US Military Ranks

To be successful, the military must operate like a well-oiled machine, with each individual component working in perfect sync with all the others.

In order to mobilize such a huge body as the US military, there must be multiple levels of organization, control, and communication, so that every service member knows when and how to fulfill their own individual duties. The US military ranks, and specifically the United States Army ranks, are a very important part of this organizational process. Military officer ranks ensure that leadership responsibilities in the chain of command are delegated appropriately; while US Army enlisted ranks make sure that various support and combat tasks are carried out by trained and qualified personnel.

US Army Enlisted Ranks

The bulk of the United States Army ranks are taken up by enlisted personnel. In fact, enlisted personnel account for about 83 percent of the people serving in the military. Anyone who is in good health, is a citizen or resident alien, has a high school diploma or GED, and meets certain moral criteria can enter the military. Usually they begin at the bottom of the ladder as a Private and work their way up through training and experience. Here is a list of enlisted ranks in US Army in order of ascending responsibility (and pay!):

Insignia United States Army Ranks Abbreviation
No Insignia Private PVT
Private 2 PV2
Private First Class PFC
Specialist SPC
Corporal CPL
Sergeant SGT
Staff Sergeant SSG
Sergeant First Class SFC
Master Sergeant MSG
First Sergeant 1SG
Sergeant Major SGM
Command Sergeant Major CSM
Sergeant Major of the Army SMA

Warrant Officers Ranks

Insignia United States Army Ranks Abbreviation
Warrant Officer 1 WO1
Chief Warrant Officer 2 CW2
Chief Warrant Officer 3 CW3
Chief Warrant Officer 4 CW4
Chief Warrant Officer 5 CW5

Military Officer Ranks

Officers account for about 17 percent of the total Army personnel.

While some civilian professions, like medical doctor, chaplain, or lawyer can earn qualified individuals a direct ticket to an officer rank, most officers receive their ranks by attending Officer Candidate School, the United States Military Academy, or Reserve Officer’s Training Corps. Here are the American military ranks for officers, in ascending order:

Insignia Military Officer Ranks Abbreviation
Second Lieutenant 2LT
First Lieutenant 1LT
Captain CPT
Major MAJ
Lieutenant Colonel LTC
Colonel COL
Brigadier General BG
Major General MG
Lieutenant General LTG
General GEN
General of the Army GA

Addressing Personnel

Addressing Personnel by Ranks in US Army

Most of the time, personnel are simply addressed by their American military ranks followed by their last name. However, some of the ranks work a bit differently. These exceptions include calling warrant officers “Mr”, “Ms”, or “Chief”, and calling all generals “General”. Also, a private first class is still called “Private,” and all sergeants below First Sergeant are simply called “Sergeant”.