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Not many people out there would find it easy to differentiate between a Lieutenant Colonel and Lieutenant Commander ... or any of the various other ranks in the United States military. The exuberance shown by the youth of this country when it comes to getting into a military school depicts how respectable a career in military forces is considered to be. While we do have utmost respect for the military forces of our nation, we seldom take any interest in understanding the various aspects of this powerful organization.

U.S. Military Ranks List

The United States Armed Forces (USAF) is an umbrella term used to refer to the military forces of the United States. The President of the United States is the head of the Armed Forces, while the Department of Defense (DoD) works as the executive authority for the same. The different branches of the military in the U.S. are ...
  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Marine Corps
  • U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Coast Guard
While the first four branches come directly under the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard is a neutral agency which is handed over to the Naval branch in times of emergency. In terms of active personnel, the United States Armed Forces ranks 2nd in the world. These personnel are categorized into three groups: commissioned officers, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers.

U.S. Army
The U.S. Army is in charge of land-based military operations of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is headed by the General of the Army, a five-star general officer. This rank is only used during a war situation. There does exist a rank known as the General of the Armies, which is superior to the General of the Army, but it has been only conferred twice in the American history.

Rank Abbreviation
General of the Army GA
General GEN
Lieutenant General LTG
Major General MG
Brigadier General BG
Colonel COL
Lieutenant Colonel LTC
Major MAJ
Captain CPT
First Lieutenant 1LT
Second Lieutenant 2LT
Chief Warrant Officer 5 CW5
Chief Warrant Officer 4 CW4
Chief Warrant Officer 3 CW3
Chief Warrant Officer 2 CW2
Warrant Officer WO1
Sergeant Major of the Army SMA
Command Sergeant Major CSM
Sergeant Major SGM
First Sergeant 1SG
Master Sergeant MSG
Sergeant First Class SFC
Staff Sergeant SSG
Sergeant SGT
Corporal CPL
Specialist SPC
Private First Class PFC
Private 2 PV2
Private PVT

U.S. Marine Corps
Even though the Marines form a component of the United States Department of the Navy, it is considered a separate branch of the Armed Forces.

Rank Abbreviation
General Gen
Lieutenant General LtGen
Major General MajGen
Brigadier General BGen
Colonel Col
Lieutenant Colonel LtCol
Major Maj
Captain Capt
First Lieutenant 1stLt
Second Lieutenant 2ndLt
Chief Warrant Officer 5 CW5
Chief Warrant Officer 4 CW4
Chief Warrant Officer 3 CW3
Chief Warrant Officer 2 CW2
Warrant Officer 1 WO1
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps SgtMajMarCor
Sergeant Major SgtMaj
Master Gunnery Sergeant MGySgt
First Sergeant 1stSgt
Master Sergeant MSgt
Gunnery Sergeant GySgt
Staff Sergeant SSgt
Sergeant Sgt
Corporal Cpl
Lance Corporal LCpl
Private First Class PFC
Private Pvt

U.S. Navy
The largest naval force in the world, the U.S. Navy has a total strength which easily outweighs the combined strength of the next ten largest naval organizations in the world. It is headed by the Fleet Admiral.

Rank Abbreviation
Fleet Admiral FADM
Admiral Chief of Naval Operations
(Commandant of the Coast Guard)
ADM
Vice Admiral VADM
Rear Admiral (upper half) RADM
Rear Admiral (lower half) RDML
Captain CAPT
Commander CDR
Lieutenant Commander LCDR
Lieutenant LT
Lieutenant, Junior Grade LTJG
Ensign ENS
Chief Warrant Officer 5 CWO5
Chief Warrant Officer 4 CWO4
Chief Warrant Officer 3 CWO3
Chief Warrant Officer 2 CWO2
Warrant Officer WO1
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy MCPON
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard MPCOCG
Force Master Chief Petty Officer FORCM
Fleet Master Chief Petty Officer FLTCM
Command Master Chief Petty Officer MCPOC
Master Chief Petty Officer MCPO
Senior Chief Petty Officer SCPO
Chief Petty Officer CPO
Petty Officer 1st Class PO1
Petty Officer 2nd Class PO2
Petty Officer 3rd Class PO3
Seaman SN
Seaman Apprentice SA
Seaman Recruit SR

U.S. Air Force
The Air Force is a branch of the USAF which is in charge of aerial and space warfare. The General of the Air Force, a five-star officer, heads the operations of this branch of the forces.

Rank Abbreviation
General of the Air Force GOAF
General Air Force Chief of Staff Gen
Lieutenant General Lt Gen
Major General Maj Gen
Brigadier General Brig Gen
Colonel Col
Lieutenant Colonel Lt Col
Major Maj
Captain Capt
First Lieutenant 1st Lt
Second Lieutenant 2d Lt
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force CMSAF
Command Chief Master Sergeant CCM
Chief Master Sergeant CMSgt
Senior Master Sergeant SMSgt
Senior Master Sergeant SMSgt
Master Sergeant MSgt
Technical Sergeant TSgt
Staff Sergeant SSgt
Senior Airman or Sergeant SrA
Airman First Class A1C
Airman Amn
Airman Basic AB

In order to have such a large army, the nation has to spend a significant amount of its GDP on defense. The United States spends a whopping US$ 692 billion on its military forces, which accounts for roughly around 43 percent of the world military expenditure.