The U.S. Army rewards soldiers and non-commissioned officers based on individual achievements and the fulfillment of duty. A wide variety of ranks exist for enlisted soldiers, from the elementary private to the most prestigious sergeant major of the Army. Advancement through the ranks depends on a soldier's success and commitment to military obligation, while excelling at special schooling and training opportunities can accelerate the process.
Private and Private First Class
"Private" is the title for all introductory trainees who begin with basic combat training when they enlist. After about one year of basic combat training and successfully carrying out orders, a private may advance to the title of private first class. These are privates who are moved up in rank at the recommendation of a supervisor for displaying excellence as a trainee.
Specialist and Corporal
To become a specialist, a soldier must have successfully carried out duties as a private and excelled in intermediate training courses to earn this advancement. This title usually implies that a soldier has been enlisted for a minimum of two years, unless he has decided to enter the Army with a four-year college degree. Degree recipients can enter basic combat training as specialists. Corporals serve as leaders for their troop and are responsible for monitoring the physical presentation and readiness of soldiers.
Sergeant, Staff Sergeant and Sergeant First Class
A sergeant usually oversees a small group of 9 to 10 military personnel. Sergeants are regarded as very influential on soldiers because they supervise the routine and daily duties of a squad. Like a sergeant, a staff sergeant also oversees a squad and can have one or more sergeants under her personal command. Staff sergeants have authority to reveal, sustain and employ the full range of a staff's potential. A sergeant first class is the chief adviser to a platoon leader and will commonly hold 15 to 18 years of military experience.
Master Sergeant, First Sergeant and Sergeant Major
A master sergeant is considered to be the mandating non-commissioned officer of a battalion. However, a master sergeant is not always charged with the directive or interpersonal responsibilities of a first sergeant. First sergeants are principal officers who oversee companies of 62 to 190 soldiers. These officers are considered disciplinarians and counselors who command other sergeants and aid in training all enlisted soldiers. Sergeant majors serve as primary executives for decision making in the Army; they are administrators at Army headquarters.
Command Sergeant Major and Sergeant Major of the Army
Command sergeant majors are senior enlisted advisers to the chief commanding officers in the Army. They distribute policies and can hold authority over any level of battalion. They also are expected to advise a commander on all aspects of an enlisted soldier's duties. The sergeant major of the Army is the final authority over all sergeants and non-commissioned officers. He is also the senior consultant to the chief of staff of the Army.
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