Cowboy Blob's Saloon and Shootin Gallery

I'm not a real Cowboy, but I play one in the movies.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Speaking of Swabbies

I hadn't spent much of my career in the real Air Force. Some of my assignments were to joint assignments where I got to work along side our sister services, and our Mother service, the Army. Army officers have the same ranks and titles as USAF officers, but the Navy is completely different. What follows is the primer, Explaining US Navy Ranks and Titles.

Navy officers wear stripes on their coat sleeves:
One stripe = an Ensign. An ensign is the flag they used to hang off the stern of a ship of the line. Since this is the entry-level officer rank, you can imagine how these goofy teenagers get hung off the aft railings by their ankles. Hazing has a rich tradition in the USN.

Two stripes = a Lieutenant. The word literally means "underling." Lieutenants are at the rank where they are finally allowed some responsibilty, like commanding small boats or hanging ensigns off the stern of the ship.

Three stripes, and you're out. But seriously, you're a Commander. This word should be self-explanatory, but, trust me, it's confusing.

Four stripers are Captains, who have lots more responsibility and prestige than Army and Air Force Captains. You'd think so, being at the fourth rank while land-lubber captains only hold the pay grade O-3, right? Well, Navy Captains are actually O-6s! The two missing pay grades are apprenticeship grades for Lieutenant and Commander. These guys are identified by having a skinnier stripe on their sleeves. A Commander with a skinny stripe is called a Lieutenant Commander (or sub-Commander in the Star Trek universe), and a Lieutenant with a skinny stripe is guessed it...Lieutenant (junior grade). Lieutenant Lieutenant would be just wacky!

Now, if you're not confused now, hold on to your dog-dish hat.

The commander of a naval vessel, called "Skipper," may be said to be "captain of the boat/ship" and may be a Lieutenant, Commander, or Captain. So, an O-5 Commander commanding a submarine can be called Commander, Captain, or Skipper.

Do you know what they call an Air Force O-5?


  • At 11:15 AM, Blogger Robert said…

    I used to work with a company that trained flight crews, both military and civilian. The civilian pilots were refered to as "captain". I got very used to calling them that. When the Air Force came in for training, most of the pilots were Majors. When I walked down to the sims to meet the Air Force crews, I would repeat "Major, Major, Marjor...." the whole way down, so I wouldn't screw up and call them by a lesser rank.

  • At 6:44 PM, Blogger James said…

    Good post. James


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