US Navy officer rank insignia

In the United States Navy, officers have various ranks, called rates in the USN. Equivalency between services is by pay grade.

US Navy Rank categories

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

  • W-2 to W-5 for Chief Warrant Officers. Chief Warrant Officers (CWO2-CWO5) are Commissioned Officers; only Warrant Officer (W-1) is not a commissioned officer and that pay grade is not currently in use
  • O-1 to O-10 for Unrestricted Line, Restricted Line, or Staff Corps Officers:
    • O-1 through O-4 are junior officers - Ensign, Lieutenant (junior grade), Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Commander
    • O-5 and O-6 are senior officers - Commander and Captain
    • O-7 through O-10 are flag officers - Rear Admiral (lower half) (one star), Rear Admiral (two star), Vice Admiral (three star), and
      Admiral (four star).
    • An additional flag officer is the rank of Fleet Admiral (five star). It is a wartime rank only and since 1945, there have been no additional Fleet Admirals appointed in the U.S. Navy. However, the rank of Fleet Admiral still remains listed on official rank insignia precedence charts and, if needed, this rank could be reestablished at the discretion of Congress and the President. All five-star officers are, technically, unable to retire from active duty. The last living Fleet Admiral in the U.S. Navy, FADM Chester W. Nimitz, died in 1966.

US Navy 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 Navy term for this process is a promotion. Above the rank of Admiral is the rank of Fleet Admiral. The rank was held by four officers during World War II and not been held by any officer since. It is reserved for wartime use. The rank of Admiral of the Navy was an earlier equivalent to Fleet Admiral. It was awarded to only one person in the history of the U.S. Navy, that being, George Dewey in 1899. Efforts to resurrect the rank in the 20th century (as an O-12 grade outranking Fleet Admirals) failed, making it very unlikely that it will ever be used again.

Commissioned officers originate from the United States Naval Academy, Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), Officer Candidate School (OCS), 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 (DCO), 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:

  • Line officers (or officers of the line) derive their name from the 18th-century British tactic of employing warships in a line of battle to take advantage of cannon on each side of the ship. These vessels were dubbed ships of the line and those who commanded them were likewise called "line officers." Today, all United States Navy unrestricted line and restricted line officers denote their status with a star located above their rank devices on the shoulder boards and sleeves of their white, blue and aviation winter working green uniforms, metal rank insignia on both collarpoints of khaki shirts/blouses, and cloth equivalents on both collarpoints of utility uniforms. Officers of the Staff Corps replace the star (or the left collarpoint on applicable shirts/blouses) with different insignias to indicate their field of specialty. Line officers can be categorized into unrestricted and restricted communities.
    • Unrestricted Line Officers are the most visible and well-known, due to their role as the Navy's war-fighting command element. They receive training in tactics, strategy, command and control, and actual combat and are considered unrestricted because they are authorized to command ships, aviation squadrons, and special operations units at sea or combat aviation squadrons or special operations units deployed ashore.
    • Restricted Line Officers concentrate on non-combat related fields, which include marine engineering, aeronautical engineering, ship and aircraft maintenance, meteorology and oceanography, and naval intelligence. They are not qualified to command combat units, but can command organizations in their respective specialized career fields. In certain shipboard environments, many unrestricted line officers fill what might be considered restricted line duties, such as the officers in a ship's engineering department. Because they maintain their general shipboard duties, instead of completely specializing in one career area, they maintain their unrestricted line command career path.
  • Staff corps officers are specialists in fields that are themselves professional careers and not exclusive to the military, for example health care, law, civil engineering and religion. There are eight staff corps: Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Nurse Corps, Medical Service Corps, Chaplain Corps, Navy Supply Corps, Judge Advocate General's Corps, and Civil Engineer Corps. They exist to augment the line communities and are able to be assigned to both line and staff commands. (The exception to this is the case of Civil Engineering Corps officers, who serve as the officers for Seabee units. This requires them to serve in a command capacity for ground combatants when the Seabees are deployed to combat areas.)

See also Commodore (United States) - today a title for selected Captains (O-6), and formerly a rank (O-7).

