U.S. Army ranks and are broken down into three different categories: Officer Ranks, Warrant Officer Ranks, and Enlisted Ranks. In the Army, rank and insignia not only indicates pay grade but also the amount of responsibility that is held. Enlisted soldiers hold the pay grades of E-1 through E-9, warrant officers have pay grades of W-1 through W-9 and commissioned officers have pay grades of O-1 through O-10. The amount of time spent in each rank is based on averages, where the promotion process can be accelerated by taking advantage of additional training and schooling opportunities.
Learn about the ranks and insignias below.
Enlisted Ranks & Insignias
Enlisted Soldiers are known as the backbone of the Army. They train in a specific job and utilize those skills within their unit. They properly perform their job functions, and their knowledge ensures the success of their unit’s mission within the Army. Enlisted ranks are broken down into three groups: Junior Enlisted (E-1 through E-4, NCOs (E-4 through E-6) and Senior NCOs (E-7 through E-9). The sequence of ranks for Enlisted Soldiers are as follows:
Earned during basic training, Private is the lowest enlisted rank. This rank does not carry an insignia and is also referred to as a “fuzzy” (which refers to the blank velcro patch where the rank is normally placed on the uniform).
After completing Basic Combat Training, most soldiers receive the rank of Private Second Class. This is the first promotion the majority of enlisted soldiers earn after completing basic training, or they will get promoted after serving six months in the Army. The soldier will utilize the skills and knowledge they acquired during basic training to their new job. They will also follow orders that are given by higher ranking supervisors.
Private First Class/ PFC (E-3)
Within a year, soldiers will typically be promoted to Private First Class. Soldiers holding this rank are important to this branch. They are considered the backbone and workforce strength of the Army. From here, PFCs will begin to transition to carry out orders and complete their missions.
Specialist/SPC (E-4) / Corporal/CPL (E-4)
Specialists and Corporals are both E-4, but Specialists will have less responsibilities than Corporals. Specialists are put in charge of lower-ranked enlisted soldiers. A soldier can be promoted to this rank after serving two years and after completing a training class. Service members with a four-year degree may enter basic training as a specialist.
Sergeants are expected to be efficient leaders. They are crucial in making missions happen. They guide the junior enlisted in ensuring the mission is done properly and in accordance to the orders from the higher-ranking authorities. Sergeants oversee junior soldiers in their day to day tasks, and are expected to set a good example as an NCO (Non-commissioned officer).
Staff Sergeant/SSG (E-6)
Staff sergeants and sergeants have similar duties, except SSGs will be in contact with a larger amount of soldiers and generally have more equipment and property to maintain. The SSGs will also have one or more sergeants under their direct leadership. They will also be responsible for the development of their soldiers’ full range of potential.
Sergeant First Class/SFC (E-7)
This rank normally means the soldier has 15 to 18 years of military experience. This level is now considered as a senior NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer). Their job entails being the key assistant and advisor to the platoon leader. This rank requires them to make quick and accurate decisions for the mission at hand.
Master Sergeant/MSG (E-8)
The Master Sergeant is considered as the principal non-commissioned officer at the battalion level (or higher). They do not have the same roles and responsibilities as the First Sergeant, but they are expected to lead with the same professionalism as a First Sergeant.
First Sergeant/1SG (E-8)
The First Sergeant is the principal NCO and often referred to as the life-blood of a company. His role is to discipline and counsel the soldiers in his unit. The first sergeant conducts formations, instructs platoon sergeants, advises the Commander of the unit, and assists in training for the enlisted soldiers. When addressing this rank, they are not called “Sergeant,” but “First Sergeant.”
Sergeant Major/SGM (E-9)
Sergeant Majors role is the chief administrative assistants for an Army headquarters. They are important members of staff elements at battalion level or higher. Their experience and abilities are equal to command sergeant majors, but they are limited to leading those that are directly under his charge.
Command Sergeant Major/CSM (E-9)
Command Sergeant Major is the enlisted advisor to the commanding officer. Their duties include carrying out policies and standards and help in advising the commander. They advise and initiate recommendations to the commander and staff in regards to the support and well-being of the company.
Sergeant Major of the Army/SMA (E-9)
There is only one Sergeant Major in the entire Army. The SMA oversees all non-commissioned officers and serves as the senior enlisted advisor. He serves as the senior enlisted advisor and consults the Chief of Staff of the Army.
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/ SEAC
The Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the main advisor to the chairman and plays a pivotal role in decision-making for the enlisted joint force. The role was originally created in 2005.
