Military enlisted ranks have always been fascinating for me. I have always wondered why the military branches use different military ranks instead of having them the same across the board. I guess there has to be a difference so the Marines don’t have to worry about being asked if they are in the Air Force. I think the Navy has the most complicated rank system. The sailors go by their occupation. An example is if you’re an electrician mate E5, your title is EM2, second class petty officer.
One of the first things you learn in boot camp is rank identifying. The Army and Marines rank structures are very similar. The Navy and Coast Guard ranks are very similar as well. The biggest thing to know is the difference between the officers and enlisted ranks.
Let’s Compare Military Enlisted Ranks
When it comes to military enlisted ranks each branch has both some similarities and differences. The Army and Marines call their E3 and below privates while the Navy and Coast Guard call their E3 and below seaman or airman. The Air Force call their E3 and below Airman.
The Army and Marines have a little bit of a difference when it comes to E4. The Marines consider E4 as a junior NCO and a corporal. You will see very few corporal ranks in the Army; the corporal rank and is mainly used by combat MOS units. I was a corporal for three years—the toughest three years I had in the military. The non-NCO Army rank is called a specialist. The Navy and Coast Guard also consider E4’s an NCO and are called petty officer, third class. The five ranks for Army and Marines are both called sergeants. Navy and Coast Guard are called petty officers, second class. The Air Force are called staff sergeants.
The E6 in Army and Marines are both called staff sergeants. The Navy and Coast Guard are called petty officer, first class. The Air Force E6 is tech sergeant.
The Army and Marines start to go their separate ways when it comes to the higher enlisted ranks. The Army E7 is called sergeant, first class. The Marines E7 are known as gunnery sergeant, and the Navy and Coast Guard are known as chief petty officer. The Air Force E7 is called first sergeant.
The Army and Marines E8 are known as master sergeants. There is also a position in both branches for E8 known as first sergeant; this is the highest ranking enlisted member in a unit. The Air Force E8 is called senior master sergeant. The Navy and Coast guard E8 are called senior chief petty officer.
The E9 in Army and Marines are called sergeant’s major. The Air Force E9 are called chief master sergeant. The Navy and Coast Guard are called master sergeant.
One important thing to remember as an enlisted member is to recognize and show respect when speaking to a higher enlisted rank, especially the First Sergeant and Sergeant’s Major. These are high leadership positions and should always be addressed in the proper way by all enlisted and officers.
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E-7 in the Air Force are known as Master Sergants! First sergeant is a job title. Not a rank.
Lt Col Ragan USAF (retired)
Keep up the good work
sorry but you goofed on the Navy and Coast Guard. E-9’s are called Master Chief Petty Officer.