In the military, enlisted service members of all three branches are subject to a rank hierarchy indicating their status, experience, and pay grade. Each branch of the military has a separate hierarchy, with each separate category having its own authority structure. Rank is more than just an indicator of who salutes whom, but rather a badge of leadership and responsibility.
The basic hierarchy of military personnel are as follows:
- Warrant Officers
While nearly all branches follow a similar ranking system, the Air Force does not have a Warrant Officer status and skips from Enlisted directly to Officer Status. Each of these three categories has its own substructure of pay grades, marked by a letter and number code. Enlisted ranks begin at E-1 and continue through E-9, the highest of the enlisted pay grades. If promoted further, the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps have a Warrant Officer hierarchy, coded as W-1 through W-5. Even further promotion leads to the Officer category, coded as O-1 through O-10, which signifies the highest echelon of military service.
Some pay grades have multiple ranks within them, even though they receive the same pay. For example, the Army’s E-4 pay grade includes the Specialist and the Corporal, though a Corporal is given higher authority over a Specialist. Similarly, Sergeant Majors within the Marine Corps are given a higher rank than Master Gunnery Sergeants, despite the fact that both are marked as E-9.
For more information on the different ranks within the military, visit the United States Department of Defense’s website.
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