Military Wiki

The chart below represents the current enlisted rank insignia of the United States Army.

US DoD Pay grade E-1 E-2 E-3 E-4 E-5 E-6 E-7 E-8 E-9
Insignia No Insignia Army-USA-OR-02.svg Army-USA-OR-03.svg Army-USA-OR-04b.svg Army-USA-OR-04a.svg Army-USA-OR-05.svg Army-USA-OR-06.svg Army-USA-OR-07.svg Army-USA-OR-08b.svg Army-USA-OR-08a.svg Army-USA-OR-09c.svg Army-USA-OR-09b.svg Army-USA-OR-09a.svg
Title Private Private Private First Class Specialist Corporal Sergeant Staff Sergeant Sergeant First Class Master Sergeant First Sergeant Sergeant Major Command Sergeant Major Sergeant Major of the Army
NATO Code OR-1 OR-2 OR-3 OR-4 OR-4 OR-5 OR-6 OR-7 OR-8 OR-8 OR-9 OR-9 OR-9
1 SP4 is no longer an acceptable abbreviation for Specialist.

This chart represents the United States Army enlisted rank insignia with seniority increasing left-to-right inside a given pay grade. All enlisted ranks of Corporal and higher are considered non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

The rank of Specialist is a soldier of pay grade E-4 who has not yet attained non-commissioned officer status. It is common that a soldier may never be a Corporal and will move directly from Specialist to Sergeant, attaining NCO status at that time.


From the creation of the United States Army to 1820, enlisted rank was distinguished by worsted epaulettes. An infantry corporal wore one epaulette on his left shoulder, a sergeant wore one on his right, whilst Quartermaster Sergeants and Sergeants Major wore two epaulettes.[1]

The mark of rank used by the military, worn on the shoulder or lapel, is the chevron. From 1820 to 1903 the insignia was worn with the point down. From 1903 to 1905 there was some confusion and rank could be worn with the point either up or down. The War Department Circular 61 of 1905, directed that the points be placed up and designated certain colors for each branch of the military for uniformity. On 22 July 1919, the military approved "an arc of one bar" for a private first class. In 1942, there were several changes in rank order and color. The rank of third, fourth, and fifth grade technician was added with a "T" placed at the bottom. 1948, saw more changes including the deletion of the Technicians rank. In 1951, the pay grade was reversed and the rank of Master Sergeant became E-7 instead of E-8. In 1955 (dated 2 July 1954), new grade structures were announced reactivating the specialist rank. A Master Specialist (E-7), Specialist 1st Class (E-6), Specialist 2nd Class (E-5), and Specialist 3rd Class (E-4). In 1958, as part of a rank restructuring, two pay grades and four ranks were added. E-8, which included First Sergeant and Specialist 8 and E-9, which included Sergeant Major and Specialist 9. In 1965, the ranks of Specialist 8 and Specialist 9 were discontinued. In 1968, the rank of Command Sergeant Major was established. In 1978, the rank of Specialist 7 was discontinued. In 1979 the rank of Sergeant Major of the Army was established. In 1985, the ranks of Specialist 5 and Specialist 6 were discontinued.[2]


In each command of company-sized units, there is assigned a senior enlisted who is the monitor and advocate of the enlisted personnel to the commanding officer. This position is known as the "First Sergeant", though the person carrying that title does not have to be the rank of first sergeant (it is the highest ranking enlisted person in the company). In a battalion or larger unit, the senior enlisted Soldier is a Command Sergeant Major. The rank of sergeant major is usually carried by the senior enlisted person of the S-3 staff section in a battalion or a brigade, and in most staff sections in larger units.

In terms of command, the rank of a person typically determines what job and command the Soldier has within a unit. For personnel in US Army mechanized infantry, a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (M2A2) is commanded by a Staff Sergeant, the gun is manned by a Specialist or Sergeant and the driver is Specialist or below. For the Armor, the Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2) is commanded by a Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant First Class or Staff Sergeant, the gunner is a Staff Sergeant or Sergeant, the driver is a Specialist, Private First Class, PV2 or PV1, and the loader is a Specialist or below.


Formal terms of address specified in Army Regulation 600-20 "Army Command Policy" are "Sergeant Major" for all Sergeant Major ranks, "First Sergeant" for First Sergeants, and "Sergeant", for Master Sergeants, Sergeants First Class, Staff Sergeants, and Sergeants. Corporals and Specialists are addressed by their rank. Privates First Class and Privates can all be addressed as Privates.

In some cases, informal titles are used. "Top" is commonly used by NCOs as an informal address to First Sergeants, or anyone serving as a Company 1st Sergeant. In Field Artillery, a Platoon Sergeant (usually an E-7) is referred to as "Smoke", and squad leaders (usually an E-6) are called "Chief" (some squad leaders discourage this, as "Chief" is also a common term of address for Warrant Officers). In some smaller units, with more tight-knit squads, soldiers might call their squad leader "Boss", or a similar respectful term. A habit that has all but died out is the addressing of a Platoon Sergeant, in any unit other than Artillery, being affectionately called a "Platoon Daddy" in casual conversation or in jest (but never in any official communication of any type). In training units (Basic Combat Training and AIT or OSUT), trainees are called "Private", regardless of the rank worn. Special titles, such as "Drill Sergeant" are specific to certain jobs, and should not be confused for actual rank.

Other services differ, such as the Marines, who address each other by full rank.

Some terms are used jokingly when referring to a soldier's rank. For instance, Specialists are sometimes jokingly referred to as "The E-4 Mafia", "Command Private Major", "Specialist Major," "Full-Bird Private", "Sham shield", "PV4", or "Spec-4" (in reference to the old Specialist grades, which at one point went up to Specialist 9). An E-1 Private may be referred to as "E-Nothing", "E-Fuzzy", "Fuzzy", "Drill Private", or "PV-Nothing" (as opposed to PV2, the next rank) due to the lack of rank patch on the velcro portion of the Army Combat Uniform (ACU).

See also


  1. p.160 Moore, Robert John & Haynes, Michael Lewis & Clark, Tailor Made, Trail Worn: Army Life, Clothing & Weapons of the Corps of Discovery Farcountry Press, 01/04/2003
  2. military enlisted rank history- Retrieved 2012-03 24

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