US Navy Ranks: Commissioned Officer

Commissioned Officer Rank Structure of the United States Navy
Fleet Admiral Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral Rear Admiral
(lower half)
Special O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7
US Navy O11 insignia.svg US Navy O10 insignia.svg US Navy O9 insignia.svg US Navy O8 insignia.svg US Navy O7 insignia.svg
Captain Commander Lieutenant Commander Lieutenant Lieutenant
(junior grade)
O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
US Navy O6 insignia.svg US Navy O5 insignia.svg US Navy O4 insignia.svg US Navy O3 insignia.svg US Navy O2 insignia.svg US Navy O1 insignia.svg

US Navy Rank: Commissioned Warrant Officer Ranks

Commissioned Warrant Officer Rank Structure of the United States Navy

Pay grade W-5 W-4 W-3 W-2
Insignia WO5 USN CWO5.jpg WO4 USN CWO4.jpg WO3 USN CWO3.jpg WO2 USN CWO2.jpg
Title Chief Warrant Officer Five Chief Warrant Officer Four Chief Warrant Officer Three Chief Warrant Officer Two
Abbreviation CWO-5 CWO-4 CWO-3 CWO-2

Enlisted sailors

Enlisted members of the Navy have pay grades from E-1 to E-9, with E-9 being the highest. All enlisted sailors with paygrades of E-4 and higher are considered Petty Officers while those at E-7 and higher are further named Chief Petty Officers. Those who demonstrate superior performance are given an increase in paygrade; the official Navy term is to be advanced. Two notable advancements are from Seaman to Petty Officer Third Class (E-3 to E-4) and from Petty Officer First Class to Chief Petty Officer (E-6 to E-7). Advancement to Chief Petty Officer is especially significant and is marked by a special induction ceremony.

Enlisted members are said to be "rated," meaning that they possess a rating, or occupational specialty. Members of grades E-1 to E-3 can become "strikers," meaning they have rating designations like Petty Officer (example: a BM3 is a Petty Officer Third Class rated as a Boatswain's Mate; BMSN is a Seaman designated as a Boatswain's Mate striker), but the striker is doing on the job training to become a rated petty officer rather than attending a school to become rated. There are more than 50 ratings covering a broad range of skills and subspecialties. However most sailors in today's navy with grades E-1 through E-6 obtain their rating through its respective "A" school. An "A" school is a rating specific school where sailors are trained as experts in their field. Upon completion of their training they are considered "Rated," regardless of their pay-grade.

For example, SA SMITH, MARY, would be considered a Seaman Apprentice. Prior to her rank of SA a rating would be placed. Therefore, her entire title would be ITSA SMITH, MARY. IT indicating that she is an Information Systems Technician. As for ENFN THOMPSON, JOHN. EN specifying that he is an Engineman and FN as Fireman.

Non-Commissioned Officer and Enlisted Rate Structure of the United States Navy
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Fleet/Force Master Chief Petty Officer Command Master Chief Petty Officer Master Chief Petty Officer Senior Chief Petty Officer Chief Petty Officer
E-9 E-8 E-7
MCPON collar.png
MCPO collar.png
MCPO collar.png
MCPO collar.png
SCPO collar.png
CPO collar.png
CPO GC.png
Petty Officer First Class Petty Officer Second Class Petty Officer Third Class Seaman Seaman Apprentice Seaman Recruit
E-6 E-5 E-4 E-3 E-2 E-1
PO1 collar.png
PO1 NOGC.png
PO2 collar.png
PO2 NOGC.png
PO3 collar.png
PO3 NOGC.png
USN - Seaman.png
E3 SM USN.png
USN - Seaman Apprentice.png
E2 SM USN.png
No insign

US Navy Rank: Officer Corps

Navy Officers serve either as a line officer (with a star above the stripes on the sleeve or shoulderboards), or in one of the staff corps:

Staff Corps Medical Corps Dental Corps Nurse Corps Medical Service Corps Judge Advocate General's Corps Musician
Insignia USN Med-corp.gif USN Dental.gif USN Nurse.gif USN Msc.gif USN Jag-corp.gif Rating Badge MU.jpg
Designator1 210X 220X 290X 230X 250X ?
Staff Corps Chaplain Corps
(Christian Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Jewish Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Muslim Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Buddhist Faith)
Supply Corps Civil Engineer Corps
Insignia USN Chapchr.gif USN Chap-jew.gif USN Chap-mus.gif BuddhistChaplainBC.gif United States Navy Supply Corps insignia.gif USN Ce-corp.gif
Designator1 410X 410X 410X 410X 310X 510X

1An 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.

US Naval Special Warfare Command

The United States Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM, NAVSOC or NSWC) was commissioned on 16 April 1987, at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. As the Naval component to the United States Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida, Naval Special Warfare Command provides vision, leadership, doctrinal guidance, resources and oversight to ensure component maritime special operations forces are ready to meet the operational requirements of combatant commanders. The NSW has 5,400 total active-duty personnel, including 2,450 SEALs and 600 Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen. NSW also maintains a 1,200-person reserve of approximately 325 SEALs, 125 SWCC and 775 support personnel.

Underwater Demolition Teams

On 23 November 1943, the U.S. Marine landing on Tarawa Atoll emphasized the need for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition of obstacles prior to any amphibious landing. After Tarawa, 30 officers and 150 enlisted men were moved to the Waimānalo Amphibious Training Base to form the nucleus of a demolition training program. This group became Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) ONE and TWO.

