Marine Corps recruits must learn all Marine Corps Ranks from Private to General, including enlisted, officers, and warrant officers. Marine Corps customs and courtesies require junior Marines to address all senior Marines by their rank, which is denoted by a rank insignia device, usually worn on the collar. Instruction on Marine Corps ranks begins on the first day of recruit training, and it reinforced with incentive training!
The Marines also have a special rank: Marine Gunner (which is arguably the coolest rank in the Marine Corps, and one of the most challenging to get). This list is in ascending order, with pay-grade and the rank abbreviation commonly used by the Marine Corps.
Marine Corps Ranks: Enlisted Marines
Private First Class
Non-Commissioned Officers, or NCOs
Staff Non-Commissioned Officers, or Staff NCOs
Master Gunnery Sergeant
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Enlisted Non-Commissioned Officers or NCOs are considered the backbone of the Marine Corps. They are directly responsible for the leadership, morale, welfare, and tactical proficiency of the Marines under their charge.
Staff Non-Commissioned Officers are career enlisted Marines responsible for reporting to their commanders on the welfare, discipline, morale, and efficiency of their Marines.
Gunnery Sergeants are often just called “Gunny,” but it’s advisable to use the formal “Gunnery Sergeant” when meeting them for the first time!
What’s the difference between a Master Sergeant and a First Sergeant?
There are two E-8 Marine Corps ranks. An E-8 Master Sergeant is a technical specialist in their military occupation specialty (MOS). Master Sergeants have stayed in the same job field their entire enlistment and have developed highly specific knowledge regarding their MOS. Master Sergeants serve as technical and operational specialists to the enlisted Marines under their command.
An E-8 First Sergeant is a command-oriented position. First Sergeants are in charge of all non-commissioned officers in a company-sized unit. First Sergeants handle administrative duties, training paperwork, and serve as the most senior Marines in a company, battery, or equivalent sized unit. The First Sergeant has direct supervisory responsibility for the Marines under his command and usually has a strong influence with the unit commander (typically a Captain). A First Sergeant is senior in command to a Master Sergeant, although they will commonly defer to the Master Sergeant on technical details of their specific MOS.
What is the difference between a Master Gunnery Sergeant and a Sergeant Major?
There are also two E-9 Marine Corps ranks, Master Gunnery Sergeant and Sergeant Major. An E-9 Mastery Gunnery Sergeant (commonly referred to as Master Guns) has stayed in the same MOS all their career and serves as a technical specialist in their MOS at the battalion or higher level. After a Marine becomes a Master Sergeant, their next rank would be Master Gunnery Sergeant.
An E-9 Sergeant Major serves as the most senior enlisted Marine in a battalion or higher-sized unit such as a division or air wing. They handle all of the administrative duties for these units and are in charge of all of the enlisted Marines. A Sergeant Major is senior in command to a Master Guns, but again they will defer technical knowledge of the MOS to the Master Gunnery Sergeant.
What is the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps?
The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is hand selected by the Commandant and serves as the most senior enlisted Marine in the Marine Corps. He advises the Commandant on staff issues, administrative duties, and serves as guidance to all the Sergeants Major in the Marine Corps.
Marine Corps Ranks: Warrant Officers
Warrant Officer 1
Chief Warrant Officer 2
Chief Warrant Officer 3
Chief Warrant Officer 4
Chief Warrant Officer 5
Warrant Officers are commissioned from enlisted Marines to serve as tactical experts in their specific MOS or job specialty. They are responsible for training and serve primarily in a technical advisory role.
What is the rank of Marine Gunner?
A Gunner, or Infantry Weapons Officer, is a warrant officer who wears a bursting bomb on their lapel. This is a highly respected position that an enlisted Marine can apply for in the infantry MOS after 16 years of service. They serve as technical weapons specialists in infantry units, responsible for understanding the employment and capabilities of every weapons platform organic to an infantry unit.
Infantry Weapons Officers are commonly referred to as “Gunner” instead of their rank. They serve as weapons advisers to commanding officers, and are responsible for developing and monitoring weapons training (including new weapon deployment), preventative maintenance of a unit’s weapons, and new weapon systems acquisition and training.
Marine Corps Ranks: Officers
Officers are college-educated Marines who have accepted a commission executed in the name of the President of the United States. They must pass Officer Candidates School, which is a ten week training regimen very similar to boot camp, and then The Basic School, a 28-week course which trains them to become leaders of Marines.
There are no OF-10 “Five Star” Generals in the Marine Corps (or in any other branch of service). Only nine Americans have only ever held the rank and it was officially retired in 1981. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, as well as the Assistant Commandant are both 4-star General ranks.
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