Originally Posted by Poncho_NM
The 1980 Defense Officer Personnel Management Act mandates that officers passed over twice for promotion are required to be discharged from the military. There may be other reasons also...
In a practical sense, that means that historically, a brand-new officer would have had to make Lieutenant Colonel to make it to 20 years. If that brand-new officer had about 4 years of enlisted service, they would have to make Major:
2LT on entry
1LT ~2 years
CPT ~4 years
MAJ ~10-11 years
LTC ~16 years
COL ~21 years
Anybody who's sat a board will realize that the top 50% are very easy to pick out. It's at the margins (the top 20% and the bottom 20%) it becomes a whole lot more of a crapshoot.
Someone who fails promotion or is promoted above zone shouldn't think they are worthless, as some of it is chance on board character of both the year they were passed over and the year they were promoted. But the cut has to be made somewhere. Eventually, you'll stop getting promoted and that's a clue you've reached your maximum effectiveness.
A lot will change with the new retirement system. You still have to make 20 to get a pension, but the pension is smaller and it's not all or nothing-the Thrift Savings Plan will now have matching and becomes a lot more critical. A new officer who had been saving a lot along the way may be a lot more tempted to jump off at the 8 to 12 year mark under this system.