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VISIONS OF ROBOTECH
REAL-WORLD ENLISTED RANK
STRUCTURES COMPARED



Back to Ranks of the Armed Forces of the World Government


All military rank structures of English-speaking countries (and some others) have been derived from ranks that have existed in the United Kingdom's armed forces. All but a handful of military rank structures of the English-speaking world today are modelled specifically on the 20th/21st century UK system.

The United States system though similar in many ways is the least like the UK system. Some differences are not immediately apparent. For example, both have the rank of sergeant, but a UK-style sergeant is more senior than a US sergeant. Once upon a time they were equivalent but the US system has evolved in such a way that non-commissioned officer ranks have been pushed downwards. The current US system is widely considered excessively complicated, contradictory (in that a rank in one service may be higher or lower than it is in another service) and ridiculously top-heavy. For example, not only do USMC lance corporals outnumber privates, they do so at nearly two to one. Clearly USMC lance corporals are privates in all but name. The USAF has more enlisted members of and above the rank of staff sergeant than members below that rank. By comparison, enlisted members of and above the rank of staff/colour sergeant in the British Army constitute about 13% of the enlisted total, and even that's considered woefully excessive.

The military rank structures of the Philippines and Liberia (which has a small defence force) were based on that of the United States.


The UK-style system (note that there are differences between different countries):

NAVY
ARMY / MARINES
AIR FORCE
Warrant officer class I or warrant officer
Warrant officer class I
Warrant officer class I or warrant officer
Warrant officer class II or no rank
Warrant officer class II
Warrant officer class II or no rank
Chief petty officer
Staff sergeant or colour sergeant
Flight sergeant
Petty officer
Sergeant
Sergeant
Leading rate or leading seaman
Corporal
Corporal
No rank
Lance corporal
No rank
Able rate or able seaman
Private [highest grade thereof]
Leading aircraftman
Ordinary rate or ordinary seaman
Private
Aircraftman
[Recruit title]
[Recruit title]
[Recruit title]

Normal rank-appointment correlation:
    - senior enlisted member of an infantry battalion or equivalent or higher command warrant officer class I;
    - senior enlisted member of an infantry company or equivalent warrant officer class II;
    - deputy commander of an infantry platoon or equivalent sergeant;
    - commander of an infantry section or equivalent corporal.

Titles such as sergeant-major and quartermaster sergeant refer to appointments, not ranks. Sergeants-major are normally warrant officers.

'Rate' is a generic term that is supplanted by occupational designations in individuals' titles, e.g. leading cook. Otherwise 'seaman' supplants 'rate' navy-wide and occupational designations are used in addition when relevant, e.g. leading seaman (cook). Some services omit 'ordinary' from ordinary seaman.

Some services have able rate/able seaman as an equivalent of lance corporal and some air forces have lance corporal (without leading aircraftman).

Recruit titles tend to vary more, e.g. recruit, recruit seaman, private (recruit), private (third class) and aircraftman recruit.


The US system:

GRADE
NAVY
ARMY
MARINES
AIR FORCE
E-9
MCPO of the Navy

Master chief petty officer
Sgt-maj of the Army
Command sgt-maj

Sergeant-major
Sgt-maj of the Marine Corps
Sergeant-major
Master gunnery sergeant
Chief master sgt of the Air Force

Chief master sergeant
E-8
Senior chief petty officer
First sergeant
Master sergeant
First sergeant
Master sergeant
Senior master sergeant
E-7
Chief petty officer
Sergeant first class
Gunnery sergeant
Master sergeant
E-6
Petty officer first class
Staff sergeant
Staff sergeant
Technical sergeant
E-5
Petty officer second class
Sergeant
Sergeant
Staff sergeant
E-4
Petty officer third class
Corporal
Specialist
Corporal
Senior airman
E-3
Seaman, hospitalman, dentalman, fireman, airman, constructionman
Private first class
Lance corporal
Airman first class
E-2
Seaman apprentice, hospital appr, dental appr, fireman appr, airman appr, constructionman appr
Private E-2
Private first class
Airman
E-1
Seaman recruit, hospital rct, dental rct, fireman rct, airman rct, constructionman rct
Private
Private
Airman basic

Normal grade-appointment correlation:
    - senior enlisted member of an infantry battalion or equivalent or higher command E-9;
    - senior enlisted member of an infantry company or equivalent E-8;
    - deputy commander of an infantry platoon or equivalent E-7;
    - commander of an infantry squad (section) or equivalent E-6.

US services other than the Air Force have warrant officer ranks, but unlike in most other countries they are not enlisted ranks. They comprise a separate category of ranks below second lieutenant and ensign.

Only one person at a time serves as master chief petty officer of the Navy, sergeant-major of the Army, sergeant-major of the Marine Corps, or chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

US Coast Guard rates (enlisted ranks) are the same as those of the USN except that master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard supplants master chief petty officer of the Navy.

Sergeant-major is a rank title in the US armed forces.

A master chief petty officer serving as a fleet, force or command master chief is the senior enlisted member in his/her command. A senior chief petty officer serving as a command senior chief is the senior enlisted member in his/her command. A chief master sergeant serving as a command chief master sergeant is the senior enlisted member in his/her command.

Unlike in the Army and Marine Corps, first sergeant is an appointment, not a rank, in the USAF. It is held by certain master sergeants, senior master sergeants and chief master sergeants.

One of the odd features of the US enlisted rank structure is that there are several instances where there are several non-commissioned officer ranks that are not equivalent though they are of the same grade in the same service. For example, master sergeant and first sergeant. It is possible for a member of the Army to move between first sergeant and master sergeant, and between command sergeant-major and sergeant-major. However, no such movement is possible for a member of the Marine Corps: a gunnery sergeant who is promoted will become either a first sergeant or master sergeant; a first sergeant who is promoted will become a sergeant-major; and a master sergeant who is promoted will become a master gunnery sergeant.
(Having command sergeant-major, USMC sergeant-major and first sergeant as ranks, rather than special appointments, seems very unnecessary and unduly cumbersome, especially in the USMC where no movement is possible between ranks of the same grade.)


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