STEP above the rest

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rachel Merriman, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspection craftsman, receives her promotion certificate at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., April 19, 2017. Merriman was hand-selected by her leadership to be promoted through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program. (courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rachel Merriman, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspection craftsman, receives her promotion certificate at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., April 19, 2017. Merriman was hand-selected by her leadership to be promoted through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program. (courtesy photo)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Staff Sgt. Rachel Merriman, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspection craftsman, was recently promoted to the rank of technical sergeant, but she didn't receive her stripe in the usual fashion.

Merriman was hand-selected by her leadership to be promoted through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program.

She promoted on April 18, just two days after giving birth to a baby boy. The same day, the base commander called her to give her the good news.

“I really wanted to scream, but in that moment, my son was laying in my arms and he just fell asleep,” Merriman said. “I guess you could say, inside, I was screaming.”

STEP promotions are awarded to a small group of individuals who display a certain set of attributes.

“You need a strong leader who is able to balance discipline, enforce standards, as well as make the workplace an enjoyable one,” said Master Sgt. Diana Dunn, 355th EMS nondestructive inspection section chief. “You also want someone who is willing to work just as hard as the lowest ranking Airman regardless of how high in rank they are. Tech. Sgt. Merriman is all of those things.”

Merriman, now on maternity leave, had been excelling as NCO in-charge of her shop, but faced some adversity in obtaining rank.

“In my mind she already was a Tech. Sgt. -- she just needed the stripe to go along with it,” Dunn said. “She has been one of the strongest NCOs I have known and she knows the ins and outs of her job and can train others to be the same.”