United States Navy officer rank insignia

In the United States Navy, officers have various ranks. Equivalency between services is by pay grade. United States Navy commissioned officer ranks have two distinct sets of rank insignia: on dress uniform a series of stripes similar to Commonwealth naval ranks are worn, while on service khaki, working uniforms (Navy Working Uniform [NWU], and coveralls), and special uniform situations (combat utilities, flight suits, and USMC uniforms when worn by Navy officers assigned or attached to USMC units), the rank insignia are similar (there are subtle differences in the size, shape, and design of naval services insignia) to the equivalent rank in the US Army or US Air Force.

Commissioned officer ranks

Commissioned officer rank structure of the United States Navy[1]
US DoD Pay GradeO-1O-2O-3O-4O-5O-6O-7O-8O-9O-10SpecialSpecial
NATO CodeOF-1OF-1OF-2OF-3OF-4OF-5OF-6OF-7OF-8OF-9OF-10Special Grade
Collar insignia for Service Khaki,
cuff insignia for Service, Full, and Dinner Dress Blue, and
shoulder board insignia for Service, Full, and Dinner Dress White
Title Ensign Lieutenant
(junior grade)
Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander Commander Captain Rear Admiral (lower half) Rear Admiral[2][3] Vice Admiral Admiral Fleet Admiral[lower-alpha 1] Admiral of the Navy[lower-alpha 2]

Commissioned warrant officer ranks

Commissioned warrant officer
US DoD Pay GradeW-2W-3W-4W-5
Title Chief Warrant Officer Two Chief Warrant Officer Three Chief Warrant Officer Four Chief Warrant Officer Five

Rank categories

In the U.S. Navy, pay grades for officers are:

Note 1: The Navy and Coast Guard do not currently use pay grade WO-1, Warrant Officer. A warrant officer (WO-1) is an officer, but not a commissioned officer. Warrant officers are "appointed" to their grade with a "warrant" in lieu of a commission. The Army and Marine Corps currently appoint warrant officers to this pay grade.

Rank and promotion system

In the event that officers demonstrate superior performance and prove themselves capable of performing at the next higher pay grade, they are given an increase in pay grade. The official term for this process is a promotion.

Commissioned naval officers originate from the United States Naval Academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, other Service Academies (United States Military Academy or United States Air Force Academy), Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), Officer Candidate School (OCS), the since-disestablished Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS), and a host of other commissioning programs such as the "Seaman to Admiral-21" program and the limited duty officer/chief warrant officer (LDO/CWO) selection program. There are also a small number of direct commissioned officers, primarily staff corps officers in the medical, dental, nurse, chaplain and judge advocate general career fields.

Commissioned officers can generally be divided into line officers and staff corps:

Note 2: See also Commodore (United States) — today an honorific (but not a pay grade) for selected URL captains (O-6) in major command of multiple subordinate operational units, and formerly a rank (O-7).[8]

Note 3: The term "line officer of the naval service" includes line officers of both the Navy and the Marine Corps. All U.S. Marine Corps officers are considered "of the line," including Marine Corps limited duty officers, chief warrant officers, and warrant officers, regardless of grade or specialty.[9]

"Tombstone promotions"

The Act of Congress of March 4, 1925, provided for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard officers to be promoted one grade upon retirement, if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. Combat citation promotions were sometimes called "tombstone promotions" by disgruntled officers who did not qualify for them but the term was not used by the recipients. These promotions conferred all the perks and prestige of the higher rank, including the loftier title, but no additional retirement pay. The Act of Congress of February 23, 1942, enabled promotions to three- and four-star grades. Tombstone promotions were subsequently restricted to citations issued before January 1, 1947, and finally eliminated altogether effective November 1, 1959.[10] The practice was terminated in what was called an effort to encourage senior officer retirements prior to the effective date of the change to relieve an over-strength in the senior ranks.

