US Army uniforms and equipment may vary by rank and occasion. The easiest way to identify a rank is to look for the military insignia that each member of the US Army presents on their uniform. Badges are unique by rank, and officer and general badges differ significantly from enlisted ranks. Familiarizing yourself with these insignia will help you quickly assess the rank of a US Army member.
Soldiers’ uniforms consist of the Army Combat Uniform (ACU), which is usually made of camouflage-patterned fabric, and the “green” uniform, whose jackets and pants or skirts are made of heavy fabric. The insignia are placed in different places depending on the type of uniform: Check out an ACU’s cap. Enlisted ranks wear their insignia of rank in the center of their cap. A rank insignia patch is sewn onto the ACU in the chest area. The “Green” enlisted uniforms feature a badge patch at the top of the sleeves. Enlisted ranks do not wear rank insignia on the beret. Instead, they wear their unit’s insignia on the front of the beret.
The lowest rank (E-1) of the enlisted ranks, privates in Basic Combat Training (BCT), wear no insignia. Privates with the rank E-2 present a single yellow chevron. Soldiers with the rank of Private First Class (PFC, E-3) wear the symbol of a chevron closed at its bottom by a rounded bar and enclosing a green area.
Specialists (SPC) wear a green three-sided badge with a rounded top and a gold eagle in the center. However, Corporals (CPL) wear a double chevron insignia.
There are a variety of different sergeants in the US Army, both enlisted and non-commissioned officers. Paying close attention to the badges will help you distinguish them. A sergeant’s (SGT, E-5) insignia is very similar to that of a corporal but has three chevrons instead of two. The insignia of a Staff Sergeant (SSG, E-6) shows three chevrons closed at the bottom by a curved bar and enclosing a green field. The insignia of a Sergeant First Class (SFC, E-7) looks like that of a Staff Sergeant but has two rounded bars at the bottom. The insignia of a Master Sergeant (MSG, E-8) looks like that of a Sergeant First Class but features three curved bars at the bottom. A First Sergeant’s (1-SGT, E-8) insignia looks like a Master Sergeant’s, only with a yellow diamond in the center. The insignia of a Sergeant Major (SGM, E-9) looks like that of a First Sergeant, with a star in the center instead of a diamond. A Command Sergeant Major of the Army’s (E-9) insignia looks like a First Sergeant’s, except that it has two ears of wheat centered around a star instead of a diamond. A Sergeant Major of the Army’s (E-9) badge looks like a First Sergeant’s, but with a gold eagle and two stars in the center instead of a diamond.
Officer uniforms also include the Army Combat Uniform (ACU), which is typically made of camouflage-patterned fabric, and the “Green” uniform, in which the pants or skirt and jacket are made of a solid fabric. The insignia is found in different places depending on the type of uniform: Rank insignia is worn in the center of the ACU cap. A rank insignia patch is also affixed to the chest area of an ACU. Officers’ “Green” uniforms carry the insignia of rank on the shoulder. An officer’s rank insignia is centered on his or her beret when one is worn. The “Green” officer’s uniforms have a black stripe applied to the outside of both pant legs, as well as a black band on each sleeve, just above the cuff.
Second Lieutenants (2LT, O-1), First Lieutenants (1LT, O-2), and Captains (CPT, O-3) all wear bar-shaped insignia. A second lieutenant is identifiable by a single gold bar, while a first lieutenant wears a single silver bar. A Captain’s (CPT, O-3) insignia consists of two silver bars.
Both ranks wear leaf-shaped insignia. However, that of a Major (MAJ, O-4) is gold leaf, while that of a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC, O-5) is silver leaf.
A Colonel (COL, O-6) is the last rank before a General. The insignia of this rank is a silver eagle with wings outstretched.
There are five ranks of general in the US Army. Each rank’s insignia is made up of silver stars, so pay close attention to the different insignia to distinguish between the ranks. A Brigadier General’s (BG, O-7) insignia is a single silver star. That of a Major General (MG, O-8) is two silver stars side by side. A Lieutenant General’s (LTG, O-9) insignia consists of three silver stars side by side. That of a General (GEN, O-10) consists of four silver stars side by side. A General of the Army (GOA, O-11) insignia consists of five silver stars arranged in a pentagon. This rank is only used in certain periods of war.
The insignia of the five ranks of warrant officers in the US Army all consist of black fields on a bar-shaped silver background. The badges can be differentiated by the type and number of fields. A Warrant Officer 1 (WO1, W-1) insignia is a single black box in the center of a silver bar. A Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2, W-2) insignia is two black squares in the middle of a silver bar. A Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3, W-3) insignia is three black squares in the middle of a silver bar. A Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4, W-4) insignia is four black squares in the middle of a silver bar. A Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5, W-5) insignia is a single long black field passing through the center of a silver bar.
There are numerous other insignia, plaques, medals, etc. used in the US Army. These have to do with special skills, awards, length of service, units, etc.