If you’re a regular ol’ civilian like me, you might have a lot of respect for the military, but you don’t know much about military culture. For example, military ranking. Thanks to television, books, and movies, and simply absorbing stuff from the ether by living in America all of my life, I’d picked up a bit on how ranking works in the various branches of the armed forces. But my knowledge was pretty cursory. I could tell you that stars on a shoulder meant the person in uniform was a general or that a single chevron on the sleeve meant they were a private, but that’s about it.
You might think that military rank isn’t something you need to know if you’re not in the service yourself, but as someone who reads a lot of biographies and military history books, I’ve found myself getting lost and a bit confused with the different ranks thrown around, the significance of moving from one rank to the next, or the authority that a certain figure did or did not have over another.
So I decided to study up and learn about ranks in the different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, their respective insignia, and where to look on uniforms to locate this insignia. I’ve got to say, it’s been one of the most fruitful, knowledge-building exercises I’ve done in awhile; I’m already seeing payoffs with my historical reading. And it’s nice to know that should I run into a member of the military, I’d be able to know at a glance where they fall in the hierarchy.