The United States Army is one of the mightiest armed forces in the world. The different ranks and branches require distinctive visual cues for quick identification. Over the years, various Army rank insignia has proven to be more iconic of the principles and beliefs of this military operation than others. The ranks are divided into either officers or enlisted groups. In no particular order, here are the four most iconic U.S. Army rank insignia.
1. Army Specialist
The Army Specialist (E-4) is an iconic rank insignia simply because it is held by the majority of soldiers.
One of the junior enlisted ranks, a Specialist focuses on technical expertise. While in the same pay grade as a Corporal, they are ranked lower because they do not hold as much leadership responsibility.
This rank insignia is also iconic because it is the only chevron emblem worn point-down. All other ranks wear theirs point-up.
Typically, Specialist rank is awarded to a Private First Class after two years of service and completion of an officer and leadership training course. It is also possible to enter service as a specialist if you already hold a bachelor’s degree or have some specialized skills or training.
2. General of the Army
In direct contrast with an Army Specialist, this rank insignia is iconic because it is so rare. It is an officer ranking and the second highest possible ranking in the U.S. Army.
The General of the Army is a five-star general, and this position is only active in wartime. The last General of the Army was Omar Bradley who served in this capacity during World War II.
The current iteration of the badge consists of five silver stars in a circular pattern set on a green shoulder strap. The stars are topped by the General Service Army Eagle emblem in Goldenlite yellow which, in turn, is topped by an Army eagle seal, also in Goldenlite yellow.
The rank of Colonel is the most senior field grade commissioned officer rank. The insignia is taken from the Great Seal of the United States. It is a silver eagle with a shield over its chest, holding shafts of arrows and olive branches in its talons. The eagle faces left towards the olive branch as a symbol of peace, instead of facing the arrows.
The rank insignia is interesting, quite a departure from every other style of Army badge. When worn in pairs on a Colonel’s dress uniform, the eagle on the left side is reversed so that both eagles are facing inward, or the wearer’s front. This is the only Army rank insignia with distinct left and right versions.
It is said that auctioneers are also referred to as Colonels because during the American Civil War, when either army would seize goods, the Colonel of the division would be the one to sell them at auction.
4. Women’s Army Corps
The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was the all-female branch of the U.S. Army, created in 1942 to supplement the demand for soldiers in World War II. It was later disbanded in 1978 when all male and female units were incorporated into one. These women were the first to serve in the Armed Forces in capacities other than as a nurse. They weren’t allowed in combat (that was not permitted until 1994), but many did serve on the front lines overseas as well as back at home.
Their U.S. Army rank insignia was a golden head of Pallas Athene. In the beginning, the different rank classifications changed several times. As the number of enlisted women grew and the need for greater organization came about, the rank system closely paralleled that of their male counterparts.
At its initial creation, the number of volunteers was only expected to be 11,000. But despite efforts from naysayers of the day to discourage their enlistment, by the end of World War II, more than 150,000 women had joined the WAC.
Throughout the long and esteemed history of the United States Army, there has been a legion of memorable rank insignia. No one badge of honor is more important than another because all members are necessary for the success of such a well-oiled military machine.
Yes, superior officers demand and deserve respect. They have spent a long time working towards their achievements. But even though these are four of the most iconic Army rank insignia, every Army badge builder has their own path to tread and all paths of military service are worthy.