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How can you tell if a Sailor is Enlisted or an Officer? How can you tell their 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.
Among other things, the uniform will tell you whether a member is Enlisted or an Officer in the Navy or Navy Reserve.
This basic designation reflects upon a member's background and/or experience and suggests general roles and responsibilities.
Sailors serving on Active Duty or in the Navy Reserve 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.
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. Familiarize yourself with the path for advancement in each category.
Ribbons. Medals. Badges. Pins. Devices. Beyond rate and rank, there are also special insignias 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.
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.
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.
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.