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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.

RankAbbreviation
General of the ArmyGA
GeneralGEN
Lieutenant GeneralLTG
Major GeneralMG
Brigadier GeneralBG
ColonelCOL
Lieutenant ColonelLTC
MajorMAJ
CaptainCPT
First Lieutenant1LT
Second Lieutenant2LT
Chief Warrant Officer 5CW5
Chief Warrant Officer 4CW4
Chief Warrant Officer 3CW3
Chief Warrant Officer 2CW2
Warrant OfficerWO1
Sergeant Major of the ArmySMA
Command Sergeant MajorCSM
Sergeant MajorSGM
First Sergeant1SG
Master SergeantMSG
Sergeant First ClassSFC
Staff SergeantSSG
SergeantSGT
CorporalCPL
SpecialistSPC
Private First ClassPFC
Private 2PV2
PrivatePVT

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.

RankAbbreviation
GeneralGen
Lieutenant GeneralLtGen
Major GeneralMajGen
Brigadier GeneralBGen
ColonelCol
Lieutenant ColonelLtCol
MajorMaj
CaptainCapt
First Lieutenant1stLt
Second Lieutenant2ndLt
Chief Warrant Officer 5CW5
Chief Warrant Officer 4CW4
Chief Warrant Officer 3CW3
Chief Warrant Officer 2CW2
Warrant Officer 1WO1
Sergeant Major of the Marine CorpsSgtMajMarCor
Sergeant MajorSgtMaj
Master Gunnery SergeantMGySgt
First Sergeant1stSgt
Master SergeantMSgt
Gunnery SergeantGySgt
Staff SergeantSSgt
SergeantSgt
CorporalCpl
Lance CorporalLCpl
Private First ClassPFC
PrivatePvt

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.

RankAbbreviation
Fleet AdmiralFADM
Admiral Chief of Naval Operations
(Commandant of the Coast Guard)
ADM
Vice AdmiralVADM
Rear Admiral (upper half)RADM
Rear Admiral (lower half)RDML
CaptainCAPT
CommanderCDR
Lieutenant CommanderLCDR
LieutenantLT
Lieutenant, Junior GradeLTJG
EnsignENS
Chief Warrant Officer 5CWO5
Chief Warrant Officer 4CWO4
Chief Warrant Officer 3CWO3
Chief Warrant Officer 2CWO2
Warrant OfficerWO1
Master Chief Petty Officer of the NavyMCPON
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast GuardMPCOCG
Force Master Chief Petty OfficerFORCM
Fleet Master Chief Petty OfficerFLTCM
Command Master Chief Petty OfficerMCPOC
Master Chief Petty OfficerMCPO
Senior Chief Petty OfficerSCPO
Chief Petty OfficerCPO
Petty Officer 1st ClassPO1
Petty Officer 2nd ClassPO2
Petty Officer 3rd ClassPO3
SeamanSN
Seaman ApprenticeSA
Seaman RecruitSR

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.

RankAbbreviation
General of the Air ForceGOAF
General Air Force Chief of StaffGen
Lieutenant GeneralLt Gen
Major GeneralMaj Gen
Brigadier GeneralBrig Gen
ColonelCol
Lieutenant ColonelLt Col
MajorMaj
CaptainCapt
First Lieutenant1st Lt
Second Lieutenant2d Lt
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air ForceCMSAF
Command Chief Master SergeantCCM
Chief Master SergeantCMSgt
Senior Master SergeantSMSgt
Senior Master SergeantSMSgt
Master SergeantMSgt
Technical SergeantTSgt
Staff SergeantSSgt
Senior Airman or SergeantSrA
Airman First ClassA1C
AirmanAmn
Airman BasicAB

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.