Identifying everything from roles to rate and rank Uniforms & Insignias

How can you tell if a Sailor is Enlisted or an Officer? How can you recognize where they rank? What’s an easy way to find out what various Sailors do? The uniform and elements of the uniform provide answers to these and other questions. Start with an overview of uniforms and the significance of military insignias – including the basics of Navy rate and rank.

Enlisted and Officer Designations

In the Navy and Navy Reserve, members are classified as either Enlisted Sailors or Commissioned Officers (a category that includes the Chief Warrant Officers and Limited Duty Officers). This basic designation reflects upon a member's background and/or experience and suggests general roles and responsibilities.

Among other things, the uniform will tell you whether a member is Enlisted or an Officer.

Knowing Your Uniforms

Reservists and members of the Navy wear the same basic types of uniforms. These include three basic categories:

  • Dress Uniforms – Designed for more formal occasions, there are service dress, full dress and dinner dress uniforms in this category, ranging from least formal to most formal.
  • Service Uniforms – Designed for daily use, these uniforms are intended for wear in office environments, in public and in watch situations.
  • Working Uniforms – Also designed for daily use, these uniforms are intended for wear in non-office working environments at sea and ashore.

Variations of each of these basic uniform types exist and typically differ between Enlisted Sailors and Commissioned Officers.

Find more comprehensive details on uniforms now.

Knowing Your Military Insignias

The military insignias worn on Navy uniforms clearly define a member’s pay grade, place in the chain of command, and job or area of expertise. When referring to Enlisted Sailors, the term used is rate. When referring to Officers (including Chief Warrant Officers and Limited Duty Officers), the term used is rank .

It is important to note that the same Navy rate and Navy rank information that applies to those on Active Duty also applies to those serving on Reserve Duty.

Below you can see the charts that correspond to Enlisted and Officer positions and familiarize yourself with the path for advancement in each category.

Rate/Rank Insignias

  1. Enlisted Rate
  2. Officer Ranks
  3. Chief Warrant Officer Ranks

E-1 through E-3 have color-coded group rate marks based on their occupational field. Group rate marks for E-2 and E-3 are worn on dress uniforms only. Personnel in pay grade E-1 do not wear group rate marks. The rating badge, a combination of rate (pay grade) and rating (specialty), is worn on the left upper sleeve of all uniforms in grades E-4 through E-6. Chief Petty Officers (E-7 through E-9) wear collar devices on their white and khaki uniforms and rate badges on their Service Dress Blues.
Seaman Recruit SR Seaman Apprentice SA
Seaman Recruit (SR)
Seaman Apprentice (SA)
Seaman SN Petty Officer Third Class PO3
Seaman (SN)
Petty Officer Third Class (PO3)
Petty Officer Second Class PO2 Petty Officer First Class PO3
Petty Officer Second Class (PO2)
Petty Officer First Class (PO1)
Chief Petty Officer CPO Senior Chief Petty Officer MCPO
Chief Petty Officer (CPO)
Senior Chief Petty Officer (SCPO)
Master Chief Petty Officer MCPO Fleet Command Master Chief Petty Officer
Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO)
Fleet/Command Master
Chief Petty Officer
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy MCPON  
Master Chief Petty
Officer of the Navy (MCPON)

Navy Officers wear their rank devices in different places on their uniforms, depending on the uniform.

The three basic uniforms and the type of rank devices are khakis (a working uniform) – pins on the collar; whites – stripes on shoulder boards; and blues – stripes sewn on the lower sleeve.
Ensign ENS Lieutenant Junior Grade LTJG
Ensign (ENS)
Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG)
Lieutenant LT Lieutenant Commander LCDR
Lieutenant (LT)
Lieutenant Commander (LCDR)
Commander CDR Captain CAPT
Commander (CDR)
Captain (CAPT)
Rear Admiral Lower Half RADM LH Rear Admiral Upper Half RADM UH
Rear Admiral Lower Half (RADM LH)
Rear Admiral Upper Half (RADM UH)
Vice Admiral VADM Admiral ADM
Vice Admiral (VADM)
Admiral (ADM)
Fleet Admiral reserved for wartime only  
O-10 Special
Fleet Admiral (reserved for wartime only)

Chief Warrant Officers hold warrants from the Secretary of the Navy and are specialists and experts in certain military technology or capabilities.

Chief Warrant Officers wear an individual insignia in place of the Officer’s star.
Warrant Officer Coast Guard Only Chief Warrant Officer 2
Warrant Officer (not currently used)
Chief Warrant Officer 2
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chief Warrant Officer 4
Chief Warrant Officer 3
Chief Warrant Officer 4
Chief Warrant Officer 5  
Chief Warrant Officer 5

Other Telling Features of the Uniform

Ribbons. Medals. Badges. Pins. Devices. Beyond rate and rank, there are also special insignia and other elements of the uniform that can reflect anything from your job specialty/qualifications to your professional community to your specific awards and decorations.

Find more information on such decorations now.