High Year Of Tenure In The US Military

Retention Control Point

U.S. Army Conducts Promotion Ceremony in Babil Province
Chris Hondros / Getty Images

In the military, throughout the career of a solider, airman, marine, or sailor, members are expected to advance in rank and pay grade every few years.  The military is not for people who do not seek higher responsibility as they grow in time in service and experience.  Therefore, an enlisted person and officer cannot stay in the military forever. An enlisted person must be promoted by certain time-frames during their career, or they must separate from the service.

This is known as the "High Year of Tenure" (HYT). The Army High Year of Tenure program is called  the Retention Control Point

As long as you are not neglecting your duties, been in serious trouble, an enlisted person with more than six years of service and less than 20 years of service (retirement eligible) who is involuntarily separated (under honorable conditions) is entitled to receive involuntary separation pay (severance pay).

In short (for example), if an Air Force E-4 does not get promoted to E-5 by the time he/she has 8 years of military service, the member will be forced to separate.  These rules are strictly enforced especially during times of downsizing and force reduction.

Air Force (active and reserves) Effective Sept 2013

E-4 - 8 years
E-5 - 15 years
E-6 - 22 years
E-7 - 26 years
E-8 - 28 years
E-9 - 30 years

    Army (active and AGR) RCP, Effective Jan 2017

    E-1 to E-3 - 5 years
    E-4 - 8 years
    E-4 (Promotable) - 10years
    E-5 - 14 years
    E-5 (Promotable) - 15 years
    E-6 - 20 years
    E-6 (Promotable) - 20 years
    E-7 - 24 years
    E-7 (Promotable) - 26 years
    E-8 - 30 years
    E-8 (Promotable) - 30 years
    E-9 - 30 years

      The Army has also changed the maximum age an enlisted member can remain on active duty from 55 years to 62 years.

      Navy (Active, effective January 2015)

      E-1, E-2 - 4 years
      E-3 5 years
      E-4 - 8 years
      *E-5 - 14 years (20 years for Reserves)
      E-6 - 20 years
      E-7 - 24 years
      E-8 - 26 years
      E-9 - 30 years

        Note: The Navy changed E-5 HYT from 20 years to 14 years, effective July 1, 2005.

        However, sailors with more than ten years of service as of July 1, 2005 may remain in the service until they are retirement eligible (20 years of service). 

        Navy (Reserves, effective Jan 2015)

        E-1, E-2 - 6 years
        E-3 - 10 years
        E-4 - 12 years
        E-5 - 20 years
        E-6 - 22 years
        E-7 - 24 years
        E-8 - 26 years
        E-9 - 30 years

          Navy (Reserves, effective Jan 2015):

          E-1/E-2 - 6 years
          E-3 - 10 years
          E-4 - 12 years
          E-5 - 20 years
          E-6 - 22 years
          E-7 - 24 years
          E-8 - 26 years
          E-9 - 30 years

            Marine Corps (Active) HYT

            E-4 - 8 years
            E-5 - 10 years
            E-6 - 20 years
            E-7 - 22 years
            E-8 - 27 years
            E-9 - 30 years

              Note: An E-5 who has been passed over twice for promotion to E-6 may be separated at the end of their current enlistment, even if they have less than 13 years of service. An E-6 who has been passed over twice for promotion to E-7 may be separated at the end of their current enlistment, even if they have less than 20 years of service. An E-7 or E-8 may exceed 20 years of service only if they have not been passed over twice for promotion.

              Marine Corps (Reserves) HYT

              E-4 - 8 years
              E-5 - 10 years
              E-6 - 20 years
              E-7 - 22 years
              E-8 - 27 years
              E-9 - 30 years

                Coast Guard (active and reserves) HYT

                E-1 / E-2 - Cannot reenlist
                E-3/E-4 - 10 years active Coast Guard service or 10 years active military service, whichever is greater.


                E-5 - 16 years
                E-6 - 20 years
                E-7 - 24 years
                E-8 - 26 years
                E-9 - 30 years

                As with just about every standard and rule in the military, there are waivers available for a person seeking to fight the high year tenure workforce management rules and standards. A member seeking to submit a waiver should do so within 10 months of his/her HYT date and have a justifiable reason why that person should be kept in the military. Usually under-manning of your skill and experiences is good enough reason or the service member will be deployed at the time of your high year tenure date.  Obviously, a waiver will need the immediate chain of command support and letters of recommendation. 

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