Military rank

Military rank, or simply rank, is a system of grading seniority and command within military organizations. The U.S. Navy uses naval rate for enlisted men.

A separate set of ranks was also used for secular, and occasionally ecclesiastic, rulers, as discussed in Ranks of nobility and peerage. A set of rank is also used in academic organizations.

Within military organizations, the use of ranks is almost universal. The Chinese People's Liberation Army of the 1960s and 1970s and the Red Army of 1918-1935 are the rare examples of military which abolished rank.


Roman ranks

The use of formalized ranks came into widespread use with the Roman legions after the introduction of reforms by the consul Gaius Marius which were completed around 60 BC. In the new system a legion would be commanded by a legate (legatus), typically a senator given a three-year term. Immediately beneath the legate were six tribunes of the soldiers (tribuni militum), five of whom would be senior officers and one a nobleman who was headed for the Senate.

The fighting men in the legion were formed into ranks, rows of men who fought as a unit. In the new system these were divided into groups of ten cohorts (cohors, pl. cohortes), each consisting of six centuries of 100 men. Each century was led by a centurion (centurio, pl. centuriones). Additional centurions served as scribes and filled other duties. Centuries were further broken into ten contubernia, of eight soldiers each. Individual soldiers were referred to as soldiers (miles, pl. milites) or legionaries (legionarii).

Modern ranks

Most modern military services recognize three broad categories of serviceman. These are codified in the Geneva Conventions, which somewhat ambiguously distinguishes "officers", "non-commissioned officers" and "men".

Apart from possible conscripted personnel one can distinguish:

  • Commissioned officers which are further separated into three levels
    • Flag Officers -- Admirals, Generals and Marshals who typically command units that are expected to operate independently for extended periods of time (brigades and larger, fleets of ships).
    • Field Grade Officers who typically command units that can be expected to operate independently for short periods of time (battalions and regiments, large warships). Field Grade officers also commonly fill staff positions.
    • Company Grade or Junior Officers are the three or four lowest ranks of officers. Their units are generally not expected to operate independently for any significant length of time. In the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, these are captains and lower who typically lead companies and smaller units. In the U.S. Navy, these are lieutenants and ensigns who typically command divisions or watches on larger ships. Company grade officers will also fill staff roles in some units.
    • Warrant officers are a hybrid rank treated slightly differently in each service. Generally speaking, warrant officers are given the rank for technical skills and do not serve in command positions. However for Geneva Convention purposes they are usually treated as commissioned officers.
  • Enlisted personnel
    • Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) are enlisted personnel who supervise other soldiers or have significant administrative responsibilities. Even the most senior NCO officially ranks beneath the most junior commissioned officer, although in many organizations a senior NCO will have formal responsibility and informal respect beyond that of a junior officer. NCO ranks include a varying number of grades of Sergeant (Army, Air Force or Marines) or Petty officer (Naval).
    • Other enlisted ranks include the "specialist" and the "private soldier" or private for short.

Typical US Army non-commissioned officer ranks and responsibilities

a/anis typically led by aand consists of
CorpsCommand Sergeant Major (CSM)a few Divisions
DivisionCommand Sergeant Major (CSM)several Battalions
BattalionCommand Sergeant Major (CSM)two to five Companies
CompanyFirst Sergeant (1SG)several Platoons
PlatoonPlatoon Sergeant Sergeant First Classseveral sections
SectionSection Sergeant Staff Sergeanttwo or three squads
SquadSquad Leader Sergeanttwo or three fire teams
Fire teamFire team Leader Corporalfour to six soldiers

Naval rates and ranks

The United States Navy uses naval rate for enlisted men and rank for officers. See U.S. Navy enlisted rate insignia and U.S. Navy officer rank insignia for examples. Naval rate should not be confused with naval rating.

See also

For specific insignia and history:

External link

de:Dienstgrad fr:Grade militaire nl:Militaire rang pl:Stopień wojskowy ru:Воинское звание sl:Vojaški čini fi:Sotilasarvo zh-cn:军衔 es:escalafn militar


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools