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Promotion release 'virtual' success

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- It was deathly quiet at 7:45 a.m. at the Air Force Personnel Center on June 26. Here, and around the world, noncommissioned officers eligible for promotion to technical and master sergeant hit the Internet, hoping someone had posted the promotion list prior to the 8 a.m. scheduled release.

At 7:59 a.m., a scream ripped through the air as both the Air Force Portal and the AFPC public Web site posted the list. More screams followed, some tears, a number of groans and many different versions of the chant, "I did it! I did it!" It was a grand day for the Air Force as 12,514 NCOs advanced to the next level.

The tech and master release was the third major enlisted promotion release using the new Web-based process, and by far the largest.

"Before the virtual process, the scenario of having to report to your commander to find out your score added unnecessary stress to an already intense situation," said Tech. Sgt. Derrick Grant from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., who was selected for promotion to master sergeant.

"If you didn't get promoted, you sometimes felt compelled to justify your score to your commander during an already disappointing time. This process of being the first to know mitigated much of the stress, and the instant gratification and ability to immediately look up your score [via Air Force Portal and virtual Military Personnel Flight] was a phenomenal change."

The virtual promotion release system resolves several challenges from the former promotion notification process: notifying Airmen all over the world on a specific date and time, safeguarding the integrity of the list against unauthorized release and premature notification, as well as letting non-selects determine their status at the same time.

"The virtual promotion release was very successful here at Hill Air Force Base," said Col. Linda Medler, 75th Air Base Wing commander. "The timing couldn't have been better for us. We were right in the middle of an operational readiness exercise, and with people 'in the field,' as well as outside of their normal duty locations, the Internet provided a common area for eligible staff and technical sergeants to find out their promotion status at the same time."

"However, there were some issues from the command perspective that need to be worked on before the next promotion release," said Colonel Medler. "There were technological issues with access to the unit lists of selectees, which meant the troops knew of their promotions, but commanders had to sort through the entire worldwide list to find their people."

Many commanders experienced the same problem, caused by a failure of the Common Access Card login software from the Department of Defense. The program containing the unit lists was operational, but no one could access it because the ability to login with the CAC was down across the whole Air Force for about an hour that morning.

Col. Glenn Rattell, AFPC Personnel Data Systems director, said DoD is still researching the problem, but, "we've come up with some workarounds to 'load balance' the activity so we shouldn't see this happen in August [for the staff sergeant promotion selection list]."

AFPC will continue to provide multiple access points to the promotion list on the public and military AFPC Web sites, the Air Force Portal, and vMPF. "However," Colonel Rattell added, "we've not stopped working to try and completely resolve the problem with the CAC."

According to Tech. Sgt. Michael Noel, an instructor at the Gaylor NCO Academy, Lackland AFB, Texas, who was also selected for promotion to master sergeant, technology makes the release process more efficient and adds consistency across the force.

"And, although some may feel the process is less personable," he added, "I still received the same kind of acknowledgement from leadership that I had received during previous promotions."

The virtual promotion release is one more initiative AFPC has taken to expand on technology through delivery of personnel services via 24-hour access to Web-based personnel information.

For more information, visit the Enlisted Promotions page on the AFPC "Ask" Web site. You can also get more information through the 24-hour Air Force Contact Center at (800) 616-3775.