The US Marines, like all other branches of the military, has a complex hierarchy of ranks that determine who has authority over whom. While Marines ranks are divided into three general categories (enlisted, warrant officer, and commissioned officer), there are numerous divisions within each category.
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The US Marines has a total of nine titles for enlisted Marines. While this category has the lowest level of authority, it also makes up the vast majority of the force.
Most members of the US Marine Corps are considered junior Marines. These ranks include:
- Private First Class
- Lance Corporal
Marines do not earn insignia until they have reached the Private First Class level.
Non-Commissioned and Staff Non-Commissioned Officers
Non-commissioned officers are enlisted Marines who supervise junior Marines. They are seen as an important link between command and troops. Non-commissioned officers include:
Staff Sergeants are considered Staff Non-Commissioned Officers. They supervise corporals and sergeants while also providing important information to commanding officers.
Five positions are above Staff Sergeants, although they only fill two US Department of Defense pay grades. The DOD E-8 pay grade includes
- Master Sergeants
- First Sergeants
The E-9 Military pay grade includes:
- Master Gunnery Sergeants
- Sergeant Majors
- Sergeant Majors of the Marine Corps
These are the highest ranks that enlisted Marines can reach. Master Sergeants and First Sergeants are considered senior Marines. They are in control of Marine units and have several responsibilities, such as improving troop morale, overseeing disciplinary matters, and taking care of administrative duties.
Master Gunnery Sergeants and Sergeant Majors are considered leaders who specialize in specific occupational areas. A Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps has been specially chosen by the Commandant to hold this prestigious position.
Some enlisted Marines develop specialized skills that make them qualified to become warrant officers. While warrant officers have more authority than enlisted Marines, they only have power within their specific areas of expertise. Currently, there are five warrant officer grades.
Commissioned officers serve the US Marines at the pleasure of the President. In fact, each commissioned officer carries the President’s “special trust and confidence.”
There are ten titles that commissioned officers can earn, and they have varying amounts of authority. Second Lieutenants have the least authority and Generals have the most authority within the Marines ranking system.
1. Second Lieutenant
2. First Lieutenant
Few Commissioned officers become Colonels. Very few become Generals. In fact, the US Marines can only have 60 active Generals at any given time. There can also only be 60 Lieutenant Generals, Major Generals, and Brigadier Generals active at the same time. This makes the positions incredibly competitive and helps ensure that any person occupying the rank maintains authority over Marine troops and officers.
5. Lieutenant Colonel
7. Brigadier General
8. Major General
9. Lieutenant General
The rankings of US Marines can seem confusing at first, but the hierarchy becomes more obvious over time. Any recruit who goes through training will quickly learn the order of rankings to make sure they always give proper respect to anyone they encounter.