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SCARS|RSN™ Guide: United States Military Ranks & Insignia


Military rank is more than just who salutes whom. Military rank is a badge of leadership. Responsibility for personnel, equipment, and mission grows with each increase in rank.

Do not confuse rank with pay grades, such as E-1, W-2 and O-5. Pay grades are administrative classifications used primarily to standardize compensation across the military services. The “E” in E-1 stands for “enlisted” while the “1” indicates the pay grade for that position. The other pay categories are “W” for warrant officers and “O” for commissioned officers. Some enlisted pay grades have two ranks.

The Army, for example, has the ranks of corporal and specialist at the pay grade of E-4. A corporal is expected to fill a leadership role and has a higher rank than a specialist even though both receive the same amount of pay. In the Marine Corps, master gunnery sergeants and sergeant majors are E-9s, but the sergeant major has the higher rank.

Table Of U.S. Military Ranks

Army and Marine CorpsNavy and Coast GuardAir Force
Commissioned Officers
0-1Second LieutenantEnsignSecond Lieutenant
0-2First LieutenantLieutenant Junior GradeFirst Lieutenant
0-4MajorLieutenant CommanderMajor
0-5Lieutenant ColonelCommanderLieutenant Colonel
0-7Brigadier GeneralRear AdmiralBrigadier General
0-8Major GeneralRear AdmiralMajor General
0-9Lieutenant GeneralVice AdmiralLieutenant General
Special Grades
(5 stars)General of the ArmyFleet AdmiralGeneral of the Air Force
Warrant Officers
W-1Warrant Officer
W-2–W-5Chief Warrant OfficerChief Warrant Officer
Enlisted Personnel