A battlefield promotion (or field promotion) is an advancement in military rank that occurs while deployed in combat. A standard field promotion is advancement from current rank to the next higher rank; a 'jump-step' promotion is advancement from current rank to a rank above the next highest.
A battlefield promotion is awarded to enlisted soldiers who are promoted to a higher enlisted rank during combat or combat conditions. The US Army discontinued this practice after the Vietnam War with the centralized promotion system, but in 2009 decided to again allow such promotions. "Battlefield promotions are predicated on extraordinary performance of duties while serving in combat or under combat conditions." It can be used to promote an individual soldier one grade, to at most staff sergeant, and has a variety of constraints. This promotion does not involve a promotion board and does not require the soldier meet time in service or time in grade requirements.
A battlefield commission is awarded to enlisted soldiers who are promoted to the rank of commissioned officer for outstanding leadership on the field of battle. The granting of a battlefield commission has its historical predecessor in the medieval practice of the knighting or ennoblement of a plebeian combatant on the battleground for demonstration of heroic qualities in an exceptional degree. In the medieval context, this martial achievement was often one of the main restricted pathways into the sword-bearing feudal aristocracy.
Normally, enlisted service members or non-commissioned officers cannot attain the rank of commissioned officer through regular promotion. Starting in 1917, during World War I, the United States Army started awarding battlefield commissions to soldiers to replace the "Brevet Officer" system (the promotion of an enlisted man to a commissioned officer without an increase in pay). The Marine Corps started awarding battlefield commissions in place of the Brevet Medal, which was second only to the Medal of Honor. From World War I to the Vietnam War, over 31,200 soldiers, Marines, and airmen had been awarded battlefield commissions. Such a commission is usually advancement from a position of non-commissioned officer to a commissioned officer, generally O-1 - Second Lieutenant, or Ensign in the Navy and Coast Guard. The most significant aspect of a battlefield commission is that it is granted apart from the regular commission sources: Officer Training School/Officer Candidate School, Reserve Officer Training Corps or a service academy. Battlefield commissions are awarded on the basis of merit and demonstration of leadership, and bypass this step. The most notable recipient of a battlefield commission was Audie Murphy, who was promoted from Staff Sergeant to Second Lieutenant during World War II.
From 1845 through 1918, enlisted men who were commissioned for outstanding leadership on the field of battle were referred to as Brevet Officers. The Marine Corps recognized the value of combat leaders who were commissioned in this manner and created a Brevet Medal which was second only to the Medal of Honor. In the wars following 1918, enlisted men and warrant officers, commissioned for the same reason, were referred to as battlefield commissioned.
- World War I — From 1917 to 1918 approximately 6,000 non-commissioned officers were awarded battlefield commissions.
- World War II — From 1941-1945 approximately 25,500 men were awarded battlefield commissions worldwide. The United States Marine Corps also awarded battlefield commissions during the same period but no records were kept of the total. At the conclusion of WWII a board of officers reporting to the Commanding General of the European Theater stated “The one sure method of determining whether any individual has qualities which make him a successful leader in combat is to observe that man in combat.” Battlefield commissions were approved by the War Department.
- Korean War — From 1950-1953 a system parallel to that of World War II was adopted. The Department of Defense cannot provide figures on the number promoted. The Marine Corps did not award battlefield commissions during the Korean War.
- Vietnam War — From 1963-1973 the Marine Corps Commandant appointed a permanent Board with the mission of selecting those enlisted men of the Marine Corps whose performance under fire while serving in Vietnam merited a commission. A list of 62 enlisted men who were commissioned includes one man who was killed before he could accept his commission.
- Afghanistan War — The Marine Corps gave battlefield promotions to members of its Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) due to meritorious performance and the deaths of other deployed EOD leaders.
- The US Army has current regulations allowing battlefield commissions (technically "Battlefield Appointments") but it is unclear when they were last used.
- http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/06/army_battlefield_062909w/ Battlefield-promotion pilot program now policy
- AR 600-8-19 Enlisted Promotions and Reductions (30 April 2010) See Chapter 11 Battlefield Promotions, page 152
- AR 601-50 Appointment of Temporary Officers in the Army of the United States Upon Mobilization(4 December 1987) See Section VI Battlefield Appointments on page 3]