The enlisted noncommissioned officer (NCO) ranks are E1 to E9. E1 to E3 are the non rates: E1 is ether a Seaman Recruit, Fireman Recruit, Airman Recruit, or Constructionman Recruit; E2 is ether a Seaman Apprentice, Fireman Apprentice, Airman Apprentice, or Constructionman Apprentice, or Hospitalman Apprentice; and E3 is ether a Seaman, Fireman, Airman, or Constructionman , or Hospitalman. E4 to E6 are the Petty Officer ranks: E4 is a Third Class Petty Officer; E5 is a Second Class Petty Officer; and E6 is a First Class Petty Officer. E7 to E9 are the Chief Petty Officer ranks.
Although Chief Petty Officers are technically still considered Petty Officers, they are considered a separate community within the Navy, unlike NCO's (NonComs, noncommissioned officers) of other branches of service. In the other services, E-7 to E-9 are just higher ranks in the overall hierarchy of ranks. Their duties and responsibilities are greater and they receive the benefits of the higher rank but they are nothing special. However, Navy Chiefs have duties and responsibilities that are greater than those of senior NCO's of the other services. One of the major differences is that Chiefs are specifically tasked, in writing, with the duty of training Junior Officers (Ensign, Lieutenant Junior Grade, Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Commander), a duty not expected of senior NCO's in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force. The Navy recognizes Chiefs as a special group and allows them special privileges, such as separate berthing and dining facilities (where feasible) and separate uniforms. Many times, Chiefs even stand in for officers in certain assignments.
The Chief is considered the backbone of the Navy. They are on the deck plates insuring the job gets done and that the orders of officers are carried out. When any sailor has a question of fellow sailors, petty officers, and even officers, the standard response is “Ask the Chief!”
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