ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, June 12, 2008) - Five Army National Guard Soldiers have received battlefield promotions while serving in Iraq.

They are the first Minutemen to benefit from a new Army experimental program reintroducing battlefield promotions for the first time since World War II.

"They were recognized on a level playing field alongside the other components, the Active Army and the Reserve," said Sgt. Maj. Michael Lawrence, senior enlisted advisor, National Guard affairs, Multinational Corps-Iraq. "They are performing at the same standards as all of their contemporaries."

An April 1 military personnel message announced a one-year pilot program making Active Army, Guard and Reserve Soldiers in the grades of E-1 through E-5 eligible for battlefield promotions, Stars and Stripes reported.

"In 2007, Gen. David Petraeus asked the Army to authorize battlefield promotions for Soldiers serving in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," Lawrence explained. "The battlefield promotion program is to recognize and promote Soldiers for extraordinary performance of duties while serving in combat or under combat conditions."

No additional requirements are incurred by the Guardmember as a result of the promotion. Normally, Soldiers are required to remain in service for at least six months after making sergeant and for at least a year after achieving staff sergeant.

The five:
Aca,!Ac From the California National Guard, Cpl. Jeffrey Johanson, infantryman, promoted to sergeant.
Aca,!Ac From Rhode Island, Spc. Billy Hannah, health care specialist, promoted to sergeant, and Sgt. James Shenk, unit supply specialist, to staff sergeant.
Aca,!Ac From Virginia, Pfc. Frederic Newton, combat engineer, promoted to specialist.
Aca,!Ac From Washington, Spc. Jacob Lancaster, military policeman, promoted to sergeant.

A squad leader at Forward Operating Base Future in Baghdad, Shenk has served for 12 years with the Rhode Island Guard. He's a full-time technician at Joint Forces Headquarters. He served as a military policeman during a previous Iraq deployment.

Hannah, also on his second tour in Iraq, volunteered to return out of loyalty to his unit. A civilian X-ray and computerized tomography technician, Hannah has a son in the Marine Corps who has been wounded in action during one of two Iraq rotations.

The other Soldiers who were promoted could not be reached for comment.

To qualify for a battlefield promotion, Soldiers must be serving within Iraq or Afghanistan in operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom. There have not yet been any battlefield promotions involving National Guard troops in Afghanistan, Lawrence said.

The program waives time-in-service and time-in-grade requirements for corporals or specialists being promoted to sergeant. It also postpones minimum military education requirements and waives promotion boards for sergeants being promoted to staff sergeant.

A Soldier given a battlefield promotion to staff sergeant has 270 days from redeployment to graduate from the Warrior Leader Course, according to Lawrence. Returning Soldiers will be given priority for the course, he said.

The program makes allowances for the unique structure of the National Guard.

"Each adjutant general retains promotion authority over their Soldiers," Lawrence said. "Their wartime commander, recognizing their extraordinary performance, recommends them for promotion which in turn gets authorized by MNC-I. Then the states cut the orders. There's a link between the battlefield and the states."

Only one battlefield promotion is allowed, so a Soldier who gets a battlefield promotion to sergeant must achieve staff sergeant by the normal route.

The pilot program ends April 9, 2009.

(Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves with the National Guard Bureau)