Military Ranks: Everything You Need to Know

It might be difficult to comprehend military ranks, especially when it comes to understanding the military ranks in sequence.

The Coast Guard and Navy largely reflect one another, but the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps each have their own enlisted military rank structures. In this article, we will discuss army badges and will provide you with detailed information about military ranks.

What Are the Military Ranks?

To learn the military ranks, you must be aware of what the E and O levels are known particularly by each branch of service, as well as their acronyms and visual representations in insignia. The Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps emblems are virtually the same for officers, while the Navy and Coast Guard symbols largely correspond.

Soldiers’ rank emblems can differ significantly, with the Marine Corps and Army sharing numerous similarities and the Coast Guard and Navy mirroring one another once again.

Additionally, the Navy and Coast Guard organize their enlisted ranks according to a “rate” system, while all other military services adhere to the same paygrade structure.

What Is the Highest Military Rank?

The “five-star general,” or O-10, is the highest military rank. Five stars, one for each branch of the armed forces, represent it. Although it still exists in the military service rank structure today, no officer has been promoted to it since the rank was established during World War II. This position has only ever been held by nine Americans.

More about Military Rank

More than who salutes who defines a soldier’s rank. Military rank is a symbol of authority. With each step forward, responsibility for persons, assets, and the objective increases.

Do not confuse paygrades like E-1, W-2, and O-5 with rank. The main purpose of paygrades, which are administrative classifications, is to uniformly set compensation for all military services. Enlisted is represented by the “E” in “E-1,” while “1” denotes the position’s paygrade. The other pay tiers are “O” for commissioned officers and “W” for warrant officers. There are two ranks in several enlisted paygrades.

For instance, the Army has the grades of corporal and specialist in the E-4 paygrade. Even though both get an E-4 salary, a corporal is expected to take on a leadership position and has a higher rank than a specialist. A master gunnery sergeant and a sergeant major are both E-9s in the Marine Corps, however, the sergeant major is ranked higher.


The U.S. Army is the largest branch of the armed forces, and it has the widest range of units compared to the other services, each having a distinct structure and mission. To apply landpower from the theatre level to the operational level and down to the tactical employment of different brigades, groups, and battalions, the Army supplies the combatant commander with an interlocking array of higher headquarters that are prepared and equipped to do so. The theatre Army, corps, and division provide the combatant commander with a variety of choices for using landpower in an indivisible combined force.

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