Veterans and transitioning military service members are ready to supply the very skills businesses need to be successful. These men and women have acquired a wealth of knowledge, skills, and competencies through practical workforce experience. The cutting edge training and education they have received during their military service is transferable to those being sought by businesses. In addition to these intangible and valuable skills, the Veteran brings a unique sense of leadership and teamwork to your team. They understand the commitment to achieving organizational goals and objectives and have demonstrated the ability to work efficiently and effectively within multi-cultural environments.
In hiring a Veteran, you are providing your company an individual who is committed to excellence and has a passion to perform. The qualities of honesty, respect for others, pride, and a powerful sense of belonging enables Veterans to acclimate quickly into the business culture. Besides the discipline and work ethic that military service instills, Veterans and transitioning service members have technical skills in areas of critical importance: acquisition, information technology, communications, security, information gathering, medical technology, and other areas. The qualities Veterans live every day will enhance your business. Hiring a Veteran is simply good business.
Companies seeking to hire military veterans may not be familiar with military terminology, rank structure, duties and responsibilities of military members or how to incorporate veteran hiring into their organization. To assist you, we have provided an Employer Veteran Hiring Toolkit, Best Practices List, Employer Assistance web sites, and a Military 101 Primer, to include the military rank structure. If you have further questions on how to integrate military veterans into your organization, please contact the City of Jacksonville Military Affairs and Veterans Department at (904) 630-3680.

Hiring Florida's Heros
Employer Veteran Hiring toolkit
Employer Support for the Military Community
Best Practices
Employer Assistance Web Sites
Military 101 Primer

Hiring Florida's Heros

The Hiring Florida’s Heroes campaign aims to promote the availability of these returning veterans to Florida’s employers and connect employers with a variety of resources to assist in the hiring process. Employers interested in hiring veterans are encouraged to call the Employ Florida Marketplace hotline at (866) 352-2345 to connect with a workforce specialist in their area. The specialists can assist employers by posting job listings, assembling lists of qualified candidates and answering questions about available training options among other services. Employers also can visit the Employ Florida Vets web portal at to post job listings and view resumes.


Employer Veteran Hiring Toolkit

America's Heroes at Work — Veterans Hiring Toolkit​ Welcome to America’s Heroes at Work – a Department of Labor (DOL) project that addresses the employment challenges of returning Service Members and Veterans. Designed for employers and the workforce development system, this website is filled with useful information on hiring Veterans. The Toolkit has been designed to assist and educate employers who want to include Veterans and Wounded Warrior in their recruitment and hiring initiatives. Featuring a straightforward six step process, it pinpoints helpful tools and outlines important steps to take when designing a Veterans hiring initiative.
This Toolkit was developed to simplify the process and put valuable resources at your fingertips. It served to pinpoint helpful tools and outline some important steps to take when designing a Veterans hiring initiative that works for your particular business. Recognizing that each employer is unique, this guide allows you to select from promising practices and other resources that employers are using to successfully welcome talented and skilled Veterans into their companies. Whether you are looking to create a plan from scratch or retool existing efforts, we encourage you to reference this guide and design an initiative that works for you.

Step 1 Design a Strategy for Your Veterans Hiring Program
Step 2 Create a Welcoming and Educated Workplace for Veterans
Step 3 Actively Recruit Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Spouses
Step 4 Hire Qualified Veterans and Learn how to Accommodate Wounded Warriors
Step 5 Promote an Inclusive Workplace to Retain Your Veteran Employees
Step 6 Keep Helpful Tools and Resources at Your Fingertips

Employer Support for the Military Community

The Families and Work Institute, Society for Human Resource Management has an excellent report entitled “Employer Support for the Military Community” that provides information on Employer Support for the Military Community Required by Law; Support for Veterans Provided by Employers; Support for Military Families Provided by Employers; and Suggestions for Successful Military Community Support. Outlined below are excerpts from this report that can assist employers in connecting with the military veteran community; the entire report can be reviewed at


