Passed Over for Military Promotion: What to Expect

If you’ve been in longer than two minutes (as in in the military life), you’re probably used to the military taking your carefully laid plans and throwing them out the window. That last-minute deployment, that new duty station (number 17 on your dream sheet), and many missed dinners are all just part of the life. It’s an annoyance, but what happens when that change of plans has potentially huge implications for your spouse’s career?

Passed Over For Military Promotion

Being passed over for military promotion can be shocking, frustrating, and potentially career-ending. While your spouse should know the procedural part of the process — or at least know who to talk to for answers — here are the basics.

The Process

Our military is currently operating under the up-or-out system of promotion. This means service members are promoted based on comparison to their peers, and if passed over for military promotion twice, they will be forced out of the military. The promotion rates (the percentage of people promoted) vary slightly with every board, depending on the career field, the number of people needed in the next rank, and a whole bunch of other numerical details. Service members can find the promotion rates for their career fields and the number of people promoted the second time around.

If your spouse is nearing retirement, there’s an additional step after the second pass called a continuation board. This board will determine if your spouse will be allowed to continue service in the current rank until the 20-year retirement mark.

What to Expect at Home

Regardless of rank and time served, you can expect getting passed over to have an impact at home. It’s likely you and your spouse will feel some or all of the following, so keep an eye out, and keep communicating with one another.

  1. Grief — It may feel silly to grieve about not being promoted, but it’s just a normal, biological reaction. Besides, we’re talking about more than just a change in title. You may be desperately needing an income boost, hoping for a new location, or wanting to hit specific career goals. It’s OK to be upset. Grief looks different for each person, so if you or your spouse are particularly irritable, nervous, refusing to communicate, or uncharacteristically pessimistic, have patience and grace.
  2. Betrayal — Many service members feel a profound sense of loyalty to their branch of the military. They place the needs of the service before their own or their families’ needs, whether out of necessity or sense of duty. It can be a devastating blow to learn that their service may not love them as much as they love it. While not fun in the moment, it’s not an entirely bad thing. Everyone at some point has to realize that their employer will continue without them. But this can still cause dissatisfaction at work, doubt in worthiness, a crisis in faith, and any number of other effects.
  3. Determination or resignation — Your spouse will most likely swing one of two ways in response to a first pass. With determination, your spouse may decide to become a rock star in hopes of being more appealing to the board at the second pass. You can expect some longer hours at work for about a year if your spouse reacts this way. On the other hand, your spouse may accept that military promotion isn’t going to happen and start looking at post-military career options. Your spouse may even waver between the two of these.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of how you and your spouse react to the news, the bottom line is: Promotion, or lack thereof, does not define you. This could very well be the result of a change in policies, a change in numbers needed, or any number of factors the board determines are important. Like all standardized testing and grading, military fitness reports don’t always effectively reflect on a person’s effectiveness in their field. Remind your spouse that you and your family will outlast the military in your lives — military life was only ever intended to be a chapter. Reassure each other that this fact will not change. Your family can handle whatever the military throws at you, even if it’s a discharge.

Need some motivation? Find it in Seek Challenging Friends, Be a Challenging Friend.Passed Over For Military Promotion

Photo Credits: Kristi Stolzenberg | Eastern Sky Photography NC



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Daily Mom Military
Daily Mom Military
Daily Mom Military is a resource dedicated to serving the unique needs of military moms. Through our website, we provide comprehensive advice for all things concerning military lives and families. Our mission is to equip these incredible women with the necessary tools, resources, and community to navigate the challenges of military life. We understand the unique struggles and triumphs that come with being a military mom and strive to be a one-stop-shop for advice, tips, and support.