JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. – Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, Air Mobility Command commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Brian Kruzelnick, AMC command chief, presented Tech. Sgt. Eric Jones, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal craftsman, with his technical sergeant stripe as part of the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program, Nov. 20, via teleconference with 628th Air Base Wing leadership and the EOD flight present.
“STEP is a powerful program,” said Kruzelnick. “It allows a commander to immediately promote an enlisted Airman with proven talent and ability to operate at the next rank but not selected through our traditional promotion system. Eric earned the right to be a TSgt through years of extraordinary performance and leadership. He’s definitely the right Airman."
Jones received the only technical sergeant stripe AMC was able to give out for the STEP program.
“It is just one of those things where you’re kind of lost for words and just thankful to leadership and especially thankful to my family for supporting me,” said Jones.
Capt. Paul Underwood, 628th CES EOD flight commander, stated that during the pandemic, Jones led the training section and found creative ways to ensure the entire flight has stayed up to date on their training qualifications and that there has been no mission degradation.
“In the last year he has led four emergency responses and recovered 10 UXOs,” said Underwood. “During those responses he demonstrated his leadership as he worked cross-functionally with other military departments, local law enforcement and the civilian sector.”
Jones has dedicated four years to the EOD career field, and was a prior infantryman in the U.S. Army National Guard before switching to active duty Air Force.
“Having had multiple deployments with the Army, Tech. Sgt. Jones brings his unique experiences to our training section,” said Underwood. “He has been able to impart that knowledge on the rest of the flight members, making them better-rounded EOD techs.”
The STEP program was established in 1980 to provide an avenue for commanders to promote enlisted Airmen who display exceptional talent early. MAJCOM commanders, field operating agencies and senior officers in organizations with large enlisted populations are able to promote a limited number of Airmen to the grades of staff and technical sergeant.
Requirements to be eligible for a STEP promotion include completion of the appropriate enlisted professional military education and the individual may not receive more than one promotion under any combination of promotion programs within a 12-month period.
“Tech. Sgt. Jones leads by example and it is great that we have a system like the STEP program to recognize those who should be at the next rank,” added Underwood.