FORT SILL, Okla. -- In trying to recruit, train and retain Soldiers, Human Resources Command is always looking to modify policies to make the Army better and to streamline Army processes. That change is all part of Army transformation, said Sgt. Maj. Michael Croom, sergeant major for the deputy chief of staff for personnel, Department of the Army.

One area the Army is changing is promotions, both at the junior and senior noncommissioned officer level.

Junior NCOs

For junior enlisted troops, there is currently automatic list integration in effect for the rank of sergeant, and automatic list integration will be implemented in April for the rank of staff sergeant. This program allows specialists, and soon sergeants, to be integrated onto the promotable list if they meet certain promotion point requirements. These Soldiers are not required to appear before a promotion board to be promoted.

Years before the Army implemented the program, there were complaints from commanders that they did not have enough sergeants to fill unit requirements, Croom said. Human Resources responded many times with letters to commanders encouraging them to send specialists who met promotion requirements to the promotion board. Despite memorandums from HRC, promotions were still not keeping up with demand. So, to fill readiness requirements, HRC implemented automatic list integration, he said.

Now, commanders are reporting they don't have enough staff sergeants to fill unit requirements. So automatic list integration will soon apply to sergeants who meet promotion requirements.

"We have to support readiness. If these people have been in the Army for that long, they have good records, they served in combat on multiple tours, if we don't recommend them for promotion, they're going to walk. They're going to leave the Army," Croom explained.

Semi-centralized promotions will also be changing. The way promotion points are calculated for promotable specialists and sergeants will change Oct. 1. There will no longer be points assigned for the promotion board, and there will be no commander's points. It will be a go or a no-go for those two areas, Croom said.

"The reason why ... is when we looked at promotion points, most Soldiers were getting the maximum points for boards and commander's points. (Now) the commander can say yes you're ready ... or no you're not ready. When they conduct the board, it is the same thing," he said.

The revamped promotion points system was built to drive behavior. "We want specialists to concentrate on honing their skills at Skill Level I and Skill Level II. We want sergeants to concentrate on honing their skills at levels I, II and III, and we want staff sergeants to concentrate on level IV," he added.

Soldiers will still be able to accumulate 800 promotion points, but the lost 200 points will be reallocated to other areas. Soldiers will be able to earn 255 points for military training, 100 points for civilian training, 280 points for military education and 165 points for awards.

Senior NCOs

Promotions for master sergeants and first sergeants will also change in the next few years. To be promoted to the rank of sergeant major, master sergeants will have to serve a minimum of two full years in that grade, in their leadership position. Then, they will have to pass a background check to be selected for Sergeants Major Academy.

"If you have criminality in your background you will never be promoted nor will you ever go to the Sergeants Major Academy," Croom said. "Your career progression is ended right there."

Master sergeants who pass the background check and attend school will be promoted to, or be frocked, sergeant major upon graduation. They then have to serve at least one year as a sergeant major before they can compete for a command sergeant major position. There will be centralized selection lists for command sergeant major positions one for combat arms, one for combat support and one for combat service support, Croom said.

"It will be the people in your area of expertise, in your part of the Army, who will look at you to see if you have the expertise to be a command sergeant major," he explained.

Once selected, command sergeants major will be paired with their commanders and scheduled for the Pre-Command Course together. This will allow new command sergeants major to get to know the commanders they will work with. It will also allow the spouses to become acquainted and the children to meet each other. In addition, sergeants major and their commanders will have a year to establish command philosophies before arriving at their next assignments, Croom said.

The way the system is set up now, sergeants major often have only a matter of weeks to decide whether or not to take command sergeant major assignments. "In most cases, you either take it, or you come out of the program, and that's not fair to the senior enlisted grades in the Army. This will help us alleviate that type of personnel management for the senior enlisted grades," Croom said.

Command sergeant major tours may also be lengthened to three-year tours to accommodate life-cycle management for brigade combat teams. After successful tours as command sergeant major at the brigade level, command sergeants major can be considered for assignment to nominative positions, which are assignments with one- to four-star generals and other important assignments.

Promotions on the battlefield are also changing.

"General (David) Petraeus (commanding general of Multi-National Force Iraq) wants to create a policy for battlefield promotions where if a Soldier is working at a higher rank than what he's wearing on his collar and he does some heroic act on the battlefield that is not covered by an award, that gives the commander of the Corps the ability to promote up to 2.5 percent of those Soldiers," Croom said.

There will be a certain number of Soldiers who can be promoted. Those promotions will be permanent for all three components of the Army. It will be written into policy and is being staffed around the world with the Guard and Reserves. The pilot program begins in April, he said.