UPDATED 12 September 2009


1st Tactical Studies Group (Airborne) Director Mike Sparks writes: the differance between the current two-tiered and one-tiered rank system is HOPE---in a single system the door is open to everyone to be the top leader, so every step in advancement is hopeful for the future and feels ownership of the Army (head is switched-on). There is no "summer help" underclass. In the current system you have an enlisted under-class that is without hope of ever being in charge and is not allowed to think about what its doing. The unethical, narcissistic U.S. military caste system disgusts me to the very core of my being and I'd get rid of it in an instant.

A Soldier eloquently writes:

"First let me say that your website is great. Now on to the rank structure. You are right on target. I would just like to add that as the system stands now, everyone supposedly has a chance to go to OCS and become an officer. However, that is not correct. In order to qualify for OCS, one must have 90 hours of college credit. That is fine and doable if you are a finance clerk riding a desk 9 to 5. But if you are a grunt whose schedule is erratic and never well planned, you can forget college. Night school, weekend classes and even internet/correspondence classes are all but impossible. I tried while I was on active duty, and something always came up that caused me to miss too many classes. There is no GENUINE support from the chain of command. The officers already 'have theirs' and the senior enlisted think you are a traitor for wanting to educate yourself. The worst part of the current system is that the support people become the leadership of the military much faster than the combat arms folks who need to be there. I'm not putting down support troops, but a fact is a fact.

The USMC [MCEP] program that allows outstanding enlisted personnel to attend college full-time while still on active duty and later attend OCS is a great program. I believe all officers should come from this program. That includes the military academies. The best and brightest, after having distinguished themselves in the enlisted ranks are selected to attend the academies. Others are sent to public universities. Still others are made warrants and non-commissioned officers. When everyone starts at the same place, those at the top will command much more real respect, not just artificial respect for the position. Unfortunately this will never happen."

Its sad that the "system" has this outstanding, hard-charging Soldier so sanguine about the future.

I think it will either happen or we will cease to exist as a nation. Its that critical.

We live in a "fish bowl" society thanks to the www...military screw-ups are starting to become very well known by the man on the street. The day is going to come----when he is going to ask why is our military so stupid (Iraq, Afghanistan, USS Cole, Beirut bombing, TailHook, V-22, LAV-III/Stryker, the Army's death-in-a-truck debacle in Iraq etc.)? He is going to want to know answers beyond "our people are sooooo courageous and it was a terrible accident", yadda yadda, yadda. And us reformers are already in place telling the DoD and Congress that we make people stupid in our military by our blind obedience, arrogant culture. When America finally gets sick of these preventable deaths enough to give us our chance we will be ready to create a professional military that THINKs, self-corrects and is humble that outfights any and all opponents. There is no "morality free" military reform plan; our incompetence is DIRECTLY tied to our egomania and selfish zero-sum game, sero-defects snobbery.

The question is will it take a nuke wiping out an American city to convince them? In other words will it be too late?


Lead-by-example not RHIP. No entry-level officers, all come up from the ranks and get a combat (not barracks game) thinking OCS called by another name to break from the disgusting past. ALL can continue on to W1 or to O1 automatically as career paths after making Sergeant E5. If you want to be a middle manager and not worry about rank progression stay a Warrant Officer. No more E6, E7, E8, E9 petty tyrants worried about spit-shines and haircuts as their life's duty. Everyone's head-is-in-the-game-of warfare not barracks BS as potential LEADERS. We expect more and we get more as we give more respect (two-way street). Notice below there is one standard for everyone, you don't become a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do SNCO who stops being a lead-from-example warrior becoming a paper pusher in a bureaurcratic comfort zone. Everyone is in the running to become Chief of Staff of the Army. Notice there are no asshole 1st Sergeants and Sergeant Majors worried about garrison bullshit like haircuts, boot spit shines and other non-tactical excuses to harass those of lesser rank. EVERYONE FIGHTS AND EVERYONE WORKS. Period. No petty tyrants allowed.

ROTC students go to Basic training during one summer and become Privates like everyone else and upon graduation from a 4-year college, Warrant Officer 1s. Enlisted Soldiers on active duty that pass Large-unit Leader's Combat Course are sent at U.S. Government expense to 4 years of civilian college, maintaining monthly drilling reservist status. Upon graduation, they become Warrant Officer 1s to learn their trade as leaders. Platoon Sergeants can be anybody from Sergeant to Warrant Officer 2. Platoon Leaders, from Warrant Officer 1 and up and Company Commanders anyone from Warrant Officer 3 and up.

No longer would we have two parrallel empires of narrow-minded blue-collar that has to face the harsh realities and a white collar class that is fed a bunch of lies and lives in fantasies of their own making. EVERYONE STAYS CONNECTED TO REALITY. The details are NOT dirty. Big ideas and bold thinking are not "off-limits" to those of lesser rank. However, if officers propose stupidity like Stryker trucks the disastrous results will not be covered up and those that foisted such criminally incompetent equipment punished and corrected. EVERYONE HAS A CODE OF HONOR that they must live by, not just cadets at West Point.