The UDTs saw their first combat on 31 January 1944, during Operation Flintlock in the Marshall Islands. FLINTLOCK became the real catalyst for the UDT training program in the Pacific Theater. In February 1944, the Naval Combat Demolition Training and Experimental Base was established at Kīhei, Maui, next to the Amphibious Base at Kamaole. Eventually, 34 UDT teams were established. Wearing swim suits, fins, and dive masks on combat operations, these "Naked Warriors" saw action across the Pacific in every major amphibious landing including: Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Angaur, Ulithi, Peleliu, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Zambales, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Labuan, Brunei Bay, and on 4 July 1945 at Balikpapan on Borneo, which was the last UDT demolition operation of the war.

The rapid demobilization at the conclusion of the war reduced the number of active duty UDTs to two on each coast with a complement of seven officers and 45 enlisted men each.

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950, when the North Korean army invaded South Korea. Beginning with a detachment of 11 personnel from UDT 3, UDT participation expanded to three teams with a combined strength of 300 men. As part of the Special Operations Group, or SOG, UDTs successfully conducted demolition raids on railroad tunnels and bridges along the Korean coast. On 15 September 1950, UDTs supported Operation Chromite, the amphibious landing at Incheon. UDT 1 and 3 provided personnel who went in ahead of the landing craft, scouting mud flats, marking low points in the channel, clearing fouled propellers, and searching for mines. Four UDT personnel acted as wave-guides for the Marine landing.

In October 1950, UDTs supported mine-clearing operations in Wonsan Harbor where frogmen would locate and mark mines for minesweepers. On 12 October 1950, two U.S. minesweepers hit mines and sank. UDTs rescued 25 sailors. The next day, William Giannotti conducted the first U.S. combat operation using an "aqualung" when he dove on the USS Pledge (AM-277). For the remainder of the war, UDTs conducted beach and river reconnaissance, infiltrated guerrillas behind the lines from sea, continued mine sweeping operations, and participated in Operation Fishnet, which severely damaged the North Korean's fishing capability.


Although Naval Special Warfare personnel comprise less than one percent of U.S. Navy personnel, they offer big dividends on a small investment. SEAL and SWCC units' proven ability to operate across the spectrum of conflict and in operations other than war in a controlled manner, and their ability to provide real time intelligence and eyes on target, offer decision makers immediate and virtually unlimited options in the face of rapidly changing crises around the world.


SEALs are Special Operations Command’s force-of-choice to conduct small-unit maritime military operations which originate from, and return to a river, ocean, swamp, delta or coastline. This littoral capability is considered more important now than ever, as half the world’s infrastructure and population is located within one mile (1.6 km) of an ocean or river.

Responding to President John F. Kennedy's desire for the Services to develop an Unconventional Warfare (UW) capability, the US Navy established SEAL Team ONE and SEAL Team TWO in January 1962. Formed entirely with personnel from Underwater Demolition Teams, the SEALs' mission was to conduct counter guerrilla warfare and clandestine operations in maritime and riverine environments.

Navy SEALs have distinguished themselves as an individually reliable, collectively disciplined and highly skilled maritime force. Because of the dangers inherent in NSW, prospective SEALs go through what is considered by many military experts to be the toughest training in the world. The intense physical and mental conditioning it takes to become a SEAL begins at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

SEAL candidates begin BUD/S training at the Naval Special Warfare Center, NAB Coronado, California. This six-month course of instruction focuses on physical conditioning, small boat handling, diving physics, basic diving techniques, land warfare, weapons, demolitions, communications, and reconnaissance.

First Phase trains, develops, and assesses SEAL candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork, and mental tenacity. Second (Diving) Phase trains, develops, and qualifies SEAL candidates as competent basic combat swimmers. During this period, physical training continues and becomes even more intensive. Emphasis is placed on long distance underwater dives with the goal of training students to become basic combat divers, using swimming and diving techniques as a means of transportation from their launch point to their combat objective. This is a skill that separates SEALs from all other Special Operations forces. Third Phase trains, develops, and qualifies SEAL candidates in basic weapons, demolition, and small unit tactics. Third Phase concentrates on teaching land navigation, small-unit tactics, patrolling techniques, abseiling, marksmanship, and military explosives. The final three and a half weeks of Third Phase are spent at NALF San Clemente Island, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.

SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams

SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams' historical roots began during WWII with the earliest human torpedos to see use: Maiale, used by Italy's Decima Flottiglia MAS, and Chariots, used by British commando frogmen. Naval Special Warfare entered the wet submersible field in the 1960s when the Coastal Systems Center in Panama City, FL developed the Mark 7, a free-flooding SDV of the type used today, and the first SDV to be used in the fleet. The Mark 8 and 9 followed in the late 1970s.

