How to Distinguish and Recognize Different Military Ranks

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The best way to accurately differentiate between different military ranks is to pay attention to the insignia. All members of the Army will have an insignia that displays their rank in a highly visible place on their Army Combat Uniform (ACU). Every different insignia will be indicative of a different rank, and after familiarizing yourself with all of them, identifying a soldier’s rank will become second-nature.

The ACU

Enlisted Army soldiers’ uniforms include the ACU, or “Green” uniform, made of print fabric with a camouflage pattern. Occasionally, a solider will have their rank insignia displayed in the center of their ACU cap. A solider may also have their rank insignia patch sewn into the chest of their ACU. Another place to look for the rank insignia patch is the soldier’s upper sleeve.

Rank Insignia

The lowest rank of all enlisted soldiers is E-1, assigned to privates who are still in the Basic Combat Training (BCT) phase. Privates in BCT have no rank insignia. The next rank, privates in E-2, will have a simple yellow chevron rank insignia. Private First Class (PFC, E-3) soldiers will have a chevron that’s been closed off at the bottom by a round bar. E-3 rank chevrons will be enclosing a green field. After PFC comes the E-4 rank, which is divided into various configurations of yellow chevron insignia with segmented lines.

Soldiers in the specialist (SPC) rank will have a triangle that’s rounded at the top with a golden eagle in the center. Corporals (CPL) will have an insignia that consists of two chevrons. In addition to the basic rank insignia divisions, there are also different sergeant (SGT) insignia as well.

The Sergeant’s (SGT, E-5) rank insignia is three yellow chevrons in a stack. The Staff Sergeant’s (SGT, E-6) insignia also has three yellow chevron, with the bottom chevron closed off by a rounded line.

The Sergeant’s First Class (SGT, E-7) rank insignia has an additional rounded line beneath the one closing off the bottom chevron, and the Master Sergeant’s (SGT, E-8) insignia has two additional rounded lines. The First Sergeant’s (1-SG, E-8) insignia is the same as a Master Sergeant’s, with a golden diamond placed in the middle. The Sergeant Major (SGM, E-9) is similar to the First Sergeant, only with a star instead of a diamond.

A Command Sergeant Major (CSM, E-9) has a Sergeant Major’s insignia, with two wheat sheaves around the star. The Sergeant Major of the Army’s (E-9) insignia has a golden eagle and two stars in the middle of the chevrons.