Personnel Development Office
Enlisted Rank Structure
The corporal was established in 1775 with the birth of the Army and the NCO corps. Along with the rank of sergeant, the corporal is the only rank that has never disappeared from the NCO corps.
The corporal is the base of the NCO ranks, serving as leader of the smallest Army units, principally; teams leaders. Like sergeant, corporals are responsible for the individual training, personal appearance and cleanliness of their soldiers. As the command sergeant major is known as the epitome of success in the NCO corps, the corporal is the beginning of the NCO corps. As the NCO corps is known as the backbone of the Army, the corporal is the backbone of the NCO corps.
Of all the NCO ranks, this one, very possibly, has the greatest impact on lower-ranking soldiers. Privates, who are the basic manpower strength of the Army, generally have sergeants as their first NCO leaders. It is to the rank of sergeant that the privates look for example.
Sergeants are responsible for the individual training, personal appearance and cleanliness of their soldiers. The authority of the sergeant is equal to that of any other NCO rank. The sergeant must be unquestionably competent in order to carry out the mission correctly, accomplish each task and care for assigned soldiers.
The rank of sergeant is not a position in which to learn how to become a leader - no apprenticeship here. While certainly the new sergeant will be developed new skills, strengthening old ones and generally better, he or she is a sergeant, and is no less a professional than those grades of rank to come.
The rank of staff sergeant closely parallels that of the sergeant in duties and responsibilities. In fact, the basic duties and responsibilities of all the NCO ranks never change, but there are significant difference between this step in the NCO structure and the preceding one. The staff sergeant is a more experienced leader of soldiers. It is proper to expect that the staff sergeant can bring the benefits of that experience to bear in any situation and under all circumstances.
The major difference between the staff sergeant and the sergeant is not authority, as is often mistakenly believed, but rather sphere of influence. The staff sergeant is in daily contact with large numbers of soldiers and generally has more equipment and other property to maintain. Staff sergeants often have one or more sergeants working under their leadership. Staff sergeants are responsible for their continued successful development as well as that of other soldiers in the section, squad or team.
If NCOs are "the backbone" of the Army, then staff sergeants are the elements of which backbones are made. The complexities of the staff sergeant's job increases as the responsibilities broaden. The staff sergeant's success, more than any other grade of the NCO rank, leads to the Army's success, and the footprints you see behind those of our greatest military leaders are probably those of staff sergeants, where they stood confident, proud and eager to assist.
The position title of platoon sergeant is considered key in the command structure of the Army. Platoon sergeants generally have several staff sergeants working under their leadership.
The platoon sergeant is the key assistant and advisor to the platoon leader. In the absence of the platoon leader, the platoon sergeant commands the platoon. The sergeant first class may serve in a position subordinates to the platoon sergeant or may serve as the NCOIC of a section with all the attendants responsibilities and duties of the platoon sergeant.
Whether platoon sergeant or sergeant first class, this is the first level at which the term senior NCO property applies. The platoon sergeant or sergeant first class generally has 15 to 18 years or more of military experience and is rightfully expected to bring that experience to bear in quick, accurate decisions that are in the best interest of the mission and the soldier. The platoon sergeant is expected to embody all the traits of a leader.
When you are talking about the first sergeant, you are talking about the lifeblood of the Army. There can be no substitute for this position or any questions of its importance. When first sergeants are exceptional, their units are exceptional, regardless of any other single personality involved. Perhaps their ranks insignia should be the keystone rather than the traditional one depicted here. It is the position of first sergeant in which almost all unit operations merge. The first sergeant holds formations, instructs platoon sergeants the commander and assists in training all enlisted members. The first sergeants is proud of the unit and, understandably, wants others to be aware of the unit's success. For the first time, the title of address for this grade is not sergeant. "first sergeant." There is a unique relationship of confidence and respect that exists between the first sergeant and the commander not found at another level within the Army. The master sergeant serves as the principal NCO in staff elements at battalion and higher levels. Although not charged with the enormous leadership responsibilities of the first sergeant, the master sergeant is expected to dispatch leadership and other duties with the same professionalism and to achieve the same results as the first sergeant.
Enlisted soldiers who attain the distinction of being selected to be command sergeant major are the epitome of success in their chosen field, in this professional of arms. Except sergeant major of the Army, there is no higher grade of rank for enlisted soldiers, and there is no greater honor. The command sergeant major carries out policies and standard of the performance, training, appearance and conduct of enlisted personnel. The command sergeant major advises and initiates recommendations to the commander and staff in matters pertaining to the local NCO support channel. Perhaps slightly wiser and more experienced than the first sergeant, the command sergeant major is expected to function completely without supervision. Like the old sage of times past, the command sergeant major's counsel is expected to be calm, settled and unequivocally accurate, but with an energy and enthusiasm that never wanes, even in the worst of times. Assignable to any billets in the Army, the command sergeants major is all those things, and more, of each of the preceding grades of rank. The sergeant major is generally the key enlisted member of staff elements at levels than higher than battalion. The sergeant major's experience and ability are equal to that of the command sergeant major, but the sphere of influence regarding leadership is generally limited to those directly under his charge.
The Sergeant Major of the Army is a unique non-commissioned rank in the United States Army. The holder of this rank is the senior enlisted member of the Army, and is appointed to serve as a spokesman to address the issues of enlisted soldiers to the Army's highest positions. As such, they are the senior enlisted advisor to the Chief of Staff of the US Army. The exact duties vary; depending on the Chief of Staff, though much of the SMA's time is spent travelling throughout the Army, observing training and talking to soldiers and their families.
This page last updated: March 24, 2017