Today's Mark 8 Mod 1 provides NSW with an unprecedented capability that combines the attributes of clandestine underwater mobility and the combat swimmer. The Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) program that would have provided NSW a new (dry) submersible for long range infiltration missions was abandoned in 2009.

Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen

The exclusive mission of Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen operators is to expertly drive and provide small-caliber gunfire support on specialized high-tech, high-speed, and low-profile Surface Combatant Craft to secretly infiltrate and exfiltrate Navy SEALs on Special Operations missions worldwide. These missions include direct action on land, sea, coastline or rivers (such as strikes, captures, and ship take downs by Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure), special reconnaissance, Coastal Patrol and Interdiction of suspect ships and surface craft, counter-terrorism operations, riverine warfare, deception operations, search and rescue operations, and foreign internal defense missions. Although SEALs and SWCC undergo different training programs, both are focused on special operations in maritime environments. The SWCC program includes extensive training on craft and weapons tactics, techniques, and procedures. Like SEALs, SWCC must show physical fitness, possess strong motivation, be combat focused, and maintain responsiveness in high stress situations.

The SWCC designation is a relatively new Naval Special Warfare career path that is independent of the regular line Navy. Today’s Special Boat Teams have their origins in the PT boats of WWII and the “Brown Water” naval force that was created in 1965 at the onset of the Vietnam War. Patrol Coastal and Patrol Torpedo ships are the ancestors of today's Cyclone class patrol ships and Mark V Special Operations Craft.

Military Sealift Fleet Support Command

Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, or MSFSC, is a subordinate command of Military Sealift Command and is a single Type Commander execution command having worldwide responsibility to crew, train, equip and maintain MSC government-owned, government-operated ships.


MSFSC is also responsible for providing support to other MSC assets as directed. MSFSC has ship support units, or SSUs, in Naples, Bahrain, Singapore, Guam, Yokohama and San Diego. The SSUs (except for Guam and Yokohama) are collocated with their respective numbered fleet operational logistics task force commanders and Sealift Logistics Commands, but are not within that chain of command. SSUs provide local TYCOM support to ships in their area of operations and report directly to MSFSC.

MSFSC was formed from the following MSC elements:

  • Portions of Sealift Logistics Command Atlantic and the former Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force East.
  • Portions of Sealift Logistics Command Pacific.
  • Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force West (except those positions remaining in SSU San Diego).
  • The Afloat Personnel Management Center.

Operational functions previously performed by MSC area commands continue, but Type Commander functions were removed. The restructuring included integration with the Navy fleet logistics task force in each location.

  • Sealift Logistics Command Atlantic in Norfolk, Va.
  • Sealift Logistics Command Pacific in San Diego, Ca.
  • Sealift Logistics Command Europe (dual hatted as Commander, Task Force 63) in Naples, Italy.
  • Sealift Logistics Command Central (dual hatted as Commander, Task Force 53) in Manama, Bahrain.
  • Sealift Logistics Command Far East (reporting to Commander, MSC, with additional reporting responsibilities to Commander, Task Force 73) now in Singapore.


MSFSC officially stood up on 13 November 2005.

Stand up of the Ship Support Units (SSU) followed establishment of MSFSC, their parent command. SSU San Diego stood up in conjunction with MSFSC. By late 2008, all subordinate SSUs were fully operational.


MSFSC headquarters is located in a three building campus (SP64, SP47, and SP48) at Breezy Point, Naval Operational Base, Norfolk. Numerous functions are sited at various locations around NOB, Norfolk. Some functions continue in their current locations at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, VA and Point Loma in San Diego, Ca.

Shore Establishments of US Navy

US Navy shore establishment commands exist to support the mission of the seaborne fleets through the use of facilities on land. Focusing on logistics and combat-readiness, they are essential for the smooth, continuous and complete operation of naval forces. The variety of commands reflect the complexity of the modern US Navy and range from naval intelligence to personnel training to maintaining repair facilities. Two of the major logistics and repair commands are Naval Sea Systems Command and Naval Air Systems Command. Other commands such as the Office of Naval Intelligence, the United States Naval Observatory, and the Naval War College focus on intelligence and strategy. Training commands include the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center and the United States Naval Academy.

The Navy maintains several "Naval Forces Commands" which operate naval shore facilities and serve as liaison units to local ground forces of the Air Force and Army. Such commands are answerable to a Fleet Commander as the shore protector component of the afloat command. During times of war, all Naval Forces Commands augment to become task forces of a primary fleet. Some of the larger Naval Forces Commands in the Pacific Ocean include Commander Naval Forces Korea (CNFK), Commander Naval Forces Marianas (CNFM), and Commander Naval Forces Japan (CNFJ).