personnel Records Display Application (ARMS/PRDA). If an error or omission is noted, the Airman must immediately contact his or her military personnel flight for assistance. The military personnel flight will update the Military Personnel Data System with the correct data and update the DVR on virtual military personnel flight. Airmen should review the updated record to verify changes have been completed accurately. Data reflected on the DVR should not be confused with the Data Verification Brief or a Single Unit Retrieval Format, commonly referred to as SURF.

Data Verification Record Review Steps:

-Access the Air Force Portal.
-Access PRDA.
-Under My Sections, select PRDA.
-The Selection Folder category within PRDA is the "As Is" record.
-The Board category within PRDA is the "As Met" record.


Section 8D, Promotion Testing

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8.15. Promotion Test Development

The Air Education and Training, Studies and Analysis Squadron, Airman Advancement Section, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, produces all USAF enlisted promotion tests, which are written by Airmen for Airmen. Teams of SNCOs travel to work in-house with test development specialists and apply their knowledge and expertise to develop current, relevant, and accurate test questions for enlisted promotion testing. At the beginning of a test development project, the most current tests are administered to the test development teams. This gives test writers the point of view of the test takers and helps them evaluate how the test content relates to performance in their specialties. Teams will also carefully check the references of each question for currency and accuracy. Only after this is accomplished do the teams begin developing new test questions. During test development, test development specialists provide psychometric and developmental expertise required to ensure the tests are credible, valid, and fair to all examinees.

Promotion Fitness Examination. The Promotion Fitness Examinations (PFE) measure military and supervisory knowledge required of Staff Sergeants, Technical Sergeants, and Master Sergeants. For the PFE, test development specialists select Chief Master Sergeants based on USAF demographics, extensive experience, and diverse major command representation to develop and validate questions.

Specialty Knowledge Tests. Specialty Knowledge Tests (SKT) measure important job knowledge required in a particular specialty. For SKTs, test development specialists work closely with USAF career field managers to stay abreast of changes affecting career fields which may impact promotion test development. SNCOs, based on their specialties and job experiences, are selected to develop and validate SKT questions. Resources used to develop SKEs include Career Field Education and Training Plans, occupational analysis data, and experiences to ensure test content is related to important tasks performed in the specialty.

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8.15. Promotion Test Development

The Air Education and Training, Studies and Analysis Squadron, Airman Advancement Section, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, produces all Air Force enlisted promotion tests, which are written by Airmen for Airmen. Teams of SNCOs travel to work in-house with test development specialists and apply their knowledge and expertise to develop current, relevant, and accurate test questions for enlisted promotion testing. At the beginning of a test development project, the most current tests are administered to the test development teams. This gives test writers the point of view of the test takers and helps them evaluate how the test content relates to performance in their specialties. Teams will also carefully check the references of each question for currency and accuracy. Only after this is accomplished do the teams begin developing new test questions. During test development, test development specialists provide psychometric and developmental expertise required to ensure the tests are credible, valid, and fair to all examinees.

Promotion Fitness Examination. The Promotion Fitness Examinations (PFE) measure military and supervisory knowledge required of Staff Sergeants, Technical Sergeants, and Master Sergeants. For the PFE, test development specialists select Chief Master Sergeants based on Air Force demographics, extensive experience, and diverse major command representation to developand validate questions.

Specialty Knowledge Tests. Specialty Knowledge Tests (SKT) measure important job knowledge required in a particular specialty. For SKTs, test development specialists work closely with Air Force career field managers to stay abreast of changes affecting career fields which may impact promotion test development. SNCOs, based on their specialties and job experiences, are selected to develop and validate SKT questions. Resources used to develop SKEs include Career Field Education and Training Plans, occupational analysis data, and experiences to ensure test content is related to important tasks performed in the specialty.

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8.16. Enlisted Promotions References and Requirements Catalog

Published annually on 1 October, the Enlisted Promotions References and Requirements Catalog (EPRRC), lists all enlisted promotion tests authorized for administration and the study references associated with these tests. Every question on a promotion test comes from one of the publications listed in the EPRRC, and only publications used to support questions on a given promotion test are listed. The study references for the PFE are the grade-specific Enlisted Promotion Study Guides derived from DAFH 1. The study references for SKTs are often a combination of Career Development Courses and technical references. Career Development Courses used as study references may be different from those issued for upgrade training. The catalog also contains administrative and special instructions for test control officers. The EPRRC is available at: https://www.omsq.af.mil/.

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8.16. Enlisted Promotions References and Requirements Catalog

Published annually on 1 October, the Enlisted Promotions References and Requirements Catalog (EPRRC), lists all enlisted promotion tests authorized for administration and the study references associated with these tests. Every question on a promotion test comes from one of the publications listed in the EPRRC, and only publications used to support questions on a given promotion test are listed. The study references for the PFE are the grade-specific Enlisted Promotion Study Guides derived from AFH 1, Airman. The study references for SKTs are often a combination of Career Development Courses and technical references. Career Development Courses used as study references may be different from those issued for upgrade training. The catalog also contains administrative and special instructions for test control officers. The EPRRC is available at: https://www.omsq.af.mil/.

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8.18. Promotion Points

Calculating points for promotion can be a somewhat complex, but not complicated process. The complete charts, to include exceptions and notes for calculating points and factors for promotion, are included in AFI 36-2502.

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8.18. Promotion Points

Calculating points for promotion can be a somewhat complex, but not complicated process. The complete charts, to include exceptions and notes for calculating points and factors for promotion, are included in AFI 36-2502, Enlisted Airman Promotion/Demotion Programs.



Changes since last edition of AFH-1 (2019)

This chapter is the same as the 2019 Air Force Handbook's Chapter 9, Enlisted promotions. Sections A thru D are the same and have no changes. Section E, Evaluation Boards, was not included in this year's edition.