S = Soldier

S1 Private
S2 Private First Class
S3 Specialist

Small-Unit Leader's Combat Course

S4 Corporal
S5 Sergeant

Large-unit Leader's Combat Course
W1 Warrant Officer
W2 Warrant Officer
W3 Warrant Officer
W4 Warrant Officer

O1 2nd Lieutenant
O2 1st Lieutenant
O3 Captain
O4 Major

Warfighting Senior Leader Course

O5 Lieutenant Colonel
O6 Colonel
O7 Brigadier General
O8 Major General
O9 Lieutenant General
O10 General



An Air Force pilot writes in:

"Amen, Brothers!

Your talk about the "one-tier rank system" is making my soul bleed. I am a grad of the AF academy some years ago. I have long ago recognized that leadership must come from a base of "experience" that is respected. In no way should any officer bypass the enlisted corps....with the exceptions for doctors and lawyers. Other than for the sake of our sacred traditions, a pilot could get paid the same amount each month, yet maintain the rank of E5 (or whatever). Some sort of differential pay each month could keep that pilot interested in flying for Uncle Sam as opposed to flying for Northwest Airlines.

A college education means ALMOST nothing when it comes to leadership and management skills. In fact, we are seeing a shift in the AF management now where the mid-level managers of functional areas at the command staffs are senior NCO's and not mid-level officers (O3 through O5). This is telling me that most senior officers prefer to have a senior NCO working for them instead of a mid-level officer. It only makes good common sense....they tend to have a better understanding of the business.

I'm no position to make any difference on this issue. The pilots have all the stroke in the AF and I can not imagine any group of pilots wanting to change the rank structure. If any changes occur, it will have to come from outside this institution. It will require political will from Congress or the President's Cabinet.

I look forward to reading more of your comments. Godspeed."

"I completely agree. The idea of doing away with the two tier system has been a topic of consideration before but has never been seriously considered by those at the top of our military establishment. I researched the proposal to do away with the two-tier system after WWII and found the arguements for its preservation to be severly lacking at best. Yet it weathered the controversy and remains with us today. It's an outmoded remnant of a bygone era." [See his excellent references below:]


Haven't had a chance to post this information I aplogize for its lateness. I wasn't able to find any of the citations I had for more recent work on the two-tier rank structure but this is a list of a few sources from immedately following WW II. Many of them came from records at the National Archive but some of it such as newspaper or magazine articles could be found at local libraries. The report of the Secretary of Wars Board on Officer-Enlisted Relationships is particularly interesting, although that may be harder to find outside of a National Archive holding area.

National Archive College Park , MD Record Group 334
The Secretary of Wars Officer Enlisted Relationships Board

Report of the Secretary of Wars Boards on Officer- Enlisted Relationships May 27, 1946

Appendix D of the Report of the Secretary of Wars Boards on Officer-Enlisted Relationships May 27, 1946

Officer Enlisted Relationships Board Report Appendix D - "ENLISTED MEN'S COMPLAINTS: Resentment at System of Privileges Army and Navy Officers" The United States News February 1946

Officer Enlisted Relationships Board Report Appendix D - By the Associated Press "He Opposes the Draft - West Point General terms Army Feudal Undemocratic" Washington Post 21 February 1946

Officer Enlisted Relationships Board Report Appendix D - Joseph W. McCarthy , "What's Wrong With our Military Service?" Cosmopolitan Magazine Feb 1946

Officer Enlisted Relationships Board Report Appendix D - Hanson W. Baldwin, "Officer and Enlisted Relations" Army and Navy Bulletin March, 1946

Officer Enlisted Relationships Board Report Appendix D - Robert C. Ruark, "Army Tosses a Bone: Caste System Probe Just a Political Sop to Regain GI Affection, Writer Decides" Washington Daily News March 20, 1946

Officer Enlisted Relationships Board Report Appendix D - Robert De Roos, "Gen. Stillwell Talks back "Army Caste System Sounds Nasty. But Discipline is Vital" San Francisco Chronicle March 29, 1946

Officer Enlisted Relationships Board Report Appendix D - Jim Lucas "Brass Want Draft Army, as is, Senator Charges" Washington Daily News April 2, 1946

Report to the Secretary of War on the Relation of Officer and Men in the AEF Apr 17, 1919

National Archives, College Park, MD Record Group 165 War Department General Staff

Memo from Brig. Gen. G.L. Eberle G3 to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower Chief of Staff Apr 12, 1946

Memo from Brig Gen. Thomas North to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower Chief of Staff Apr 12, 1946

Memo from Lt. Gen. J. Lawton Collins to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower Chief of Staff Apr 12, 1946

Memo from Col. James R. Pierce to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower Chief of Staff Apr 12, 1946 "Caste System" Bureau of Public Relations Analysis February - April 1946

Fischer, Earnest "Guardians of the Republic" Ballantine Books: New York 1994

Another Soldier writes:

"I think blind obedience is the problem throughout America. People will do and think whatever the media/government tells them to as long as they have a few things. As long as they have a satellite dish to watch the latest episode of 'Survivor' on, as long as they have McDonald's to feed them, as long as THE GAP is still there to clothe them, as long as their self-perceived comfort level is not infringed upon in any way, the masses will be obedient and government 'spin' will work. A few people might recognize that a problem exists, but even most of them will do nothing about it that will affect their standard of living. Military officers and NCOs are equally as 'pacific'.

