How to Use Military Rank and Insignia

The U.S. Armed Forces use rank and insignia to classify and categorize each service member from Private to General. Learning how to recognize and use these identifiers will help the Parent Center staff when working with installation service members.

What does this mean to the Parent Center? A member’s rank/insignia is where they are in the chain of command, what leadership responsibilities they have.

In the links below you will find the rank/insignia for Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Are you expected to memorize each of these?  – of course not, but if for example you have an Army installation you want to work with, it may be wise to familiarize yourself with Army rank/insignia.

TIPS to learning Rank and Insignia


Chevron Stripes are used for enlisted members (external link) whether they angle up or down.  Keep in mind the more stripes, the higher the rank!  An Airman has one stripe, Airman First Class has two stripes, and a Senior Airman has three stripes.

If the service member has chevron stripes on top and rocker stripes on the bottom, they are a higher rank such a Master Sergeant with three on top and three on bottom.

If there are three stripes on top and three on bottom, with a diamond or star in the middle – it is even a higher level of rank such as a Master Chief Petty Officer in the Navy who would have three chevrons below, a rocker above, and two stars on his or her uniform sleeve.


Bars, whether horizontal or vertical, are used for commissioned officers.  One gold bar for a second lieutenant, single silver bar for First Lieutenant.

Anyone with bars, clover leaf, stars, or the eagle (external link) – will be called Sir or Ma’am, as he or she will be an officer.

Parent Centers are also encouraged to post a copy of the charts you can send for, below,  where staff can easily see it.  You can “memorize”  a branch of service or rank category each week to quickly recognize insignia.

Keep a copy in your notebook to glance at as you work with military staff or families – the more you see the information the more you will start to remember. 

For charts of rank and insignia by individual branches of service,  please contact us at or by calling 253.565.2266, ext. 112.