6-Week Series: Against All Odds

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My Stripes

Many years ago I was enlisted in the Air Force and competed for promotion to Technical Sergeant. I was a Staff Sergeant that had been recognized as one of the best. I had fire wall 5 performance reports and had been Group NCO of the Year for two consecutive years. I had all the right medals at the right time and had the right amount of time both in rank, and in the service. This was my year to make it.

But, I didn’t sit on my laurels. I had studied for months to prepare for the Air Force military knowledge test as well as the test on my specific career field. I was blessed with being in a job that covered all the bases and was able to relate to the information very well. When the time came for me to test, I was ready. I took both tests and walked out of the testing room knowing I did the best job I’d ever done. This was my second time testing for Technical Sergeant. I had filled all the right boxes, done the right things and performed as well as I could have possibly done.

The day was announced when they would release the results of who had made it. I KNEW I was one of the selects. Everything had been perfect. The day prior, the shop chief received a phone call. “Make sure everyone is there tomorrow morning; the Commander will be stopping by.” This was a clear indication. I was a select. There was only one other person up for promotion. He was new to the shop and I had more time in rank and more time in service than he did. No-one made it first time testing and this was his first time.

The following morning, I was as happy as could be and ready to receive the official good news. The Commander and First Sergeant came to the shop and had an announcement to make. I made sure I was in a position that would allow me to move forward when the time was right. The Colonel announced the great news, we had a Technical Sergeant select and it was customary to present stripes to our new promote. “Would Sean please step forward.”

Wow, He must have made it too, and this was his first time testing. Two new stripes in the shop today. This is a good day!

The First sergeant helped ceremoniously tack the new stripes on Sean and both the Commander and the Shirt congratulated him. I anxiously waited for my name to be called next. It was my turn to get my new stripes. The Commander made a few comments and said he had a few more places to stop by. Then, the First Sergeant and the Commander left, with me a bit stunned by what had just happened. Didn’t they forget something? But no; I didn’t make it.

It took a few weeks before we all received our print outs showing how good or bad we did for promotion. When all was said and done, I was the number one non-select; the number one person in my job that was not selected for another stripe. I had missed my stripe by a mere half a point. The overconfidence I had with the test scores was well placed in one test, but not so much in the other test. I did know my job cold. But, I had a bit of room for improvement in the military knowledge test. Had I gotten just one more question correct, I would’ve received MY stripes as well.

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