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Face of Defense: Soldier Earns Battlefield Promotion

By Army Sgt. Jason Stadel
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq, May 30, 2008 – Christian Stephenson has bided his time as a finance noncommissioned officer. Stephenson, who has been in the Army for eight years, was promoted to sergeant four years ago and became promotable to staff sergeant three years ago.

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Army Capt. James Harvey (right), commander of the 3rd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and Sgt. 1st Class Vonda Chambers (center) “pin” staff sergeant rank on Christian Stephenson at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, May 24, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jason Stadel, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

He said he’s had 720 “promotion points” -- the maximum is 798 -- for a long time, but the cutoff for promotions to staff sergeant in his career field hasn’t been below 775 for five years. “It was frustrating working so hard to get those points but never making the cutoff,” the Emerald Isle, N.C., native said. “It had been at least six months since I’d even checked the scores. When they come out each month, I knew they wouldn’t drop.”

But a new promotion program started by Multinational Corps Iraq finally has given him the “rocker” stripe of staff sergeant rank. Stephenson, with the 3rd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, received a battlefield promotion to staff sergeant May 24.

The battlefield promotion program is in a yearlong test phase that allows deployed soldiers to be recognized for their efforts and be promoted based on their duty performance and, more importantly, on leader recommendations.

“You have to set yourself a mark above the rest,” said Army Master Sgt. Michael Flournoy, a Minden, La., native who is noncommissioned officer in charge of 2nd BCT’s personnel and administration section and Stephenson’s supervisor. “Your chain of command has to say that you’re ready for the extra responsibility. In our case, Sergeant Stephenson has been performing in a manner well above his pay grade. He’s an expert in his field.”

May’s battlefield promotion selections marked the first of four scheduled throughout the year. Each brigade was able to promote two privates first class to specialists, one specialist to sergeant and one sergeant to staff sergeant.

Battalions within the Spartan Brigade sent their recommendations for battlefield promotions to the brigade personnel and administration section. From there, the brigade commander, Army Col. Terry Ferrell, and brigade command sergeant major, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane, decided which soldiers should receive the battlefield promotions. Their recommendations went forward to division level, and ultimately to the corps commander for approval.

Other Spartan soldiers selected for battlefield promotion were Sgt. Daniel Demer, from Company C, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment; Spc. Jessica Faaumu, Company B, 26th Brigade Support Battalion; and Spc. Bryan Walton, Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

“Any time you are selected above your peers for anything, it is a huge honor,” said 1st Sgt. Travis Bean, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT. He said Stephenson’s promotion “could not have gone to a more deserving NCO.”

Stephenson said he had heard of the battlefield promotion program but had no idea that he’d been recommended.

“I came to work the other day, and I looked at my [leave and earnings statement], and it was showing staff sergeant pay,” Stephenson said. “I asked my NCO about it, and he laughed and said, ‘You weren’t supposed to know about that yet.’

“It was unexpected. I thought it would go to an infantry guy or something, and they probably deserved it,” Stephenson said. “I’m just humbled to be given such an honor. All of the hard work has paid off.”

Bean said the promotion program is a great way to recognize those who perform at a high level, no matter their job.

“It’s important for all soldiers to realize that everyone on the battlefield plays a vital role, whether you are clearing a building, performing maintenance, working in a [tactical operations center] or ensuring that all soldiers’ pay and entitlements are correct,” said Bean, from Glennville, Ga.

With his promotion to staff sergeant, Stephenson said, he now would like to work at Fort Jackson, S.C., as a finance instructor in advanced individual training.

“This promotion puts my career in a whole new direction,” he said. “I can’t say it enough. … I’m just humbled to be selected.”

(Army Sgt. Jason Stadel serves in the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq
Multinational Corps Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Col. Terry Ferrell, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, speaks to Army Staff Sgt. Christian Stephenson after Stephenson’s battlefield promotion, May 24, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jason Stadel, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division  
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