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NEWS | Aug. 26, 2015

Navy and Air Force ranks, not as different you think

By Command Master Chief Joseph Gardner Joint Base Charleston Command Master Chief

Hello again. Let me begin by saying thank you to all the Joint Base Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen for what you do every day.  It isn't always easy to do our jobs  but all of you handle it with grace. 

I have been at Joint Base Charleston for more than  two years and have had this conversation several times. Once again, I want to discuss Navy Rates/Ranks(Coast Guard is the same) versus Air Force Rate/Ranks.  The comparison is surprisingly simple. I believe what confuses a lot of folks is the Navy putting their ratings or jobs (Air Force Specialty Code) before their paygrades (i.e. RP1, IT2, YNC, CS3, SH2). To the Navy folks this is simple, indicating a Religious Personnelman, Information Systems Technician, Yeoman, Culinary Specialist and Ships Serviceman)just to name a few. The key to recognizing a Sailor's paygrade is to look at the last character(s). From E-1 to E-3 the best way to address a sailor is seaman. It is much like airman. From E-4 to E-6 it is petty officer, much like in the Air Force it is sergeant.  In the Navy, when a Sailor makes chief (E-7), it is a big step for that service member. They change uniforms and add a myriad of extra responsibilities. A second part for those selected for advancement to chief is the frockeding/advancement ceremony which takes place on September 16th across the Navy.   The Air Force has master sergeant's at this level. The next step in the Navy is senior chief(CS). This promotion means more responsibility and is comparable to an Air Force senior master sergeant. A big difference between the Navy and the other services is the Navy doesn't have an identified first sergeant position. In the Navy, the chiefs and senior chiefs perform some of these duties with the command master chief doing the rest. The last Navy enlisted advancement is to master chief, the same as the Air Force has chief master sergeants. Another somewhat confusing position is the Navy command master chief (CMDCM).  , Equivalent to the command chief master sergeant, each Navy mission partner has one CDMCM. For Navy chiefs (E-7) and above the best visual way to tell the difference is the gold lettering on the working uniform . Chiefs will have anchors as collar devices vice officer rank insignia. The difference between chief, senior chief and master chief are demonstrated by stars above the anchors. Senior chief will have one in the middle and master chief will have two on the outer edge. When you hear the word "Chief" for the Navy there is an assumption that it includes all senior enlisted folks.

When I travel around JB Charleston, I call a lot of folks sergeant. Similarly, if you use petty officer it will cover the majority of Sailors in the area. While the Air Force and Navy have subtle differences we are all part of JB Charleston.