In the United States navy, the appropriate word or term to use for an enlisted persons rank or pay grade is “rate.” The sailor’s rating badge is made up of a combination of their rating specialty (the job or MOS that one does) and their rate. The rating badge varies base on grouping of pay grade. For sailors who are in the ranks of E-1 through E-3, the individual will wear a color coded rate mark based on the occupational field they are a part of. For those in the ranks of E-4 through E-6, they will wear the rating badge on the left, upper sleeve on the appropriate uniform.
What is a Rating?
A rating in the United States Navy is normally earned through attendance at an “A” school following the Navy’s initial basic training course held at RTC (Recruit Training Command), located in Great Lakes, Illinois. Some specialties or ratings will also attend follow-on “C” schooling prior to reporting to their first command. Most schools will award a NEC (Navy Enlisted Classification Code) to the sailor that is used to identify a specialized skill set within the rating. The NEC is roughly equivalent to the MOS (military occupational specialty) system used by the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. The number of ratings in use in the Navy has changed or evolved over time based on technology, mergers, and some specialties no longer bring required.
Navy Rate Insignia for E-1 through E-3
Any sailor who is in the pay grade of E-1 through E-3 is considered to be an apprentice. The U.S. Navy defines five apprentice groups (Airman, Constructionman, Hospitalman, Fireman, and Seaman) that differentiate themselves using different colored rate marks. The navy continues to send sailors directly to their first duty station which can be a ship, base, naval station, or aviation squadron without any specialized training. In these cases, the sailor can eventually choose a career field and associated rating after completing a fair amount of on-the-job training and course work to qualify for the desired rating prior to becoming a petty officer. Once qualified for a rating, he or she is referred to as a designated striker and gets the privilege of wearing the associated striker’s badge.
Navy Rate Insignia for E4 through E-6
United States Navy sailors who are in the ranks of E-4 through E-6 are non-commissioned officers, or NCOs, and are specifically called Petty Officers in the United States Navy. These sailors are charged with performing both the duties of their assigned career field as well as tasked with the leadership of more junior Navy personnel. The origins of the Petty Officer title come from the French word, petit. In medieval times, the villages in England would also have “petite” officers that would subordinate to major officials.
In the United States Navy, Petty Officers have played a critical role since inception of the Navy. They were originally appointed by a captain of a ship and held the appointment for the duration of the captain’s assignment to the ship. In 1841, the first navy rate badge was assigned to these men that was made up of a sleeve device depicting an eagle that was sitting or perched on an anchor. Specific navy rating marks would first be used in 1866.
Beginning in 1885, and for the next 10 years, the U.S. Navy would recognize three different types or classes of Petty Officers, first, second, and third class. They were authorized to wear navy rate insignia that included a spread eagle with chevrons that pointed down underneath in addition to a rating mark. The eagle of the insignia from this time period pointed right vice left as it does today.
The insignia for Petty Officers in today’s navy finds its origins in 1894 and consists of a perched eagle with the wings spread and facing left. A common term for the navy rate badge is “crow” due to the black color of the badge when worn on white uniforms. The crow is displayed on top of a rating mark with the chevrons indicating what rank the salor has earned.
Sailors in today’s navy are also allowed to wear a gold rating badge and service stripes on their dress uniform when they are able to complete 12 consecutive years of service without any bad conduct punished via non-judicial punishment (also known as Captain’s Mast) or court martial. This entitlement is different than the Good Conduct Medal that is awarded for three years of honorable service.
Video of U.S. Navy Rates
Navy Rate Insignia for E-7 through E-9
Sailors who are in the ranks of E-7 through E-9 in the United States Navy still have “Petty Officer” in their title, but are considered to be a separate class or community within the Navy called the “Chief’s Mess.” The E-7 rank is the first that a sailor is entitled to wear “khakis” and is the first enlisted rank that requires selection via board action or review.
The “Chief” title has been in existence in the United States Navy since 1776; however, the Chief Petty Officer rate/rank would not be created until April 1st, 1893. When the rank was established, almost all of the enlisted sailors who were carrying the navy rate of Petty Officer First Class since 1885 were advanced to chief with exception of those working in the Ship’s Writer, Carpenter’s Mate, and Schoolmaster ratings.
The Senior Chief and Master Chief rates would later be established on June 1st, 1958. In order to be eligible to be advanced to Senior Chief, a Chief has to have served a minimum of three years in his or her current grade. Similarly, in order to be eligible for selection and advancement to Master Chief, a Senior Chief Petty Officer has to have had at least three years in their current grade.
U.S. Navy Rates
Command Master Chief
Once a U.S. Navy sailor has earned the rate of Master Chief Petty Officer, they can choose to apply to be a Command Master Chief Petty Officer, or CMC. Once selected, these sailors are assigned to be the senior-most enlisted member at a command and are assigned to be a special assistant who reports directly to the Commanding Officer. CMC’s are responsible for advising the CO on all issues that involve the morale, utilization, health, welfare, advancement, and training of the enlisted personnel at a command.
The CMC rating insignia is very similar to that of a Master Chief, except for the replacement of the navy rating insignia by a five pointed star. This exemplifies the change in the sailor’s rating from their previous to that of being a CMC (CMDCM). A command masterchief’s star is silver in color, where a Fleet or Force Master Chief will have a gold star.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
The United States Navy established the position of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, or MCPON in January of 1967. This position is the senior-most enlisted person in the Navy and is appointed by the Chief of Navy Operations (CNO) and Chief of Navy Personnel (CNP) to advise on enlisted matters and policies for all sailors in the Navy. The current insignia for the MCPON is very similar to a Force or Fleet Master Chief with the addition of a third star located above the crow.
Navy Rates and Rating References: