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Army Ranks Explained

By Edited Jul 6, 2014 0 0

Even though the United States' Army uniform has undergone many changes over the years, ranging from the BDU to the now velcro-loop fastener laden ACUPAT dress uniform, specific Army ranks have done little changing themselves in the last few decades. Where Army rank insignia was once either pinned on to the collar (and patrol cap) of the green and desert BDU uniform, the digital ACUPAT uniform now offers a simple velcro rank loop fastener attachment that is wholly centralized in the middle of a soldier's upper torso. While some have preferred to attach subdued pin on rank to their ACUPAT patrol cap, sewn on rank is becoming the more universally accepted (and regulation guided) method of displaying rank on a soldier's head gear.

With shy of a 1,000,000 members, stationed within the United States and abroad, members of the United States' Army are composed of well below 1% of the entire United States' overall population. Even if one is to consider the addition of the various other United States' military service branches, less than 1% of the United States' population is actually a member of all the service branches combined. Fortunately, as a formidable and influential institution, the United States' Army is heavily reliant upon its traditionally rank structure. From enlisted members of the Army, to commissioned officers and warrant officers, each rank achievement represents more authority and oversight with regards to leadership. With each new rank obtained also includes an increase in pay grade (except in certain situations, such as how a Master Sergeant and a First Sergeant are different ranks, however, they both carry the same pay grade), and, generally speaking, authority and oversight should also increase.

Enlisted Army Ranks for United States' Army Soldiers

From the rank of private, to command sergeant major of the Army, the enlisted ranks of the United States' Army are comprised of some of the most motivated and dedicated soldiers in the world. Warriors at heart, with accrual of points earned from attending schools, a lowely private (E-1) can eventually transcend the enlisted private ranks to a specialist (E-4) on up into the ranks of the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer). Otherwise known as the backbone of the United States' Army, some of the Army's finest leaders have emerged from the NCO Corp. Oftentimes, an NCO that demonstrates exceptional skill and ability will be recommended to attend an officer commissioning source such as OCS (Officer Candidate School) or, if currently attending college, ROTC (the Reserve Officer Training Corps).

  • Private (PV1) (E-1), Private (PV2) (E-2), and Private (PFC) (E-3) - In the United States' Army, there are three ranks and pay grades associated with the private ranks. With time in service, and recognition by superiors, progression through the private ranks is seamless. Just so long as a soldier obeys orders, and performs their job to a reasonable standard, the rank of PFC is easily obtainable. In the Army National Guard, recruiting incentives can translate into additional rank earned for each new recruit that joins the military (state dependent) with you as a referral.
  • Specialist (E-4) - As the only rank between the private ranks, and the NCO ranks, the specialist is expected to perform their job with a high degree of professionalism, while also assuming assigned leadership roles in preparation for much greater responsibility. Identified by a black shield as the rank insignia, become a specialist means diverging from the ignorance that a private may oftentimes be able to claim.
  • Sergeant (SGT) (E-5), Staff Sergeant (SSG) (E-6), Sergeants First Class (SFC) (E-7), Master Sergeant (MSG) (E-8), First Sergeant (1SG) (E-8), Sergeants Major (SGM) (E-9), Command Sergeants Major (CSM) (E-10) - As the "backbone of the Army", these ranks represent the Non-Commissioned Officer Corps Ranks (NCOs) and are associated with great leadership and responsibility. For an NCO, taking care of the morale, welfare, and general issues of lower enlisted soldiers is of utmost priority. With issues as diverse as family to financial and college schooling, typically an NCO is in no short supply of 'work' as they continually strive to care for the soldiers who will look up to them for guidance and direction. Dependent on the NCO rank, NCOs typically work in conjunction with a commissioned officer. At a company level, a Company commander is typically a Captain (CPT) with a First Sergeant as his/her NCO charged with handling the daily business and affairs of the company.

Commissioned Officer Army Ranks for United States' Army Soldiers

While non-commissioned officers do maintain a leadership role, commissioned officers are charged with the planning and execution of missions, in accordance with the intent and mission statement of their next higher headquarters. Commissioned Army officer ranks include that of the 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, and General Officer ranks. Coinciding with their visible rank are also pay grades, such as 0-1 (2nd Lieutenant), 0-2 (1st Lieutenant), 0-3 (Captain), 0-4 (Major), and so forth. Commissioned Army officers may begin their careers as enlisted soldiers, or they may enter the service with no prior service at all, outside of the fundamental military training required of them in conjunction with their involvement in a collegiate program like ROTC. Direct commissions can be given, although rarely, and generally are given to those who are already specialized in a field such a nursing, or legal.

  • 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) (O-1)
  • 1st Lieutenant (1LT) (O-2)
  • Captain (CPT) (O-3)
  • Major (MAJ) (O-4)
  • Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (O-5)
  • Colonel (COL) (O-6)
  • Brigadier General (BG) (O-7)
  • Major General (MG) (O-8)
  • Lieutenant General (LTG) (O-9)
  • General (GEN-4-Star) (O-10)
  • General of the Army (GA) (O-11)

Warrant Officer Army Ranks for United States' Army Soldiers

Known for their autonomy in function, Warrant Officers, by trade, are very specialized in their profession and craft. They are technical experts in their field, which can range from involvement in signal communications to other highly technical trades like aviation. Generally, a Warrant Officer, if utilized correctly, can be a tremendous advisor to both enlisted soldiers and commissioned officers alike. Starting out at the initial entry rank of WO1, warrant officers do progress in rank and pay grade up to the rank of CW5 (Chief Warrant Officer 5).

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