Navy Officer Ranks

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Rear Adm. Margaret Klein pins an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist insignia on Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jennifer Gallardo during a visit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). (MC3 Cristina Gabaldon/U.S. Navy)
Rear Adm. Margaret Klein pins an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist insignia on Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jennifer Gallardo during a visit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Cristina Gabaldon)

Navy officer ranks cover both commissioned officers and warrant officers, who are specialists and experts in specific military domains. When it comes to moving up the ladder, officers undergo Senate confirmation to make it official.

Commissioned officers do not enlist. They're on board for the long haul, serving at the U.S. president's discretion. They receive a commission, which is an official job description that outlines their duties and responsibilities based on their rank. It's like getting the keys to the ship, but with a hefty dose of responsibility.

Navy Officer Ranks

Warrant Officer (CWO2, CWO3, CWO4, CWO5)

These positions involve an application of technical and leadership skills versus primarily management functions. Only senior enlisted personnel (pay grades E6 and above) may apply for the Navy’s warrant officer program. With a minimum of 13 enlisted service years before commissioning, they possess a wealth of technical and leadership experience, allowing them to work closely with, and fully understand, the requirements of enlisted technicians in their charge.

At sea, the Navy relies heavily on them to supervise the maintenance and repair of all types of equipment, from well-worn to state-of-the-art electronic equipment during extended deployments. In addition to providing technical and managerial skills, warrant officers perform a vital function in supporting communications at all levels within the chain of command. The ranks range from chief warrant officer (CWO2) to chief warrant officer 5 (CWO5). CWO2 is the most junior commissioned officer rank in the U.S Navy. In the Navy, warrant officers to lieutenant commanders are junior officers.

 

Ensign 01 insignia

Ensign (ENS, O1)

The initial commissioned officer rank held by graduates of the United States Naval Academy (USNA), Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), Officer Candidate School (OCS) and other commissioning sources. Generally, most ensigns are in various schools training for their respective warfare or staff specialties. Others, serving in the fleet, are division officers.

 

Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG, O2) insignia

Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG, O2)

Promotion occurs approximately two years after commissioning as an ensign. Some officers may be in schools training for their warfare or staff specialty. Others may be serving in the fleet as division officers.

 

Lieutenant (LT, O3) insignia

Lieutenant (LT, O3)

Usually a division officer or service head on some smaller ships, in aircraft squadrons, submarines and ships, lieutenants serve as division officers. In some commands, senior lieutenants are department heads. For SEAL teams, LT, LTJGs and ENS serve as platoon leaders.

 

Lieutenant Commander (LCDR, O4) insignia

Lieutenant Commander (LCDR, O4)

A department head or executive officer on a ship, aircraft squadron or submarine. On SEAL teams, LCDR serve as executive officers. Some officers serve as a commanding officer of a minesweeper or a patrol craft.

 

Commander insignia

Commander (CDR, O5)

A senior officer, a CDR may command a frigate, destroyer, fast-attack submarine, smaller amphibious ship, aviation squadron, SEAL team or shore installation.

 

Captain (CAPT, O6) insignia

Captain (CAPT, O6)

Serves as commanding officers of major commands such as aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, cruisers, destroyer squadrons, carrier air wings, ballistic missile submarines, submarine squadrons, SEAL groups and major shore installations.

 

Navy Admirals

 

Rear Admiral Lower Half insignia

Rear Admiral Lower Half (RDML,O7)

A one-star rank, it is the first of the flag ranks. At-sea commands include commanding an amphibious group, carrier-cruiser group, carrier or expeditionary strike group. Flag officers also may be assigned as deputies to larger commands.

 

Rear Admiral Upper Half insignia

Rear Admiral Upper Half (RADM, O8)

A two-star rank. At-sea commands include commanding an amphibious group, carrier-cruiser group, carrier or expeditionary strike group. Flag officers also may be assigned as deputies to larger commands.

 

Vice Admiral insignia

Vice Admiral (VADM, O9)

A three-star rank. Commands numbered fleets and holds positions as deputies for regional commands.

 

Admiral insignia

Admiral (ADM, O10)

The most senior flag rank. Assignments for admirals include commanders of regional commands, joint commands, chief of naval operations and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 

General of the Army (GOA) insignia

Fleet Admiral (FADM)

A wartime designation that has not been assigned since World War II when five stars were awarded to William D. Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz and William Halsey.

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