The Weighted Airmen Promotion System
) is a United States Air Force
program that determines who will be promoted to the ranks of Staff Sergeant
through Master Sergeant (E-7)
and provides feedback score sheets to enlisted members considered for promotion. These score sheets help the individual determine professional development needs. Selection for promotion to Senior Master Sergeant
(E-8) and Chief Master Sergeant
(E-9) is accomplished using an integrated weighted and central selection board system. In addition to the weighted score, the central selection board evaluates each individual using the “whole person concept.” Board scores are determined by considering performance, leadership, breadth of experience, job responsibility, professional competence, specific achievements, and education. The board score is added to the weighted score to determine order of merit for promotion.
Each year The Air Force determines how many people are needed to be promoted in order to fulfill mission requirements and manning goals as set forth by law and regulation. The Air Force then divides these slots by percentages across its various AFSCs
with a few career fields receiving a few extra slots. Therefore each person competing for promotion is really only competing against those in the same career field.
These numbers are not disclosed until after the tests.
Everyone who is eligible to compete for promotion receives points based on a number of criteria- Time in Service, Time in Grade, Awards and Decorations, EPR points, PDG points, and SKT points. The points are added up for each person, and the top number of people up to the promotion allowance in each career field are promoted. The score of the last person is known as "the cutoff" which is used as a gauge to see how close those who did not make it came. For example, if 50 1A1s are to be promoted from E-4 to E-5, then the 50 eligible E-4 1A1s with the highest total points will be promoted. Also, everyone else in the career field who may test at a later date (for one of several reasons), who also achieve the cutoff score will be promoted as well, which increases the total number of promotees.
Many people believe that the cutoff score is arbitrarily chosen by the Air Force each year, but that is a gross misunderstanding on their part. The cutoff score varies each year because the number of promotion slots varies, and the number of points earned by the top people varies.
Fractions of points are awarded for certain categories, resulting in scores that are not whole numbers.
Time in Service and Time in Grade
2 points for each year time in service (max 40 pts) for promotion to SSgt through MSgt
1 point for each year time in service (max 25 pts) for promotion to SMSgt through CMSgt
1/2 point for each month time in grade
(max 60 pts)
Awards and decorations
For awards and decorations
, a maximum of 25 is points allowed. Point value follow order of precedence.
1 pt - Achievement Medal (all versions)
2 pts - Recruiter Ribbon
3 pts - Commendation Medal (all versions)
3 pts - Aerial Achievement Medal
3 pts - Air Medal
5 pts - Meritorious Service Medal
5 pts - Defense Meritorious Service Medal
5 pts - Purple Heart
5 pts - Bronze Star
5 pts - Airman's Medal
7 pts - Distinguished Flying Cross
7 pts - Defense Superior Service Medal
7 pts - Legion of Merit
9 pts - Defense Superior Service Medal
9 pts - Silver Star
9 pts - Distinguished Service Medal
9 pts - Defense Distinguished Service Medal
11 pts - Air Force Cross, Navy Cross, or Distinguished Service Cross
15 pts - Medal of Honor
Enlisted Performance Reports
The maximum for EPRs
is 135 points. Take all EPRs from the last 5 years, not to exceed 10 EPRs. Multiply each EPR rating (1 through 5) by the "time weighted factor":
- 50 for the most recent report
- 45 for the next most recent
- 40 for the next
and so on each time weighted factor decreases by 5 for each report down to a last one of 5 (if there are 10 EPRs). Take the final product from EACH of the reports and multiply each of them by 27. Add all of those products together.
Separately add up the sum of the time weighted factors. Divide the sum products of the reports by the sum of the time weighted factors. This final number is the number of points awarded for EPRs.
Promotion Fitness Examination (PFE)
The PFE is the Promotion Fitness Examination
. It is a test whose material is taken from the Professional Development Guide. It is a wide range of information about the US Air Force, and covers topics such as history, organization, regulations, practices, traditions and customs. The test is 100 multiple choice questions. The score one earns on the test is the same number of points awarded (100 maximum).
Skills Knowledge Test (SKT)
The Skills Knowledge Test is a 100 question multiple choice test. The test material is taken from the Career Development Course (CDCs) and applicable Air Force Instructions and Manuals for each AFSC. Members in different AFSCs take different SKTs. The number of points earned on the SKT is the number of points awarded towards promotion (100 maximum).
There are some members who, for one reason or another, do not take the SKT. The common reasons are that they are performing a special duty, and do have CDCs, or they are in the process of retraining so have not done the CDCs for their new job. Others may not have access to their CDCs for one reason or another. These members take only the PFE and the same score counts in place of the SKT. (So if they earn a 60 on the PFE, it is as if they earn a 60 on the PFE and also a 60 on the SKT.) This is termed either "PFE only" or "SKT exempt".
Taking the tests is known as "WAPS Testing" or "Promotion Testing".
When it is determined who will be promoted, a list is drawn up and each person is assigned a number officially known as "promotion sequence numbers" but called line numbers by everyone, as if all the promotees were waiting in a line, the line number says which order one will be promoted. The line numbers are all across the Air Force, not by AFSC. The promotions begin in September and will continue each month on the first of the month for 12 months for SSgts while TSgt promotions start in August.
The line numbers are given out according to time in current grade, not by promotion scores, as is frequently perceived.
The promotion system has come under heavy criticism from all ranks in the Air Force. The primary complaint is that the EPR
system has become "inflated",".
with most average and above individuals, including the stellar performers, receiving 5s, leaving much of the "who gets promoted" determination to the academic testing, which isn't necessarily a good indication of who is ready to lead and take on more responsibility.