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Home > Military Resources > U.S. Military Ranks > U.S. Air Force Enlisted Military Ranks
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U.S. Air Force Enlisted Military Ranks

The United States Air Force (USAF) began as the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Signal Corps back on August 1, 1907. During its history as an entity of the Army, the USAF went through many changes, mostly due to technological advancements in aviation. As a matter of fact, the USAF held many different organizational titles during this evolution. Following its aforementioned initial designation, the USAF when through the following organizational name changes:

  • Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps – July 18, 1914
  • Division of Military Aeronautics – May 20, 1918
  • U.S. Army Air Service – May 24, 1918
  • U.S. Army Air Corps – July 2, 1926
  • U.S. Army Air Forces – June 20, 1941

On September 18, 1947, the decision to make the United States Air Force a separate branch of military service was finalized. One of the main reasons for the successful transition to a separate branch was due to the quality of the enlisted force. When one considers the core competencies of the USAF, which are developing Airmen, technology to war fighting and integrating operations, it is obvious that this branch requires a technically savvy and intelligent enlisted force to complete its mission, which is to fly, fight and win … in air, space and cyberspace.

Even though a college degree is not a prerequisite to serving as an enlisted member of the USAF, earning a degree prior to or during your Air Force career has many advantages. First of all, you can start your enlisted career at a higher rank with some college under your belt. Second, finishing your bachelor’s degree during your enlistment can put you in a position to enhance your career as an enlisted member. Also, earning a four-year degree is one of the prerequisites to earning a commission, so that door is opened. And finally, a degree helps to prepare you for the transition from military service to the civilian workforce. To find schools that support your drive to earn a degree, click on the "Find A School" button below:

Grade
Insignia
Title
Description
E-1
N/A
Airman Basic (AB)
An Airman Basic (AB) is the rank used for a new Air Force enlistee who is learning about military customs, courtesies, traditions, and USAF standards. In addition, an AB is charged with learning both military and technical skills. Upon completion of six months of service, an AB is eligible for promotion to Airman (AMN). The official term of address is Airman Basic or Airman, and the nickname is "slick-sleeve."
E-2
USAF Airman (AMN)
Airman (AMN)
Once promoted to Airman (AMN), an individual is expected to understand, conform to, and display military standards. An AMN is an apprentice and primarily charged with becoming proficient in his/her Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC). Following basic training, one can be promoted to AMN if he/she has completed two years of junior ROTC, was an Eagle Scout (or Girl Scout equivalent of this level), or has completed 20 semester hours of college. The official address is Airman, however, nicknames include "Mosquito Wings," "Speed bumps," "Bullet Sponges," "Wingnuts," or simply "One-Stripers."
E-3
USAF Airman First Class (A1C)
Airman First Class
(A1C)
The roles of an Airman First Class (A1C) are to perform the duties required for the AFSC he/she has been assigned, to continue to develop an advanced skill-set in that AFSC, and to become role models to subordiates. One can begin his/her service commitment as an A1C if he/she has completed three years of junior ROTC, has completed 45 or more college semester hours, or has agreed to an extended enlistment length. The official term of address is Airman First Class or Airman, and are often nicknamed "Dragonfly Wings."
E-4
USAF Senior Airman (SRA)
Senior Airman
(SRA)
The rank of Senior Airman (SRA) is a transitional period, preparing individuals for leadership. Promotions to SRA come after 36 months time in service and 20 months time in the grade of A1C, or 28 months time in A1C, whichever comes first. A SRA is expected to comply with USAF standards and become a positive influence on other Airmen. The official term of address is Senior Airman or Airman.
E-5
USAF Staff Sergeant (SSGT)
Staff Sergeant (SSGT)
Staff Sergeant (SSGT) is the first USAF NCO rank and, for the first time in his/her career, an individual must compete with others for promotion via testing. Additionally, a SSGT must attend Airman Leadership School (ALS) prior to promotion in order to qualify for this rank. The official term of address is Staff Sergeant or Sergeant.
E-6
USAF Technical Sergeant (TSGT)
Technical Sergeant (TSGT)
A TSGT is responsible for more advanced job duties and performing leadership duties, which include development and supervision of lower-ranking enlisted personnel. A TSGT continues to develop leadership skills in preparation of the next rank. This level is considered the second most difficult for an enlisted person to attain. The official term of address is Technical Sergeant or Sergeant, but the most common address is Tech Sergeant.
E-7
USAF Master Sergeant (MSGT)
Master Sergeant (MSGT)
The rank of MSGT is the first rank at the Senior NCO level, which makes leadership and management the primary duties. Therefore, he or she should enroll in and complete the Senior NCO Academy. MSGT is commonly a flight chief or section chief. The official term of address is Master Sergeant or Sergeant.
E-7
USAF First Sergeant (1SGT)
First Sergeant (1SGT)
The rank of MSGT is the first rank in the USAF that allows an individual to hold the position of First Sergeant. The First Sergeant is responsible for the morale, welfare, and conduct of all the enlisted members in a squadron and is the chief adviser to the squadron commander concerning the enlisted force. The common way to address this individual is First Sergeant, or "First Shirt."
E-8
USAF Senior Master Sergeant (SMSGT)
Senior Master Sergeant (SMSGT)
A SMSGT must have advanced leadership skills, since the scope of responsibility is very broad. Individuals at this level must have the ability coordinate available resources and personnel in order to accomplish the assigned missions. This is the most difficult enlisted promotion to secure in the USAF, since only 2% of the total active duty enlisted force may wear this rank. Earning at least an Associate's Degree is strongly preferred, but a Bachelor's Degree is recommended. The official term of address is Senior Master Sergeant or Sergeant.
E-8
USAF First Sergeant (1SGT)
First Sergeant (1SGT)
A SMSGT is found as the First Sergeant for large units. The First Sergeant is responsible for the morale, welfare, and conduct of all the enlisted members in a squadron and is the chief adviser to the squadron commander concerning the enlisted force. The common way to address this individual is First Sergeant, or "First Shirt."
E-9
USAF Chief Master Sergeant (CMSGT)
Chief Master Sergeant (CMSGT)
The rank of CMSGT is the highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Air Force. CMSGTs are superintendents and managers and provide senior enlisted leadership. They are expected to be mentors for company-grade and field-grade commissioned officers, as well as noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted members, and to serve as advisors to unit commanders and senior officers. The official term of address is Chief Master Sergeant or Chief.
E-9
USAF First Sergeant (1SGT)
First Sergeant (1SGT)
Like a SMSGT, a CMSGT is found as the First Sergeant for large units. The First Sergeant is responsible for the morale, welfare, and conduct of all the enlisted members in a squadron and is the chief adviser to the squadron commander concerning the enlisted force. The common way to address this individual is First Sergeant, or "First Shirt."
E-9
USAF Command Chief Master Sergeant (CCM)
Command Chief Master Sergeant (CCM)
A Command Chief Master Sergeant (CCM) will serve as a senior advisor to the Commander at a Wing, Numbered Air Force (NAF), Field Operating Agency (FOA), and Major Command (MAJCOM). A CCM advises the Commander on all issues concerning the enlisted force within the organization. Also, a CCM is the functional manager for all Chief Master Sergeants and First Sergeants in the command.
E-9
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (CMSAF)
In order to become the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (CMSAF), a CMSGT must be selected by the Air Force Chief of Staff. He/she is the senior enlisted member in the Air Force, representing the entire enlisted force of the USAF. The CMSAF speaks on behalf of the USAF enlisted force to the senior leadership of the Air Force and DoD senior leadership. The CMSAF may also address Congress when request to do so.
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