The history of the U.S. National Guard goes back far, even before the formation of the United States of America. It has it origins in the militias formed by the colonies. One of the first was established in the mid-1600s, and served as an example upon which subsequent militias were created. Once the United States was established the militias served a reserve function and were subordinate to the regular Army. This remained the case up through the early 20th century. By World War I, the separate militias were consolidated into the National Guard. Like the regular army, the National Guard Army ranks are the same, making cooperation between both branches easier.
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The structure of National Guard ranks is broken up into three distinct sections. First, there are the Enlisted ranks, such as Private or Specialist. There is another division between those on the lower ranks of Enlisted soldiers and those that make up the Non-Commissioned Officer ranks or (NCOs). These include Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Sergeant Major, etc.
Enlisted soldiers below the level of NCOs include military personnel that do not have established command duties. They are answerable to the NCOs and those in higher-ranking tiers. Advancement at this level becomes a matter of growing experience and the development of particular fields of expertise. It is also about pay grades. The first grade for a starting Private is E-1. When the soldier advances, and receives a pay raise, they become E-2. This continues to E-4 also with the Private First Class designation.
If a Private First Class becomes a Specialist, they have graduated to the level of NCO. The Non-Commissioned Officers are at pay grades E-4 (Specialist) through E-9 (Command Sergeant Major). As an NCO the soldier will receive greater command responsibilities in accordance with their advancement up in rank. Soldiers will receive insignias that correspond to their ranks that are displayed on their uniforms. The entry level Private is the only member of the National Guard that does not have some mark of rank identification.
The Warrant Officers
When an NCO focuses on particular specialties and gains knowledge of certain fields or technologies they can be advanced to another level of the National Guard ranking structure. Those higher up in the chain of military command can grant certain deserving soldiers a special warrant given their skills in areas such as helicopter piloting or medical service. Those enlisted men become warrant officers. This warrant distinguishes them from those officers that receive direct commissions from the Congress. Warrant officers are subordinate to commissioned officers but are superior to all other enlisted ranks.
The designations according the pay grades for warrant officers start with WO-1, for warrant officer then change to CW, for Chief Warrant Officer. There are four pay grades for Chief Warrant officers starting at CW-2.
The Commissioned Officers
Those at the highest levels of ranking in the National Guard are typically those who were given commissions by the United States Congress. Their rank and military pay grades are established by the commission they received. The ranks of commissioned officers start at Second Lieutenant and rise all the way to General. There are three subdivisions among the commissioned officers: Company Grade, Field Grade, and General.
The company grade officers include Lieutenants and Captains. As the name suggests, this level of officer functions as the company level, working with platoons and army companies which are made up of enlisted and NCOs.
Field grade officers include the Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and Colonel. These officers operate at the brigade and battalion levels of military operations, commanding still larger units of soldiers.
The general officers include the Brigadier General, Lieutenant General, and General. Officers at this highest level of National Guard rank command divisions and corps. The general will have control of operations for the entire scope of operations given a particular campaign.
The Meaning Of Ranks
The whole structure of ranking has the chief function of organizing a chain of command that allows the whole National Guard to operate as a cohesive system. It is used to designate different functions within the whole and the identify levels of payment and benefits for those who have put in the time and gained the requisite experience.
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