In order to ensure fairness across all branches of the Armed Forces, enlisted personnel and officers in any service use the same basic pay tables. These tables divide staff into enlisted, warrant officer and officer groups, and divide each group into pay grades related to rank. Compensation within each rank then rises according to the number of years served. All amounts are as of January 1, 2011.
Enlisted personnel represent the rank and file of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, and most recruits start with the enlisted pay grade. The table contains nine pay grades. The lowest E-1 applies to Army and Marine privates with no insignia, seaman recruits and airmen basic. Monthly wages here for two years or less of experience run $1,467.50. Grade E-6 goes to Army and Marine, staff sergeants, petty officers 1st class and Air Force technical sergeants. Wages range from $2,281.20 per month for two years or less of experience, to $3,533.40 for over 18 years of service. The highest E-9 grade designates Army or Marine sergeant majors, master chief petty officers or chief master sergeants of the Air Force. They earn $4,634.70 per month for more than10 years of service, or $5,184.60 for more than 18 years.
Warrant officers exist only in the Navy and Marines. They are typically skilled technicians ranking above enlisted staff and below commissioned officers. Their rank starts at Warrant Officer 1, a W-1 grade that earns $2,721 per month for two years or less of experience, and $4,538.10 for more than 18 years of experience. The Warrant Officer 4, or W-4 grade gets $3,836.10 for two years or less, and $5,988.30 for over 18.
Commissioned officers represent the leadership of the Armed Forces. Reaching these grades initially requires attending and graduating from the military Officers School, and then being promoted. The lowest O-1 grade represents Navy ensigns and second lieutenants in the other branches. They earn $3,502.50 per month for over four years of service, or $4,349.10 for over 18. Grade O-8 designates Navy rear admirals and major generals in the other branches. Pay here ranges from $9,530.70 per month for under two years of service to $12,291 for over 18 years. Though higher grades exist, they are limited to $14,975.10 per month of basic pay. These grades represent the ranks of vice admiral and admiral for the Navy, and lieutenant general and general for the other services.
Basic pay represents only one part of pay for military ranks. All service personnel are entitled to free room and board when they live on base. Those that live off base receive a housing allowance based on their pay grade and whether they have dependents, as well as a food allowance. They also receive a uniform allowance. Special pay is granted for those in hazardous duty or with special skills such as diving, aviation or medicine. (REFERENCE 2)