To change an institution that is in place, sacrifice is required. Until more Americans, service members included, are willing to sacrifice some of their comfort and security, nothing will change. The other alternative is if someone else threatens their security or comfort such as Saddam in '90/91. Expensive gas hurts during a recession, but not so much in this 'booming' economy. But when the immediate problem is removed, the pacific thinking returns."

Another Soldier---a Paratrooper---writes some very wise remarks:

"Before you can even ponder the idea of a single tier rank system, you have to answer the questions about what is an enlisted man/woman? and what is an officer?

In our current system, no one really wants that question answered. There is truth out there that officers and upper level NCOs don't really want to know. Hard hitting research at each level of each unit types TOE is needed to determine what job is really needed, and which one gets in the way of combat command/control. Which ones are learning positions, and which ones are combat leadership. Which ones are skill based..and which ones are management based (I know...evil corporate term).

Answering tough questions...like the fact that we currently have 1 officer for every 4 enlisted. Their are units in the Army where there are no enlisted personnel. Can you imagine a Cpt. driving for a General....what an overpaid, overqualified taxi driver.

This is probably going to be one of the hardest things to reform. More difficult than other issues...like the beret...training...or even pay. But, with the right approach, you could clear redundant positions....or TOE place holders with no real use, and free up money for pay raises.

My idea is similiar to Mike's. A good start is to identify the terms enlisted, NCO, and officers. To me, and my limited OFFICER training (read none...so give me a break...I may actually be ignorant):

An enlisted Soldier is a skill expert, tasked with one job, and tasked with training to be as good as it gets with that position. This rank set should include Recruit (an initial training rank with partial pay), Private (a rank that shows you have been trained and show the standard aptitude in your skill set....should be tested to clear AIT based training), PFC (should be used to show that the enlisted person has achieved above the standard...or an intermediate understanding of the skill set...should be tested to achieve rank and pay), and finally Specialist (a rank that should show an advanced understanding of a skill set, to include the potential to teach that skill set....also should be tested to achieve)

Non-Commisioned Officers should show lower management skills along side the most advanced understanding of a skill set, to include how it fits with the entire combat team...not just that one branch. NCOs should COMMAND...not delegate for officers to groups of soldiers at the tactical level (read platoon). They should be tasked with leading Soldiers at the tactical level, and training them to become NCOs themselves. NCOs are not administrators...they are not managers in the true corporate sense of the term...they are expeditors(sp), they get the final job done...they turn the ideas of officers into reality based on their skill set group. They get the job done. Instead of borrowing from the business worlds idea of a supervisor...they should borrow from the blue collar world of a forman. Someone who has shown such an advanced aptitude for a skill set that they can in turn perform that job, teach the job, and complete a tasking based on their skill set on a much larger echelon. This group of rankings would include the Sgt. (squad leader), Platoon Sgt (commands the platoon...or group of squads in the case of non-combat skill sets). No need for E-7 through E-9, as the true one tier system would not require these ranks for the "Tactical Command" role.

Officers should be middle to upper management skills, displaying a proficiency at Operational and Strategic art. With a clear understanding of the Skill set groups (read Infantry) coupled with a better view of the Army (read any service), officers would be making larger decisions...but with their understanding of the lower echelon positions tempering their command and leadership decisions. Officer ranks should start with the LT....after he/she was selected for OCS as an E-5/E-6 and returns back to the line...the LT would command one of the learning ranks within the Company...ie for Artillery...he would become the FDO, or the XO. The position of the XO would be purely learning and admin...doing the job of the 1st SGT...and looking over the battery commanders shoulder. Once the the LT is ready...he/she test for command and becomes a Cpt. If all officers positions were either TRUE learning positions or command positions (read no holding positions) then the ratio would be more like 50:1 instead of 4:1. Couple this with an understand of skill set, tactical command, and strategic command...then aircraft could be piloted by enlisted, and squadrons commanded by officers.

Keep in mind, some Soldiers my be a rank for a long time. There is nothing above E-6...but then again in the real world someone could be lower management/ a site foreman for 20 years or more. So what...you can raise pay without raising rank.

Its not complete...but its a start.

All opinions are of course welcomed.


Private Murphy's View

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