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Commander STEPs outstanding performer

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Deception does not always have to be a bad thing, as Tech. Sgt. Ronely Rivera-Ortiz found out Dec. 22.

Tricked into believing he was attending a mandatory safety and holiday briefing, the then staff sergeant received an early holiday gift. That gift was an immediate promotion to technical sergeant by way of the Stripes To Exceptional Performers, or STEP, program.

The STEP program is a way for commanders to recognize and reward outstanding performers with an immediate rank promotion.

Col. Dean Clemons, 96th Air Base Wing commander, and retired Chief Master Sgt. James Binnicker were on hand to pin on Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz's new stripes.

"I am thrilled that our submission has resulted in his selection to technical sergeant," said Master Sgt. Loretta Glasgow, Airman Leadership School flight chief. "He is very deserving of this recognition and the promotion."

Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz said he was so caught up in watching his 4-year-old son, Sebastian, that he did not think much of the situation taking place.

"It was not until Chief Binnicker started to talk about the STEP program that I thought someone was going to be promoted, but I never thought that I was going to be the one," Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz said.

The sergeant has accumulated 596 hours as an ALS instructor and has been singled out as a superb instructor on more than 250 critiques by students at ALS. Additionally, he was recognized as the Eglin ALS Instructor of the Year in 2004.

"It was a humbling experience," Sergeant Rivera-Ortiz said. "I never thought in a million years I would be STEP promoted. I don't even know someone who has been promoted this way. It is an honor to be STEP promoted and to have it done this way, right in the middle of the holiday season and in front of most of my squadron and my co-workers, it was very special."

"I want to especially thank the ALS staff for their hard work and dedication, dedication that promotes and motivates individuals to always do their best and to strive for excellence," he said.