Any officer who served honorably in a grade while on active duty receives precedence on the retirement list over any "tombstone officer" holding the same retired grade. Tombstone officers rank among each other according to their dates of rank in their highest active duty grade.[11]

Officer specialty devices

Navy officers serve either as a line officer or as a staff corps officer. Unrestricted Line (URL) and Restricted Line (RL) officers wear an embroidered gold star above their rank of the naval service dress uniform while staff corps officers, and chief warrant officers wear unique specialty devices.[12][13]

Type Line officer Medical Corps Dental Corps Nurse Corps Medical Service Corps Judge Advocate General's Corps
Chaplain Corps
(Christian Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Jewish Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Muslim Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Buddhist Faith)
Supply Corps Civil Engineer Corps Law Community
(Limited Duty Officer)

1 An officer designator describes their general community or profession. The final (fourth) digit (X) denotes whether the officer has a regular (0), reserve (5), or full-time support (7) commission.[14]

The chief warrant officer and staff corps devices are also worn on the left collar of uniforms.

See also


  1. Rank inactive (awarded to four officers[Note 1] during World War II, but not established as a permanent rank).
  2. Rank inactive (awarded to Admiral George Dewey in 1903 [d. 1917], but not established as a permanent rank). The six star insignia is conjectural, as no Fleet Admirals were appointed while Admiral Dewey was alive.



  1. Rank Insignia of Navy commissioned and warrant officers
  2. 1 2 10 USC 5501 Navy: grades above chief warrant officer, W–5
  3. 1 2 37 USC 201 Pay grades: assignment to; general rules
  4. Defenselink.mil
  5. Defenselink.mil
  6. "Public Law 333, 79TH CONG., CHS. 109, 110, 112, MAR. 22, 23, 1946" (PDF). LegisWorks.org. Retrieved 15 September 2016. "This law in 1946 provided that each of the 8 Five-Star officers at the end of WWII was permanently appointed as O-11, and whether retired or not would continue to draw full pay and allowances for the rest of their life, as if on active duty. The same benefit was provided for the serving Commandants of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard (both O-10, 4-star General and Admiral, respectively), who were in office on 14 August 1945. No provisions were made for these officers' successors to have the same benefits; only one more O-11 was appointed, General Omar Bradley was appointed in 1950 as General of the Army, and his benefits followed the model of PL 333. The grade of O-11 itself was temporary in that while Congress provided for appointments to serve in it, once the last appointed officer (Bradley d. 1982) died, there have been no further appointments to O-11.
  7. "Specialty Insignia - Staff Corps".
  8. 14 USC 271: Promotions; appointments (1985—Pub. L. 99–145 substituted "rear admirals (lower half)" for "commodores," repealing 1983—Section 4 of Pub. L. 97–417, Permanent Grades and Titles for Officers Holding Certain Grades on January 3, 1983. After 1985, the O-7 Commodore rank was replaced by O-7 "Rear Admiral (Lower Half)")
  9. "United States Navy Regulations" (PDF). Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  10. "14 United States Code 239 Repealed)". U.S. Govt. Printing Office. Retrieved 15 September 2016. Section 10(b) of Pub. L. 86–155 provided that repeal of this section and section 309 of this title shall become effective on Nov. 1, 1959.
  11. United States Navy Regulations, 1920 with changes up to and including No. 19 1938 Article 1668(3)
  12. U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 4102 - Sleeve Designs for Line and Staff Corps, updated 28 January 11, accessed 22 January 12
  13. U.S. Navy Personnel Command, Officer, Community Managers, LDO/CWO OCM, References, LDO/CWO Designators, rout page updated 4 October 11, accessed 22 January 12
  14. "Navy Full-Time Support (FTS) Program". Navy.com. Retrieved 16 September 2016. Navy Full-Time Support (FTS) – This program allows Reservists to perform full-time Active Duty service in positions that support the training and administration of the Navy Reserve Force. Members receive the same pay, allowances and benefits as Active Duty members. One advantage of FTS over regular Active Duty is that members typically serve for longer periods at any assigned locations, up to and including a full career on active duty (albeit as a reservist serving on active duty for the specific purpose of providing support and expertise to integrate the active and reserve components.

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