Back in the old days, things were different.
Promotions above LAC were strictly on merit. The squadron had a fixed number of NCO positions. I don’t remember the numbers, but they were something like 1 corporal for every 4 cadets, 1 sergeant for every 10, one flight sergeant for every 15, one Warrant Officer 2nd Class for 25, one Warrant Officer 1st Class for every 50. The only way you got promoted was 1. there had been a spot vacated and 2. you were good enough. There were plenty of people who aged out at LAC or Corporal. And it wasn’t unheard of for people to be busted back down – I went to summer camp with a Corporal whose tunic showed the threadmarks of Flight Sergeant.
Now, they promote everybody. All of them. You’ve been there a year, you get promoted to Corporal. Another year, you’re a Sergeant. So promotions, instead of being called up one at a time, come up in big lines. You’re one of 15 going to Sergeant, say. It means less.
It’s also limiting. Recognizing everybody means actually recognizing nobody. HouseApe 1.0 is an Air Cadet of pretty high ability – in the old days she would have been promoted, and her rank would have meant something. She’d have been one of 10 Sergeants, deputy NCO of a flight.
Still, it’s a big deal. HA 1.0 is justifiably proud – she’s earned it like it was the old days, and if it was the good ol’ days, she’d still have been a Sergeant.