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SCARS™ 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
E-1PrivateSeaman RecruitRecruit
E-2Army Private/
Marine Private First Class
Seaman ApprenticeAirman
E-3Army Private First Class/
Marine Lance Corporal
SeamanAirman First Class
E-4CorporalPetty Officer, Third ClassSenior Airman
E-5SergeantPetty Officer, Second ClassStaff Sergeant
E-6Staff SergeantPetty Officer, First ClassTechnical Sergeant
E-7Army Sergeant First Class
Marine Gunnery Sergeant
Chief Petty OfficerMaster Sergeant
E-8Master SergeantSenior Chief Petty OfficerSenior Master Sergeant
E-9Sergeant MajorMaster Chief Petty OfficerChief Master Sergeant
Special Grades
Sergeant MajorMaster Chief Petty OfficerChief Master Sergeant

United States Military Enlisted Ranks & Insignia

Enlisted Ranks

Service members in pay grades E-1 through E-3 are usually either in some kind of training status or on their initial assignment. The training includes the basic training phase where recruits are immersed in military culture and values and are taught the core skills required by their service component.

Visit Web Specials on Basic Training: Army/Marines and AF/Navy

Basic training is followed by a specialized or advanced training phase that provides recruits with a specific area of expertise or concentration. In the Army and Marines, this area is called a military occupational specialty; in the Navy it is known as a rate; and in the Air Force it is simply called an Air Force specialty.

Army: * For rank and precedence within the Army, specialist ranks immediately below corporal. Among the services, however, rank and precedence are determined by pay grade.

Navy / Coast Guard: * A specialty mark in the center of a rating badge indicates the wearer’s particular rating. ** Gold stripes indicate 12 or more years of good conduct. *** 1. Master chief petty officer of the Navy and fleet and force master chief petty officers. 2. Command master chief petty officers wear silver stars. 3. Master chief petty officers wear silver stars and silver specialty rating marks

The U.S. Coast Guard is a part of the Department of Homeland Security in peacetime and the Navy in times of war. Coast Guard rank insignia are the same as the Navy except for color and the seaman recruit rank, which has one stripe.

United States Military Rank Insignias - Enlisted Ranks - E1 - E4

United States Military Rank Insignias – Enlisted Ranks – E1 – E4

United States Military Rank Insignias - Enlisted Ranks - E5 - E7

United States Military Rank Insignias – Enlisted Ranks – E5 – E7

United States Military Rank Insignias - Enlisted Ranks - E8 - E9

United States Military Rank Insignias – Enlisted Ranks – E8 – E9

United States Military Rank Insignias - Warrant Offier Ranks - W1 - W5

United States Military Rank Insignias – Warrant Offier Ranks – W1 – W5

United States Officer Ranks & Insignia

Officer Ranks

Officer ranks in the United States military consist of commissioned officers and warrant officers. The commissioned ranks are the highest in the military. These officers hold presidential commissions and are confirmed at their ranks by the Senate. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps officers are called company grade officers in the pay grades of O-1 to O-3, field grade officers in pay grades O-4 to O-6 and general officers in pay grades O-7 and higher. The equivalent officer groupings in the Navy are called junior grade, mid-grade and flag.

Warrant officers hold warrants from their service secretary and are specialists and experts in certain military technologies or capabilities. The lowest ranking warrant officers serve under a warrant, but they receive commissions from the president upon promotion to chief warrant officer 2. These commissioned warrant officers are direct representatives of the president of the United States. They derive their authority from the same source as commissioned officers but remain specialists, in contrast to commissioned officers, who are generalists. There are no warrant officers in the Air Force.

Naval officers wear distinctively different rank devices depending upon the uniform they’re wearing. The three basic uniforms and rank devices used are: khakis, collar insignia pins; whites, stripes on shoulder boards; and blues, stripes sewn on the lower coat sleeves.

United States Military Rank Insignias - Officer Ranks - O1 - O10

United States Military Rank Insignias – Officer Ranks – O1 – O10


To Learn More About The United States Military Click Here »

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