Warrant Officer Ranks & Insignias
Warrant Officers are known as the adaptive technical experts, combat leaders, trainers and advisors. They hold warrants from their service secretary and they specialize in specific military technologies or capabilities. They acquire their authority from the same source as commissioned officers, but they are considered specialists, compared to commissioned officers, who are considered generalists. The sequence of ranks for Warrant Officers are as follows:
Warrant Officer 1 (WO1)
Warrant officers are considered the tactical and technical experts of the Army. WO1 is the base-level rank, and primarily support operations from team or detachment through a battalion.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2)
This rank is considered an intermediate-level technical and tactical expert. Their responsibility is to support levels of operations from team or detachment through a battalion.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3)
This rank is considered as an advance-level technical and tactical expert. Their role is to support operations from a team/detachment through a brigade.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4)
This rank is considered as a senior-level technical and tactical expert. Their primary duty is to support brigade, battalion, division and corps operations.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5)
This rank is considered a master-level technical and tactical expert. Their primary duties include supporting brigade, division, corps, echelons and command operations. They specialize in warrant officer leadership and representation responsibilities within their respective commands.
Officer Ranks & Insignias
Commissioned officers are considered the managers, problem solvers, key influencers and planners in the Army, and they hold the highest ranks. They lead enlisted soldiers in all situations. Their duties include planning missions, giving orders and assigning soldiers tasks to complete missions. Army officer ranks have three tiers: company grade, field grade and general. The sequence of ranks for Commissioned Officers are as follows
Army officer ranks are in three tiers: company grade (O-1 to O-3), field grade (O-4 to O-6) and general (O-7 and above).
Second Lieutenant/2LT (O1)
Service members of this rank are addressed as “Lieutenant.” This is the entry-level rank for the majority of Commissioned Officers in the Army. Their job consists of leading a platoon(s), which initiates leadership training they will need throughout their military career.
First Lieutenant/1LT (O2)
Service members of this rank are also addressed as “Lieutenant.” This rank is considered a seasoned lieutenant normally with 18 to 24 months of service. As a a senior Lieutenant, members will be looked at for the position of Executive Officer (XO) of a company (consisting between 100 to 200 soldiers).
Service members of this rank are addressed as “Captain.” Captains will be put in charge of and control a company (between 100 to 200 soldiers). Other jobs include becoming an instructor at a service school or becoming a Staff Officer at a battalion level.
Service members of this rank are addressed as “Major.” Majors are considered field grade officers, and they serve as a primary Staff Officer for brigade. They are also part of task force command in regards to personnel, logistical and operational missions.
Lieutenant Colonel/LTC (O5)
Service members of this rank are addressed as “Lieutenant Colonel” or “Colonel.” At this rank, they are put in charge of battalion-sized units (can range between 400 to 1,000 soldiers). During this time, they can also be looked at for brigade and task force Executive Officer.
Service members at this rank are referred to as “Colonel.” They normally are put in charge of and command brigades (between 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers). Another responsibility at this rank will be becoming the chief of divisional level staff agencies.
Brigadier General/BG (O7)
Service members at this rank are addressed as “General.” They serve as the Deputy Commander to the commanding general for Army divisions. They will assist in coordinating and planning of missions for the Army.
Major General/MG (O8)
Service members at this rank are addressed as “General” (or two star). Will typically command a division unit (10,000 to 15,000 soldiers).
Lieutenant General (O9)
Addressed as “General” (or three star). Their main job typically consists of commanding corps-size units (20,000 to 45,000 soldiers).
Addressed as “General” (or four star). This is a senior level Commissioned Officer that has over 30 years of military experience. At this rank, they command all operations that fall under their geographical area. The Chief of Staff of the Army is a four star General.
General of the Army (GOA)
This rank is only used during the time of war. The Commanding Officer must be equal or of higher rank than the opposing commanding armies from other nations. The last officer to hold this rank was during and after WWII.
Army Ranks Chart
|E-3||Private First Class||PFC|
|E-7||Sergeant First Class||SFC|
|E-9||Command Sergeant Major||CSM|
|E-9 Special||Sergeant Major of the Army||SMA|
|W-2||Chief Warrant Officer 2||CW2|
|W-3||Chief Warrant Officer 3||CW3|
|W-4||Chief Warrant Officer 4||CW4|
|W-5||Chief Warrant Officer 5||CW5|
|Special||General of the Army||GA|
The United States Army is the oldest U.S. military branch and was founded in 1775. Their mission and purpose continues to remain constant: To deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars by providing ready, prompt and sustained land dominance by Army forces across the full spectrum of conflict as part of the joint force. The Army also provides logistics and support to other branches. Members of the U.S. Army are referred to as soldiers.
|Military Ranks & Insignia Charts||Armed Forces Comparative Pay Grades and Ranks|
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