My take on rank!

27 March 2012

I have seen meme’s of the Army rank structure floating around on the internet and usually get a kick out of them. I recently received a comment on my last post asking about my take on the “ideal, and then the real” rank structure. The Army’s rank structure is broken into two types; Enlisted (those that attend Basic Training) and Officers (enter through a military academy or ROTC). I will cover the enlisted ranks today. Enlisted are broken into two groups, enlisted and Noncommissioned Officers. And since I am Enlisted, those are what I will write about.

E1/E2 Private – Addressed as “Private”

Ideal: Lowest rank in the Army. E-1 wears no rank. Most of your time at this rank is spent at Basic Training. Automatic promotion from E1 to E2 is 6 months of service. Soldiers typically are pinned with E2 rank after a couple months at their first duty station. Carries out orders issued to them to the best of their ability.

Reality: You know the term “Shit rolls down hill”? This is where it stops. Most of the time is spent pulling the worst of the worst details. You know nothing and are reminded of the fact on a daily basis. Others are happy about your arrival to the unit (see E3)

Quote most often heard “Yes Sergeant”

E3 Private First Class – Addressed as “Private”

Ideal: Promoted to this from E2 after a year. If you are a high-speed Soldier, you can be promoted after 6 months. Can enter service at this rank if they have prior service or experience and carries out orders issued to them to the best of his/her ability.

Reality: Thanks the Lord every day that the unit has newly arrived E2’s so they are no longer the “new kid”. Knows a little more about the Army way of life but is still reminded they know nothing on a daily basis. You could consider this rank the blue collar class of the Army. PFC’s get work done and are the ones that write their leader’s evaluations. If this rank is messed up it’s because their leader failed to groom them correctly.

Quote most often heard “Yes Sergeant” and “Thank God the new guys showed up”

E4 Specialist – Addressed as “Specialist”

Ideal: Can manage other enlisted Soldiers of lower rank. If you enlist and have a degree, you can enter Basic Training with this rank. This rank is automatically earned after 24 months of service but can be waivered after 6 months time in grade as an E3. The majority of Soldiers that do one enlistment will terminate their service at this rank.

Reality: Also known as the E4 Mafia, Barracks Lawyers, Sham Shields. These are the most knowledgeable Soldiers in the world. If the Noncommissioned Officers are taking it easy on the E1 through E3s the Specialists make up for it by ensuring that the Privates understand they know nothing. They are also smarter than the Noncommissioned Officers and are not afraid to push details that they are given down to the Privates.

Quote most often heard “Listen Private, this is how it really works” or “Dude, that Sergeant can’t do that, that’s hazing” or “I would go to the promotion board and smoke it, but I’m not staying in.”

E4 Corporal – Addressed as “Corporal”

Ideal: First rank that is considered a Noncommissioned Officer. They receive the same pay as a Specialist but are normally in charge of a “Team” size element of 3-4 Soldiers and have the power of a Sergeant. Soldiers will wear this rank when they pass a promotion board but do not have the amount of points needed to make the “Cut-Off” for promotion to Sergeant.

Reality: Meanest Soldier in the Army. They are pissed that they are not a Sergeant and usually don’t get the respect of a Sergeant from the Specialists or Sergeants in the unit. Sergeants love this rank as it adds another “Leader” to pull leadership details that they would normally be tasked with.

Quote most often heard “God I can’t wait to be promoted to Sergeant” and “Specialist, you will go to parade rest when talking to me, I’m an NCO!”

E5 Sergeant – Addressed as “Sergeant”

Ideal: The most satisfactory job in the Army. The Sergeant works on a daily basis with E4 and below as their mentor, trainer, and disciplinarian. Soldiers look up to their NCO.

Reality: If Sergeants knew just how much power they had, they would scare us all. They are the workhorse of the NCOs.

Quote most often heard “PRIVATE!!!! DROP AND BEAT YOUR FACE!”

E6 Staff Sergeant – Addressed as “Sergeant”

Ideal: In charge of a “Squad” sized element of around 10 Soldiers. Usually have 2 or more Sergeants under their charge. Responsible for the overall training and well being of their Squad.

Reality: Although some slip through the cracks, they are usually close to being masters of their trade. Some believe that this rank should come with a coffee cup as the tough day to day grind of being a leader are over; focuses more on training the Sergeants and believing they could run the Platoon better than the Platoon Sergeant.

