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Air Force Ranks




List of Air Force Ranks

Your recruit should know this without question or hesitation as this will be part of their final written test.

Enlisted Ranks 

  • E1 Airman Basic                     AB
  • E2 Airman                             Amn

For the Rank of E-2* Amn
     (one of the following)

  • has completed 2 or more years of college ROTC and has a letter of recommendation from the professor of aerospace science (PAS) from the college attended
  • was awarded a Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Award or Girl Scouts of the USA Gold Award and presents the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout certificate or the Girl Scouts of the USA Gold Award Certificate
  • was credited with over 90 days active duty service and last separated in pay grade E-2 or higher
  • is a former service academy cadet with over 90 days as a cadet corps member
  • has satisfactorily completed 20 semester hours or 30 quarter hours of college credit from a school listed in the applicable accredited institutions of post secondary education
  • If none of above apply promotion to E2 will be automatic after 6 months from the date the member departs for BMT/Tech School unless the unit commander request the promotion be delayed.

***JROTC (High school)can help you earn entry-level rank. The criteria are as follows:
One year completed JROTC = no stripes (E-1/Airman Basic)
Two years with JROTC Commander letter = One Stripe (E-2/Airman)
Three or more years completed JROTC and commander's recommendation or certificate = Two Stripes (E-3/Airman 1st Class)
**Note: E-3 is the maximum rank that can be earned for initial enlistment.


  • E3 Airman 1st Class* A1C

For the Rank of E-3:*
      (one of the following)

  • was credited with more than 12 months of active duty service and last separated in pay grade E-3 or higher
  • was awarded the Billy Mitchell, Amelia Earhart, or Carl Spaatz Award, or letter from CAP/AF/TTHE, Maxwell AFB AL, certifying successful completion of award requirements
  • presents a high school JROTC completion certificate or statement on official letterhead from a JROTC unit commander stating satisfactory completion (must be at least a 3-year JROTC program). Must be classified as a Tier 1 educational category and present the certificate or statement before EAD date
  • has satisfactorily completed 45 semester hours or 67 quarter hours of college credit from a school listed in the applicable accredited institutions of post secondary education
  • is an ARC member who qualifies and enlists for 6 years.
  • Individuals initially enlisting for a period of six years are promoted from AB or Amn to A1C upon   completion of either technical training; the indoctrination course (Combat Controller (CCT) (1C2X1) and Pararescue (PJ) (1T2X1) only); or 20 weeks of technical training (start date of the 20 week period is the date of Basic Military Training ( BMT) completion), whichever occurs first. The Date of Rank (DOR) for A1C is then adjusted to the date completed Basic Military Training ( BMT) without back pay and allowances.*
  • If none of the above apply the member will be eligible for promotion to A1C (e3) 1 year Time in Service and 6 months Time in Grade


  • E4 Senior Airman                   SrA
  • E5 Staff Sergeant                   SSgt
  • E6 Technical Sergeant            TSgt
  • E7 Master Sergeant                MSgt
  • E8 Senior Master Sergeant      SMSgt
  • E9 Chief Master Sergeant        CMSgt


Note: Beginning with E-7 (MSgt) and above, the "rank" of First Sergeant (1st Sgt - slang term is First Shirt) is available as a special duty assignment.  A diamond in the middle of their stripes denotes they are a First Sergeant and they are addressed as "Sergeant".  There is more than one E-9, Chief Master Sergeant - there is also:


  • E-9 Chief Master Sergeant w/diamond - the diamond denotes they are a First Sergeant
  • E-9 Command Chief Master Sergeant w/diamond (prior to Nov. 1998, this position was referred to as "Senior Enlisted Advisor")
  • E-9  Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force - this rank has a special insignia inside their stripes that is not a diamond but an eagle, two stars, etc.  For a closer look at this special rank, please see this image:


Officer's Ranks


  • O-1 Second Lieutenant        2nd Lt.
  • O-2 First Lieutenant            1st Lt.
  • O-3 Captain                        Capt.
  • O-4 Major                          Maj.
  • O-5 Lieutenant Colonel        Lt. Col.
  • O-6 Colonel                        Col.
  • O-7 Brigadier General          Brig. Gen.
  • O-8 Major General               Maj. Gen.
  • O-9 Lieutenant General        Lt. Gen.
  • O-10 General                       Gen.
  • O-10 General of the Air Force (5 Star General - This is a position that is reserved for wartime.  This is a position that is an appointment made by the President of the United States.  There have been very few in the history of the United States to reach this position)


Holders of the rank of 5-Star General

The below information is edited from:

For more information about this rank:

Prior to 1944, the rank of 5-star General/General of the Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines did not exist and it was created by Congress on 13 Sep 1914 for the purpose of honoring General John J. Pershing for his wartime service. Pershing retired in 1924 and held the rank until his death in 1948.  In 1976, Gerald Ford posthumously appointed the rank of General of the Armies of the United States.  Between Gen. Pershing and Gen. Washington, no one else had held this rank.  During the Civil War, beginning in 1866, however, there were several people who held the rank of  "General of the Army" and the first to hold this rank was Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who held this rank until his death in 1885.  After some congressional legal machinations (the rank had been discontinued) in 1888, the rank was conferred on Lieutenant General Philip H. Sheridan.

United States Air Force

  • Henry H. Arnold (21 Dec 1944)

United States Army

  • George C. Marshall (16 Dec 1944)
  • Douglas MacArthur (18 Dec 1944)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (20 Dec 1944)
  • Henry H. Arnold (21 Dec 1944)
  • Omar Bradley (20 Sep 1950)

The grade of "General of the Armies of the United States", a position held by only two persons in American history - George Washington and John J. Pershing. Of the two, only General Pershing held the title while still alive, Washington being posthumously bestowed the honor by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Pershing earned the title in 1919 after his service in World War 1 and held it until his death on July 15th, 1948.

United States Navy

  • William D. Leahy (15 Dec 1944)
  • Ernest J. King (17 Dec 1944)
  • Chester W. Nimitz (19 Dec 1944)
  • William F. Halsey, Jr. (11 Dec 1945)

Also, on March 24th, 1903, Admiral George Dewey (1837-1917) was honored with the special grade of "Admiral of the Navy" (retroactive to March 2nd, 1899) which was intended to be senior to the four-star admiral rank. Dewey remains the only US naval service member ever awarded this title. In 1944 (during World War 2), Admiral of the Navy was formally recognized as senior to the 5 star rank of Fleet Admiral.

 * from:

Source: Original doc and information compile and created for Air Force Moms  BMT by Nancy Marine Dickenson(c) 2013


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