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AFPC outlines options for senior airmen affected by lost promotion tests

Jul. 25, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Air Force is still trying to hunt down promotion test answer sheets for the most recent testing cycle that went MIA after they were mailed via FedEx from Pope Airfield, North Carolina, Air Force Personnel Center officials said Friday.

If the answer sheets are found, they’ll be scored and applied to the service member’s weighted airman promotion system score; if selected, they’ll receive retroactive date of rank and back pay, Air Force Personnel Center said in an email response to questions.

If the missing documents don’t turn up, the airmen will have the chance to test again in August on the promotion fitness exam portion only.

“The Air Force is creating a new version of the PFE for those that choose this option,” the email said.

Another option: Airman can wait until their next scheduled test cycle and test on both the promotion fitness exam and skills knowledge test. Those scores will be applied for both the 2015 cycle and for supplemental consideration for 2014.

They’ll have until mid-August to let their force support squadron testing office know if they wish to retest and to sign for their test date.

“Airmen are not ‘passed over’ since they will receive supplemental promotion consideration and, if selected through the supplemental process, will receive retroactive date of rank and any due back pay,” the email stated.

AFPC confirmed July 17 that the answer sheets for 99 airmen at Pope never reached Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, for scoring. All but 10 belonged to senior airmen testing for staff sergeant; three belonged to staff sergeants and seven to technical sergeants testing for their next rank, according to Friday’s email.

The airmen’s social security numbers were on the test, AFPC said, a situation the Pope Privacy Act office is aware of.

Pope notified the Air Force Personnel Center early this month that one package of answer sheets they mailed did not arrive.

“As soon as the discovery was made, a tracer was placed on the package with the contracted carrier and all efforts to search for the package at Pope and AFPC were conducted. A total of three searches by the contracted carrier have been accomplished to date,” AFPC said.

All but one airman impacted by the lost answer sheets have been notified, including some who are deployed, according to the email. That airman is away from his base “attending to a family matter.”

The affected airmen alsohave been told about their options, and their squadron leadership is following up to answer questions.

“Base leadership is heavily involved, ensuring the Airmen are aware of the differences between testing PFE-only and waiting to test PFE and SKT in cycle,” the email said.

Though unusual — AFPC said it has no verified reports of missing answer sheets from other locations — Air Force Instruction 35-2605 covers such a scenario, AFPC said. Airmen are required to retest if answer sheets are “inadvertently destroyed, lost in the mail, received in a condition that prevents scoring, or testing conditions ... invalidate test administration,” according to the instruction.

The testing window for staff sergeant closed May 16, and the Air Force said July 10 that 9,403 senior airmen were selected for promotion — 25.59 percent of those eligible and the lowest selection rate in 16 years. Senior airmen tested one month earlier than usual to make sure those selected would not have to face enlisted retention boards.

The Air Force has no system in place to administer promotions tests electronically, AFPC said.

“We are constantly reviewing our processes to employ electronic processing where possible to achieve cost and manpower savings.”

But a recent review showed that the current testing method, which includes printing and mailing tests and answer sheets, costs $140,000 a year. An electronic system was estimated to cost $7 million to field and an additional $2 million to maintain, AFPC said.

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