COLORADO SPRINGS Colo. -- Being an enlisted ground-based midcourse defense air defender is not easy or glamorous. But it's an important job very few get to do. When it comes to getting promoted as such, that's a process as rare as the air defenders themselves.

Ground Based Midcourse Defense is the system utilized to defend the nation against ballistic missile attacks. The only unit in the Army given that mission is the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, which makes the T3 identifier a unique military occupation specialty.

In addition, this multi-component brigade is spread among three different states' National Guards -- Colorado, California and Alaska. So when it comes time for a promotion, Soldiers not only have to impress those in their state, they have to make it through a review process between the three states.

For there to be any upward mobility, the three states' National Guards have found a way to review these Soldiers and pick out those who fit the criteria in which to be put on top of the promotions list.

Sergeants Major from each state meet twice a year in one of the three states to meet face-to-face and review each Soldier's packet. While this is a common practice for all states, what is unique is that three different states, with three different promotion systems combine for the purpose of evaluating GMD missile defenders for promotion.

"The creation of the tri-state board specifically was because of the missile defense mission," said Sgt. Maj. Herald London, state Sergeant Major for California. "It's the uniqueness of the 14 series that makes this process necessary."

To avoid having to travel to the same location each time, the board is rotated between Alaska, California and Colorado.

"This year, the fall board was to be here at the brigade, in Colorado, and the spring board will be held in California," said Staff Sgt. Kimberly Pinney, an administration non-commissioned officer for the 100th MDB.

Typically these meetings take place at the state's headquarters, and getting the Soldiers together who make the decisions presents its own sets of problems.

"Getting the Sergeants Major to pick a day, with their busy schedules is very trying," said Pinney.
But once they all get in the same room is when all the work in this unique process starts, said London.

"They go a little farther than most (enlisted promotions board) board processes would," said London. "You wouldn't have E-9s looking at E-4s and E-5s in a normal EPS process. You would have E-7s look at them. But because this 14 series is a very narrow band of Soldier pool added with the complexity of the mission, if you're not in space and missile defense you're not going to understand it and how they work."

They look at about 15 Soldiers who have already been selected by their own individual states boards.

"What's interesting is that this process has survived several changes of senior enlisted leaders and continues to get better," said London.

The sergeants major have to evaluate all the Soldiers who carry the 14 series MOS. From that list, they must select the most qualified Soldiers to be put on the promotion list. Their primary goal once they determine criteria is to find Soldiers who have the qualities and job experience/locations that can separate them from the crowd.

The 100th MDB and its subordinate units, Detachment One, located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and the 49th Missile Defense Battalion, at Fort Greely, Alaska, are the only positions that this MOS can be promoted at, and they are the place in which NCOs can get the unique development to make themselves competitive for the next grade. This is one of the many reasons a tri-state board is used.

"It's the idea of the 'whole Soldiers concept,'" added Pinney. "It's not just one or two things that make a great Soldier. It's everything."

Soldiers can make themselves stand out by having good physical training and marksmanship scores, but also by being willing to work at two or three different locations that the 100th MDB occupies.

Getting picked out the crowd is only half the battle. There are slots that need to open. But to even be considered to get promoted, one has to make it on the list by being selected in the tri-state boards.

"I think it's very a fair process," added London. "I think it's a great program, it's doing the right thing by these Soldiers."