Debate: The Downside of Fast Promotions in the Army

Today, I want to talk about the downside of fast promotions in the Army, to include the USAR and ARNG.  Ever since 9/11, Soldiers have been getting promoted faster. This applies to enlisted Soldiers and officers alike.  Minimum time in grade requirements have been drastically reduced to meet the huge demand to fill certain ranks.   Officers now reach Captain in about three years time and I’ve even met E-7’s with less than 8 years of service.  And I’ve met Soldiers who reached the NCO ranks with less than three years in the military.

While most Soldiers who get promoted are good Soldiers, good leaders and good people, I personally believe that fast promotions causes MAJOR long-term problems in the Army.  The major problem I have with fast promotions is that the Soldiers (enlisted or officers) do not have the experience or maturity that they should have.  And trust me, there are few things more important than experience (competence is the only thing I can think of).

For example, a Soldier that gets promoted to E-7 at 14 years of service has TONS more experience than an E-7 who makes it at eight years.  I’m not saying that the NCO who gets promoted with 14 years in service is a better leader, but I am saying they have more military experience and in most cases are BETTER qualified to fill that assignment.

Let’s face it; as we get older and spend more time in the military we get wiser.  We learn how the system works.  We experience good things and bad things.  We get combat experience.   We complete more training exercises, deployments and tough assignments.  We learn from our mistakes.  In addition, we get LIFE EXPERIENCE.  All of these things round out our leadership experience and prepare us for current and future assignments.

If it was up to me, I wouldn’t let anyone become a NCO with less than five years of service.  And I definitely wouldn’t let someone reach the Captain rank with less than five years either.  These are all important positions and we need to make sure that our leaders have enough experience so they can do their job correctly.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think that the fast promotions in the Army are creating any type of problem (long-term or short-term)? If so, what type of problems do you see?  Please share your thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment below.  I look forward to hearing from you .

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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11 thoughts on “Debate: The Downside of Fast Promotions in the Army”

  1. I am afraid I keep putting some comments in the wrong sections at times. I apologize again.

    Still, as far as fast promotions, it is an individual mindset thing.

    If you are repeating 1-2 years of experience 14 times, then you aren’t gaining ground.

    On the other hand, if you have progressed like you should each year and learned the cumulative things you should over a 14 year period, then you are deserving of the promotion and the new rank each time.

    1. Good points. Personally, I think nothing beats evaluated experience. Yes, just because you have a lot of experience doesn’t mean you are worthy of a promotion, but without the experience it can be a show stopper.

  2. I would agree that most Lieutenants are not seasoned enough to handle being a company commander.

    It takes time and experience to learn to handle all the different situations you would see and use good judgement when doing so.

    1. That’s how I feel. Many people forced in the position will find a way to make it happen and that’s perfectly fine. That being said, it’s a much better situation when someone has had plenty of troop time and staff time and is already an experience Captain.

  3. Faith A. Coleman

    I really learned something from this blog. It was 2001, just after 9/11, when my ties with the Army were severed. I didn’t realize that promotion times were reduced after that. It seemed to me that before 9/11, times until promotion were exceptionally long, but like you said – there’s no substitute for the learning and competence that comes with experience. Both fast and slow have pros and cons; either way you’ll have people who wouldn’t do well with fast promotion and those whose skills are such that they get wasted waiting for the longer time to be promoted. The process doesn’t lend itself to the case by case consideration given in civilian life.

    1. I’m not sure what the Army could do to standardize the promotion process to make it more efficient. I think one thing they could consider is letting local leaders decide who gets promoted, rather than doing things by the board. The only benefit of the board is that it is neutral and doesn’t play favorites. The drawback is that the board does not know soldiers on a personal level. I’ve met good and bad NCOs and Officers who were promoted fast. It varies on a case by case basis.

  4. Candace Ginestar

    Experience, to me, is only good if the person actually does something productive with it. I've met guys in for 16 years and are an E7 that can barely tie their shoes. I can see how the fast promotions came about, and looking at majority of the combat arms guys I know… or was justified based on what they were doing overseas. Some slipped through the cracks of course. I think a combination of combat experience and general experience is important in today's Army.

  5. Candace Ginestar

    It depends…and that this is why leadership points/ eval on the 4100s are crucial. While there are many who need more experience, there are a rare few who have actual combat experience many times over as well as inherent leadership qualities that make it to where it doesn't matter if they made SFC at only 9 years.
    Truth is though that many are not ready and many should not even be NCOs.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Like you said, I’ve met fast track NCOs who were superb and some who couldn’t lead themselves. There are pros and cons to anything. I’d bet that more often than not fast promotions are a bad thing. Nothing will ever replace experience.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        I think that now that our time overseas is slowing down, we will see the promotion timelines change again. Also, there is a minimum TIG as well as TIS that comes into play once you are up for E-8, so even if you were fast tracked like my husband was, he still has to wait until he hits 13 years TIS to even make the 8 list.
        That may help slow some people down, but who knows?
        I see more people slowed down in the ARNG on the officer side, than active Army. What do you think about that, Chuck?

        1. Most people I knew on the Active Duty side who were promoted at minimum time in grade plateaued early. They might have hit SFC or COL quickly, but then they didn’t get promoted again. Or, they got passed by all their peers who got promoted at the normal times. Sometimes, getting promoted early can be the kiss of death.

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