The Air Force Reserve has upgraded about 3,500 rank authorizations across its force to give more promotion opportunities to enlisted airmen.
Beginning this month, the changes apply to all statuses within the enlisted Reserve force: Active Guard Reserve members, Air Reserve technicians, traditional reservists and individual mobilization augmentees, according to a news release. Put simply, the change means that thousands of jobs are now designated for a more senior paygrade, creating new opportunities for advancement for airmen in those fields.
"With the restructure of the [Air Force Reserve Command] enlisted grade authorizations, we are in a position to promote the right airmen into the right vacancies and capitalize on that individual's leadership potential," Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White, AFRC command chief, said in the announcement.
The service's Enlisted Grade Council recommended the changes following a comprehensive review, which outlined one major goal: giving leaders more flexibility in how they recommend airmen for an assortment of positions.
"When we were looking at this, it wasn't by bases," said Sean P. Houlihan, chief of operations at AFRC public affairs.
"We were looking at the authorizations the Air Force [grants] for manning. It was the duties that are assigned, and what … level [of] leadership that we need on the enlisted side in order to accomplish the mission," he said.
Staff sergeants and technical sergeants fall under the noncommissioned officer tier, while master sergeants, senior master sergeants and chief master sergeant are considered senior NCOs.
"When they looked at these numbers, they looked at opening more positions for [eligible] senior NCOs ... to get into leadership positions within their squadrons," Houlihan said.
The Reserve looked across grades and all Air Force Specialty Codes to see how the newly upgraded authorizations would affect promotion opportunities, he told Military.com on Wednesday.
However, Houlihan said there will be some give and take.
"We're also capped by end-strength numbers, and on the senior NCO side, [that means] how many airmen can be in the senior NCO tier," he said. As a result, there will be a reduction in grade for 2% of the jobs for enlisted members in the Reserve.
This changes how authorizations are perceived internally, but it will not actually demote any airmen, Houlihan said.
"Let's say we took a technical sergeant, 7-level authorization at Grissom Air Reserve Base [Indiana], who is a Security Forces airman. That tech sergeant authorization is now downgraded to a staff sergeant 5-level authorization on the manning document ... but [an airman] has not been demoted," he said.
"We're just changing the manning document. But if you're sitting in that manning position, you're only going to become a staff sergeant if you're sitting in that job" going forward, he explained.
Houlihan stressed the changes are meant to address readiness shortfalls and the ranks needed to execute specific missions.
"Our bottom line in the command is that we wanted to make sure that we have an enlisted force structure that ensures our readiness for the Air Force's needs, and offers our Reserve citizen airmen the opportunity to promote within those organizations ... where they're assigned," he said.