Quote most often heard (to another Staff Sergeant) “Wanna go get some Coffee?”

E7 Sergeant First Class – Addressed as “Sergeant”

Ideal: Platoon Sergeant and key advisor to the Platoon Leader. Normally has 15 years in service and is in charge of a Platoon of Soldiers ranging from 15-35 Soldiers. First NCO rank that is considered a Senior Noncommissioned Officer.

Reality: This is the hardest and most satisfying job in the Army. Developing his Platoon Leader and ensuring the overall well being of their platoon is their number 1 charge.

Quote most often heard “How in the hell does a brand new LT get paid more than me?” and “NO LT, put that down, THIS is how we are going to do it!”

E8 Master Sergeant – Addressed as “Sergeant”

Ideal: Senior Noncommissioned Officer that works on Staff at the Battalion level and higher.

Reality: Pissed off that they are not a First Sergeant.

Quote most often heard “Hey Sergeant Major, can I have a Company now?”

E8 First Sergeant – Addressed as “First Sergeant”

Ideal: Lifeblood of the Company. Commanders enlisted counterpart, master trainer of all individual, crew, and small team tasks. Responsible for the Company’s accountability, discipline, esprit de corps, and performance standards.

Reality: All of the above and some. The First Sergeant must be “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to handle all emergencies; first Soldier at work and the last to leave.

Quote most often heard “Get your hands out of your pocket!” and “Back in my day….”

E9 Sergeant Major – Addressed as “Sergeant Major”

Ideal: Assists officers at the Battalion level and higher. Not charged with many Soldiers but runs the Operations Center. Provides expert enlisted guidance to plans and operations and is seldom seen at the Company level; works behind the scenes.

Reality: Wants to be a Command Sergeant Major! Works behind a desk going over Operations Orders and splitting up tasks to the Company’s.

Quote most often heard “Ok First Sergeants… Drop one more tasking and I will have YOUR ASS PULLING HEAD-COUNT!”

E9 Command Sergeant Major – Addressed as “Sergeant Major”

Ideal: The top of the food chain! They are the Battalion (or higher) Commander’s Enlisted counterpart. The Command Sergeant Major provides recommendations on policy that can effect from 600 to 5,000 Soldiers. The Command Sergeant Major enforces those policies from Commanders on the performance, training, appearance and conduct of all enlisted Soldiers.

Reality: The CSM is also the master on all administrative actions to include Noncommissioned Evaluation Reports.

Quote most often heard “GET OFF MY GRASS!” and “First Sergeant, did you even look at this evaluation report before you gave it to me?”

E9 Command Sergeant Major of the Army – Addressed as “Sergeant Major”

Ideal: Senior enlisted advisor to the higest officer in the Army. CSA provides input on the strategic level.

Reality: Unknown…

Quote most oten heard “We are looking into that” and “The centralized board system works. Update your records, choose the correct assignments, and ensure your evaluation reports are good.”

Hope this helped!

7 thoughts on “My take on rank!

  1. I love your writings. Another great article. Thanks for sharing the ranks that someone like me wouldn’t know and understand. Have a safe day.

  2. And then there’s the time my husband went from E3 PFC to E5 Sergeant in one weekend! Yes, it happened. It was during Nam and someone needed a Drill Sergeant…. like yesterday. My husband was sitting in the office waiting orders for something different when the call came in. NCO says, “Yes, I’ve got the perfect candidate sitting in front of me.” HA.

    The next day he came into the barracks and threw two stripes down on the bed. Instant Sergeant!

  3. What a great laugh you gave me, nothings changes, way back when Adam was a boy I did basic at Fort Ord Calif, as E1s we were lower than whale sh-t and reprogramed to forget civilian life and think only army. told to check our boots every day for in case snakes had gone in them during the night, in my 70s I still check my boots. after serving in Korea I ended up at the dizzy hight as Spec 5 Fort Story Va. We were soldiers once, and young. Make sure you write that book, I,ll be first in line to buy. You have a unique way of writing. April 25th here in New Zealand and Australia is AZAC day when we remember the fallen of previous wars, as the only US Vet in this town of Blenheim NZ I place a poppy for Americas fallen also add a prayer for you guys still serving our great country. You, and the guys with you command my greatest respect. Thanks

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