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How to Get a Below the Zone Promotion

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In the military, each officer must be at her rank for a specified period of time -- called the zone -- before being eligible for promotion. "Below the zone" promotion is a program that accelerates promotion for officers who have demonstrated outstanding performance and who clearly show superior potential as compared to others eligible for promotion. BTZ promotions apply only to certain ranks. In the U.S. Army, for example, a BTZ promotion applies to chief warrant officer four, chief warrant officer five, major, lieutenant colonel and colonel. In the Air Force, an airman first class may be promoted to senior airman six months earlier than normally expected.

Number Limits

Federal law limits the number of BTZ promotions to 10 percent of the total number of offices recommended for promotion. An exception can be made by the Secretary of Defense to increase the limit to 15 percent.

Purpose of BTZ Promotions

BTZ promotions give the military the ability to move officers with exceptional skills through the ranks quicker, into positions of higher responsibility. With the potential to fast-track, these officers have the incentive to perform at their highest level. BTZ promotions also help to retain officers of higher quality by demonstrating to the officer that their superior skill levels are recognized.

Duty Performance Evaluation

As an example of what is needed by an officer for BTZ promotion, the army Promotion Point Worksheet lists the qualities the Army considers important. The officer must be competent, have thorough knowledge of what is required at his rank, and be able to communicate well. He must maintain a military bearing in his appearance, project confidence and be a role model to those in lower ranks. Officers should demonstrate leadership skills by setting high standards and motivating the soldiers below them. They must also be adept at working as part of a team, able to share and teach their experience and knowledge, and demonstrate that they are responsible and accountable by properly maintaining facilities, taking care of equipment and promoting safety. In the Air Force, BTZ promotions are earned based on performance over and above the expected duty, from excellence in handling advanced weapons to acts of bravery.

Administrative Recognition

As part of its promotion point system, the Army awards points for the achievements, decorations and awards that an officer has received. Points are also given for civilian education, such as a bachelor’s degree, as well as military training classes.


Diane Stevens' professional experience started in 1970 with a computer programming position. Beginning in 1985, running her own business gave her extensive experience in personal and business finance. Her writing appears on Orbitz's Travel Blog and other websites. Stevens holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from the State University of New York at Albany.

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