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Outstanding Airmen STEP up to new ranks

Master Sgt. Charles McBride Jr., Senior Master Sgt. Steven Bicknell, and Staff Sgt. Jason Lauth, 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, were promoted to senior master sergeant, chief master sergeant and technical sergeant respectively via the Air Force Reserve Stripes for Exceptional Performers II program. They will add on their new stripes Oct. 1. The 919th Special Operations Wing had six STEP II promotees this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Master Sgt. Charles McBride Jr., Senior Master Sgt. Steven Bicknell, and Staff Sgt. Jason Lauth, 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, were promoted to senior master sergeant, chief master sergeant and technical sergeant respectively via the Air Force Reserve Stripes for Exceptional Performers II program. They will add on their new stripes Oct. 1. The 919th Special Operations Wing had six STEP II promotees this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Tech. Sgt. Sherry Neklason-Rice, 2nd Special Operations Squadron, was promoted to master sergeant via the Air Force Reserve Stripes for Exceptional Performers II program. She will sew on her new stripe Oct. 1. The 919th Special Operations Wing had six STEP II promotees this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Tech. Sgt. Sherry Neklason-Rice, 2nd Special Operations Squadron, was promoted to master sergeant via the Air Force Reserve Stripes for Exceptional Performers II program. She will sew on her new stripe Oct. 1. The 919th Special Operations Wing had six STEP II promotees this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- A group of six 919th Special Operations Wing Airmen will be promoted Oct.1 as part of the Air Force Reserve Stripes for Exceptional Performers II program.

The promotees are newly-ranked Chief Master Sgt. Steven Bicknell, Senior Master Sgt. Charles McBride Jr., Tech. Sgt.'s Jason Lauth and Craig Miller, 919th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron; Senior Master Sgt. Michael Ross, 711th Special Operations Squadron; and Master Sgt. Sherry Neklason-Rice, 2nd Special Operations Squadron.

STEP II, previously called the Promotion Enhancement Program, is designed to recognize exceptional performers for promotion to the grades of tech sergeant through chief master sergeant who would otherwise not be eligible for promotion due to lack of vacancies.

According to Chief Master Sgt. Brian Bischoff, 919th SOW command chief, often the lack of positions in the Unit Manning Document restricts deserving members from gaining the next rank. This program gives them a chance to earn it.

During Sept. 12's morning formation for 919th Special Operations Maintenance Group, Col. James Phillips, 919th SOW commander, and Bischoff announced that Bicknell had been chosen for promotion to chief.

"You do what you can do at each stage of your career to progress," said four-time STEP II-promotee, Bicknell.  "You can only hope you've done enough and your package properly conveys your accomplishments.  After that, it's up to the board to determine where you fall in the process.  Once your package leaves the base, there is a feeling that it's out of your hands and you've done all you can do."

After a short pause, the leadership slowly announced the three other maintainer promotees.

"I, along with the leadership staff, am extremely proud of the Airmen of our unit, the quality of the work they do and the professional manner they do it in," said Chief Master Sgt. David Parcher, 919th SOMXG superintendent. "It is opportunities like these that we get a chance to showcase our best to AFRC.  To have the command select so many individuals from the wing as a whole justifies a lot of that work."

Neklason-Rice initially thought she was in trouble when her leadership told her the wing commander needed to see her. He then told her she was being promoted.

"It's an honor to be selected," said the new master sergeant. "I'm grateful to everyone that helped ensure my STEP II package was fine-tuned and well put together."

The 919th SOW leads the way with an 80 percent STEP II promotion rate for packages submitted to AFRC in the last four years.