US Military Rank and Insignia Chart - Officer

Officer Ranks of the Military

Officers Ranks
Army, Air Force, USMC Officer Ranks and Insignia Army - Air Force - USMC.

Commissioned Officer Rank

Since before the United States was officially a country, our first General George Washington saw the need of having ranks and noticeable insignia to differentiate the officers from the enlisted as there were no uniforms.  Since then, the insignia of ranks have included such symbols as feathers, sashes, stripes and showy uniforms. Even carrying different weapons has signified rank. The badges of rank have been worn on hats, shoulders and around the waist and chest.

The American military adapted most of its rank insignia from the British. Before the Revolutionary War, Americans drilled with militia outfits based on the British tradition. Sailors followed the example of the most successful navy of the time -- the Royal Navy.

So, the Continental Army had privates, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, colonels, generals for instance. 


The three branches of the service who share the same ranks by name and insignia are the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Rank, title, and collar devices are the same for these branches. However, the Navy does share the same collar devices for their ranking system.

 Army, Air Force, and USMC Officer Ranks

O-1:  Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt)

O-2:  First Lieutenant (1st Lt)

O-3:  Captain (Capt)

O-4: Major (Maj)

O-5: Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col)

O-6: Colonel (Col)

O-7: Brigadier General (Brig Gen)

O-8:  Major General (Maj Gen)

O-9:  Lieutenant General (Lt Gen)

O-10: General (Gen)

O-11:  General of the Army - During time of war, the President can appoint a General of the Army (5 Star).  Previous five start Generals have been:

      •  George Marshall

      •  Douglas MacArthur

      •  Dwight D. Eisenhower    

      •  Henry H. Arnold

      •  Omar Bradley

Navy and Coast Guard Officer Ranks

Navy - Coast Guard Officer Ranks
Ensign to Admiral Ranks and Insignia. chart

The ranks of the United States Navy are similar to the other services only in collar devices. The shoulder boards and sleeves use of bars signify the different ranks within the Navy and Coast Guard.

Below are the Navy and Coast Guard Officer Ranks listed from lowest to highest:

O-1:  Ensign (ENS)

O-2:  Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTjg)

O-3:  Lieutenant (LT)

O-4:  Lieutenant Commander (LCDR)

O-5:  Commander (CDR)

O-6:  Captain(CAPT)

O-7:  Rear Admiral (RADM lower half)

O-8:  Rear Admiral (RADM upper half)

O-9:  Vice Admiral (VADM)

O-10: Admiral (ADM)

O-11:  Fleet Admiral (FLT ADM) - During times of war, the President will appoint a Fleet Admiral and a fifth star to the deserving admiral to be in charge of all Naval Operations in a war.  The Fleet Admirals during World War Two were:  

  • William D. Leahy
  • Ernest J. King 
  • Chester W. Nimitz 
  • William F. Halsey, Jr. 

Military Officer Training

Officers and Cadets
West Point / Army ROTC Drill.

Cadet Greg Zielinski, a top member of the senior class of 2005, gives the commander of West Point, three star General William Lennox, an impromptu briefing during the Sandhurst competitions. Over 70% of the graduates will be leading troops in combat in the Middle East within a year. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Officers have several routes to get to their ranks.  Many attend ROTC programs to prepare for leadership roles in the military services.  Some attend Service Academies (West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, and Merchant Marine Academy) as well as attend Officer Candidate School.

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