Enlisted promotions: How can I join the top 1%?

By Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Do you want to get promoted, expand your level of leadership and join the enlisted force’s top one percent? We researched how chief master sergeants worked their way through the enlisted ranks, and found these common tips on how they made the most of each promotion opportunity.

Set goals and create a study plan

Chief Master Sgt. Patrick Edem, 7th Air Force Directorate of Logistics chief enlisted manager, recommends Airmen dedicate deliberate time to studying for their Promotion Fitness Exam and Specialty Knowledge Test. Edem believes that setting goals and developing a comprehensive study plan will help Airmen retain the most information when the time comes to test for their next stripe.

“Being fully prepared and ready requires more time than just a glance over; you must digest and absorb the PDG, CDC material and any other career field requirements to do well.”
– Chief Master Sgt. Patrick Edem

Using flash cards, notes, audio aids and alternating study times and locations will help Airmen stay focused and on track to be successful on the day of testing. You may need to set aside time on nights and weekends, and find quiet, isolated locations that are conducive to learning to get the most out of your dedicated study sessions. Read more about Edem’s advice for studying for promotion tests.

Dedicate time to meet other promotion requirements

Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Miller, 2nd Maintenance Squadron superintendent, advises Airmen to dedicate themselves to completing their education requirements, and go the extra mile to pursue other self-improvement and community service activities. Miller states that Airmen need to demonstrate a willingness to separate themselves from their peers, which can give them a leg up to fulfilling their career aspirations and goals.

“To be competitive for awards and promotions, we must commit ourselves to goals such as education, passing the fitness exam and community service. It is through completion of these expectations and requirements that we become better leaders, managers and Airmen.”
– Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Miller

Participating and leading professional development sessions and being involved in professional organizations are also excellent ways to round out your promotion portfolio. Read more about Miller’s advice on preparing for promotion opportunities.

Find a mentor

Miller believes identifying a mentor early in his career helped propel him through the enlisted ranks. Chief Master Sgt. Von Burns, 190th Operations Group superintendent, also shared his insight about mentorship, acknowledging that mentors can be used to help Airmen grow and develop personally and professionally throughout their careers.

“Consistent mentorship and a few one-way ‘conversations’ from a chief master sergeant propelled me down the road of education.” – Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Miller

Mentors come in many forms, and Airmen shouldn’t be afraid to walk up to a successful civilian, enlisted member or officer and ask them to share their career advice and become a mentor. Mentors wear a lot of hats. They can serve as trusted counselors and suggest career paths and opportunities that match your individual goals. Their advice and guidance can lay the foundation for you to join the senior noncommissioned officer corps. Read more about Burns’ thoughts on mentoring and growing Airmen.

Commitment to the mission and your career field, and putting in the time to prepare and study for promotion opportunities will lead you on a path to joining the enlisted force’s top one percent. What tips have you learned over the years on preparing for promotion tests?