Watching The Mentalist on dvr, and it is displaying a lot of ignorance about the army. He's a first lieutenant; of course this is his first significant command. It's probably his first command period.. Also, I find it hard to believe that an E-7, Sergeant First Class, is scared of a lieutenant.
And if Lucy is a corporal after 11 years (she "joined after 9/11"), she's not "an outstanding soldier". Or at least not one going anywhere. You're eligible at 24 months. It's automatic at 48 months, unless there are good reasons for it not to happen, and you wouldn't be still in the army.
(Plus: doesn't Cho know you don't salute sergeants? "Don't salute me, I work for a living" is a serious saying.)