Special Forces ranks: How do they differ from regular Army?

US Army Special Forces operators are observing landing of the chopper
U.S. Army Green Berets, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), prepare to assault an objective during pre deployment training on Fort Carson, CO., June 22, 2017. Soldiers from 10th SFG (A) routinely train for situations found in combat operations. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Special Forces ranks are the same as those of regular military personnel in the US Army. The regular ranks used in the US Army hierarchy are also applied in the US Army Special Forces (SF), also known as Green Berets.

Army ranks explained

Most Green Berets (about 7,000, divided into Special Forces Groups) are enlisted men who hold E-5 to E-9 (from Sergeant to Sergeant Major). As mentioned above, the Green Berets’ lowest rank is E-5 (Sergeant), while theoretically, the highest rank in Special Forces is O-10. They are led by Army officers who hold the rank of O-1 to O-10 (Second Lieutenant to General).

The highest-ranking Green Beret officer would be the major general (two stars) commanding the US Army Special Forces Command. He is the highest-ranking person commanding Special Forces. The next guy up the chain is Commander US Army Special Operations Command, a Lieutenant General (3 stars). But while he may be qualified as a Special Forces officer, he is not directly in the Special Forces.

Special Forces ranks are the same as those of regular military personnel in the US Army
Special Forces ranks are the same as those of regular military personnel in the US Army (Photo: US Army)

Inside the Special Forces are also a few Army Warrant Officers who rank as officers above the senior-most Enlisted but lower than a Commissioned Officer. The army ranks in Special Forces are present, despite when you like aside, it looks like there are no ranks in the ODAs (Operational Detachment Alpha).

Positions in an A-Team

  • The Commanding Officer and the Warrant Officer determine the best course of action to take throughout the mission and must adapt and change plans as necessary. In addition to serving as the commanding officers of guerrilla and insurgent armies assembled by the A-team, they may also advise foreign leaders and officials.
  • Intelligence and Operations Sergeants gather and analyze intelligence on conditions in foreign territories; the A-Team occupies and the enemy. They are also charged with outfitting the detachment with the supplies and equipment they need.
  • Communications Sergeants are in charge of the sophisticated communications equipment the team carries. They are also the soldiers who relay any information gathered by the Intelligence Sergeants back to Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The Communications Sergeant may also be responsible for carrying out any Psychological Operations (PSYOP) related to broadcasting.
  • Medical Officers are equipped to perform field surgery, set up hospitals, offer healthcare to local people, and care for the health needs of the detachment. In addition to the regular training each receives as a Green Beret, the Medical Officers receive an additional ten months of medical training.
  • Weapons Sergeants are trained in weapons used by the American military and are also experts in the weapons in use in their AO. In weapon use, they can teach others, including armies assembled by the team.
  • Engineer Sergeants plan the logistics of the mission. They serve as navigators and design needed structures in the field, such as impromptu bridges. They are also trained in demolitions and sabotage.
U.S. Army Special Forces ODA ranks
3rd Special Forces Group. 2nd Batallion Charlie company. ODA 3236 (Photo: IMGUR)

Special Forces Ranks: Enlisted, from Lowest to Highest

E-5 Insignia of a Sergeant Sergeant SST Noncommissioned Officer
E-6 Insignia of a Staff Sergeant Staff Sergeant SSG Noncommissioned Officer
E-7 Insignia of a Sergeant First Class Sergeant First Class SFC Senior Noncommissioned Officer
E-8 Insignia of a Master Sergeant Master Sergeant MSG Senior Noncommissioned Officer
E-9 Insignia of a Sergeant Major Sergeant Major SGM Senior Noncommissioned Officer

Special Forces Ranks: Officers, from Lowest to Highest

O-1 Insignia of a Second Lieutenant Second Lieutenant 2LT Junior Officer
O-2 Insignia of a First Lieutenant First Lieutenant 1LT Junior Officer
O-3 Insignia of a Captain Captain CPT Junior Officer
O-4 Insignia of a Major Major MAJ Junior Officer
O-5 Insignia of a Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel LTC Senior Officer
O-6 Insignia of a Colonel Colonel COL Senior Officer
O-7 Insignia of a Brigadier General Brigadier General BG Flag Officer
O-8 Insignia of a Major General Major General MG Flag Officer
O-9 Insignia of a Lieutenant General Lieutenant General LG Flag Officer
O-10 Insignia of a General General GEN Flag Officer

The letter and number represent the rank title and pay grade of the Special Forces personnel. It’s essential to note that rank is different from the pay grade and signifies the job duties and leadership responsibilities. Every Green Beret can advance their careers by continuing education and through command and specialty opportunities.


  1. I didn’t realize that weapons sergeants have the ability to train others due to their expertise in their weapons. This seems like a huge accomplishment. I know that one of my husband’s friends is working toward this rank; do you know if there is an insignia pin that I could give to his wife once he has earned the rank?

  2. Where do you find a list of names for Green Berets my dad was one in the ‘50’s. I’d love to see that. Thanks

  3. There are at least 500 Command Sergeants Major within the Special Forces Operational Commands. That position and rank starts at Battalion, then up through Group Levels, and at “Flag Levels”, as the SENIOR ENLISTED ADVISOR, TO THE COMMANDERS, World Wide.

    I am one of them, but try to find any information on the Internet of what we do?

  4. Watching weekend live on FOXTEL, they interviewed an Australian Army soldier with the ranking of BK, please advise what position title he would be called and work carried out. Thank you

  5. my dad was something.. A RECON with his own 5 man team sould be remembered, later to teach Modern Warfare at the Army in the 60s-94. God Bless Americas finest fighting force.

  6. Please excuse me if my question is improper. I wonder how long the unit stays oversea to do the job/jobs per year and how long they can stay home. When the unit come home for their families, what do they do job wise? I have difficulty to imagine them being able to hold a regular type of job.

  7. Green Beret
    1978 to 1982
    Wounded in Service
    Nearly Fatal
    Mid East
    Discharged due to injuries.
    Get married and have lots of babies, like me, but not necessarily in that order.😉
    Go to college and become a physicist like me.


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