The United States Space Force (USSF) was founded on Dec. 20, 2019, and is organized under the Air Force.
Guardians, or members of the Space Force, are responsible for performing tasks to help facilitate global space exploration operations.
On Jan. 29, 2021, the sixth branch of the U.S. military announced the official Space Force rank structure for its guardians. Eight months later, the USSF released official insignias for each rank.
Like the Air Force, the USSF is broken down into three levels, according to the Space Force website. They are specialist (E-1 to E-4), noncommissioned officers (E-5 and E-6) and senior noncommissioned officers (E-7 through E-9). At the top is the chief master sergeant of the Space Force (E-9S).
Each rank and insignia indicates the level of responsibility that person holds as well as their pay grade.
Space Force Ranks: Specialist (E-1 Through E-4)
Unlike other branches of the armed forces, the USSF does not recruit new members from basic training. Instead, the Space Force brings in guardians from the Air Force’s space systems operations career field. The base rank for these individuals is that of a specialist in the U.S. Space Force.
Specialist One (Spc1/E-1)
Specialists graduate basic training just like any other member of the Air Force. Once they have transitioned from the Air Force into the Space Force, they become specialist one guardians.
Specialist Two (Spc2/E-2)
The promotion to E-2 is automatic as long as the guardian meets service and behavior requirements. Guardians who hold the specialist two rank must pursue training for space systems operations (1C6) after basic training.
Specialist Three (Spc3/E-3)
At this rank, guardians must be able to carry out regular job duties and should be focused on honing in on their space systems operations skills.
Specialist Four (Spc4/E-4)
E-4 rank or the rank of specialist four is a transitional level in the Space Force. Senior leadership expects guardians at this level to set a good example for their peers and subordinates while continuing their education.
Space Force Ranks: Noncommissioned Officers (E-5 and E-6)
Space Force guardians in E-5 and E-6 ranks are called noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Once guardians reach this rank, they must compete for promotions through the Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS).
WAPS points, time in service, time in grade, skill level and commander recommendations determine Space Force guardians’ eligibility for promotion.
Guardians can earn promotion points with medals and awards, favorable performance evaluations, promotion fitness examination (PFE), specialty knowledge test (SKT) and time in grade/time in service.
Guardians with the highest WAPS points are promoted first.
The first NCO rank in the Space Force is that of sergeant. These guardians must hold a level five (journeyman) or seven (craftsman) skill level and expand their skills as technicians and supervisors.
Technical Sergeant (TSgt/E-6)
Technical sergeant is the second NCO rank in the USSF. Just like the rank of staff sergeant, technical sergeants are responsible for supervision duties and difficult technical duties. They also take charge of their subordinates’ career development and ensure everyone has the tools and training they need to be effective.
Space Force Ranks: Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (E-7 to E-9)
Space Force ranks E-7, E-8, and E-9 are referred to as senior noncommissioned officers (SNCOs). Senior NCOs are ranked by their skill level. E-7s are required to have a seven-level (supervisor) skill level, while E-8s and above require a nine-level (manager) skill level.
Master Sergeant (MSgt/E-7)
Master sergeants need a broad knowledge of the technical skills involved in their craft. They also take on more leadership responsibilities.
Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt/E-8)
The next rank-up, senior master sergeant, has 15 to 30 years of service. Senior master sergeants provide supervision and managerial guidance to their subordinates. The rank of senior master sergeant is highly competitive. Only 2% of those enlisted can be promoted to SMSgt by the centralized promotion board.
To become a senior master sergeant, a central evaluation board reviews the guardian’s service records and evaluates their professional competence, performance, experience, leadership, education and other factors.
Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt/E-9)
With the exception of chief master sergeant of the Space Force, chief master sergeant is the highest rank you can achieve. When a guardian assumes the rank of chief master sergeant, they assume the responsibilities of managers, advisors and leaders. Only 1% of the enlisted workforce are permitted to hold the grade of E-9.
Command Chief Master Sergeant (E-9)
Command chief master sergeants serve as advisors to base commanders. This means that they are placed in charge of communicating any information they have that may impact the command’s mission and operations.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force (CMSSF)
The chief master sergeant of the Space Force is a distinctive rank. It is the highest level rank you can hold in the Space Force. The CMSSF advises the Space Force chief of staff and the secretary of the Space Force about the current enlisted workforce, including morale and progress reports.
The individual that holds this rank must represent the interests of the enlisted Space Force. In some cases, this includes addressing the public or specific government officials to get results. More importantly, they provide leadership and direction for the entire enlisted corps.
Commissioned Officers (COs)
Commissioned officers (COs) are broken down into three tiers. They are company-grade, field-grade and general officers.
Company-Grade Officers (O-1 through O-3)
Second Lieutenant (2d Lt/O-1)
Every newly commissioned officer starts as a second lieutenant and trains in a variety of different areas.
First Lieutenant (1st Lt/O-2)
First lieutenants hold similar responsibilities as those who hold the rank of second lieutenant, but with more experience and training.
Commissioned officers attain the rank of captain after about four years. Captains provide mentorship and guidance to junior officers and enlisted members in their unit.
Field-Grade Officers (O-4 through O-6)
Attaining the rank of major comes with some administrative and managerial responsibilities. They typically work on a squadron level or wing level. In some cases, they may serve as the squad commander. Majors must continue their education to attain a master’s degree or higher.
Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col/O-5)
The rank of lieutenant colonel also requires you to take a command position. These officers serve as assistants to the colonel. Achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel will also tack on responsibilities like mentoring junior commissioned officers.
Colonel is the highest-ranking field-grade officer. They usually hold graduate degrees. Colonels work on base to improve overall productivity and services. They are typically responsible for up to 4,000 service members at a time and lead training schools.
General Officers (O-7 and Higher)
Brigadier General (Brig Gen/O-7)
Brigadier generals are in charge of larger bases and sometimes lead high-level staff at the Pentagon or other institutions. They participate in motivational and morale events. The rank also comes with regular administrative and leadership duties.
Major General (Maj Gen/O-8)
The next rank up for general officers is that of major general. Major generals serve as high-level leaders such as joint force commanders for up to 10,000 servicemembers.
Lieutenant General (Lt Gen/O-9)
Lieutenant generals usually oversee command at major bases and posts. They’re responsible for overall leadership and morale among their servicemembers.
General is the highest rank you can achieve in the Space Force. These individuals hold high-level positions at the Pentagon and other organizations.
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