Support for Veterans with Little or No Civilian Work Experience

Though many employers are eager to employ veterans, establishing a connection to this community can be challenging. Veterans may not be their best advocates when it comes to job applications and interviews. Some may come into the civilian job market with a higher level of experience and skill than they know how to present to civilian recruiters. Without resumes and interview tactics that positively feature their skills, they may settle for jobs beneath their capabilities. Other veterans may find that civilian work has changed since they joined the military (e.g., growth of the internet and social networking in job searches) and their previous job search tactics are no longer applicable to the current job market.
A variety of employers who wish to take advantage of this pool of talented men and women have been proactive and invested in creating bridges between military service and civilian employment. These employers develop advanced outreach efforts to mentor and/or train new veterans in more effective ways to navigate the job market. Additionally, some employers go further still and offer guidance on other complex civilian life experiences, like buying homes and managing personal finances.
• Employers can engage in mentoring activities that help veterans:
o identify marketable job skills they have developed in the military;
o conduct a search for civilian jobs that require their most advanced skills;
o write resumes that feature their marketable skills in terms that match civilian
job descriptions; and
o develop dynamic interview skills that can be used in a variety of workplace cultures.
• In addition to a civilian job search, some veterans may benefit from advice on other civilian life management skills like financial planning or purchasing a home.
• Some veterans may need additional skills training to round out their skill set or to refresh existing skills that weakened through inactivity while in the military. Many employers already offer skills training programs to other employees and can and do extend such programs to encompass veterans as well. These initiatives can be addressed to new hires or to help prepare veterans for a job search. As with most training programs, offering them in a variety of media (e.g., live, written, recorded, internet) and at multiple times may be necessary to provide the most effective support for veterans who have to fit these developmental efforts into their other reintegration activities.
• Though veterans with little civilian work experience would benefit from any mentors who can help orient them to the civilian job market and workplace, civilian mentors may not be familiar enough with military experiences to identify how they can be of the most assistance. Interactions with veterans who have already successfully reintegrated with civilian life can help bridge this communication gap. Veteran resource groups and other educational initiatives that either directly mentor recent veterans or provide civilian mentors with a fuller understanding of the veterans they are mentoring can improve the advice that veteran mentees receive.
• In addition to empowering veterans with the knowledge of how to find a good civilian job, employers can also develop recruitment initiatives that help them find veterans whose skills are already a good match for their organizations. There are a variety of methods that employers reported using to reach out to veterans and their families:
o Online advertising:
Job sites: There are several job search sites that either specialize in jobs for veterans or include a section directed toward veterans.
Social media: Social media websites include pages to discuss military and veteran experiences.
o Recruitment events: Job fairs sponsored by the employer, the military or other local and national organizations can help veterans and recruiters establish connections that lead to jobs.
o Word of mouth advertising: In addition to large-scale programs, employers also make use of employee referrals, networking among their employees, and communications with veteran groups and other organizations to identify good veteran candidates.
o Military programs: The military maintains programs that help service members who are separating, retiring or moving from active duty to the National Guard or Reserve components find civilian jobs. Other programs focus on placing Reservists in civilian jobs where they can continue to practice their mission critical skills.
Employer Support for the Military Community Required by Law. 
Three Federal laws that help establish a baseline of support for members of the military community are the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The USERRA protects the job rights of past and present members of the uniformed services, applicants to the uniformed services and those who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to undertake military service or certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System. USERRA requires that:
• Uniformed service members be reemployed to their civilian jobs or a comparable job with
all the benefits they would have attained without the interruption of military service if they:
o Provided advance written or verbal notice of their service to their employers
o Have five years or less of cumulative service in the uniformed services with their
o Return to work or apply for reemployment in a timely manner after their service
has concluded
o Have not been separated from service with a disqualifying discharge
• Employers refrain from using a person’s status as a past or present uniformed service member, applicant for membership in the uniformed service, or obligation to serve in the uniformed service as a basis to deny them:
o Initial employment
o Reemployment
o Retention in employment
o Promotion
o Any other benefit of employment
• Uniformed service members have the right to continue their existing employer-based health plan for themselves and their dependents for up to 24 months while in the military. If they choose not to continue their health benefits, they have the right to be reinstated in the plan when reemployed, generally without any waiting periods or exclusions except for serviceconnected illnesses and injuries.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Although the ADA is not a military specific law, it does impact many veterans who have experienced a physical or mental disability as a result of their military service. The ADA provides protection against discrimination on the basis of a variety of disabilities and requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodations. “Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an accommodation is considered any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified person with a disability to apply for or perform a job. The term also encompasses alterations to ensure a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.”
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. While FMLA is often invoked by civilian employees for childbirth, adoption, or serious personal or family illness, there are two additional provisions to the FMLA that specifically mention military family members:
• Qualifying exigency leave grants family members up to 12 weeks within a 12-month period to attend to various issues that arise when a covered military member is deployed. This includes, but is not limited to, attending military-sponsored functions, making appropriate financial and legal arrangements, and arranging for alternative child care.
• Military caregiver leave grants family members up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin to the employee. In both cases the time a military member spends away from civilian employment on military duty is included in the employment time necessary to qualify for FMLA leave.
Support for Military Families Provided by Employers
While legal interventions like the USERRA, ADA, and FMLA are important to supporting the military community (past and present military members and their families), they represent the minimum effort that an employer is required to make and are not designed to respond to every contingency. Fortunately, a number of employers go beyond the legal requirements to develop innovative and responsive ways of supporting the military community.
The following sections outline some of the creative initiatives employers use to support veterans in general, veterans with ongoing military service, and veterans with little civilian work experience. While each of these efforts may have particular advantages for one segment of the military community, many can also benefit other members of both the military and civilian communities.
• Some employers enhance their Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to include specialized supports for problems unique to veterans such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EAP programs are also enhanced with supports for managing stress around caring for a veteran after an injury or psychological trauma, reunion and subsequent deployments.
Employer newsletters, social events and other organizational communications are used to educate civilian employees about their veteran coworkers, commemorate special events and share information about employer policies and benefits that are useful to veterans and their families. Some employers feature announcements of veteran returns to work or opportunities to support veterans in the organization or the local community.
• Some employers provide benefits to enhance employee’s financial well-being. These supports include pay advances, no interest loans and financial advice/planning. Such supports help both veterans and their families adapt to changing circumstances.
• Many workplace flexibility programs are well-suited to enhancing the work experience of veterans as these programs are designed to give any employee more options about when, where, and how they work to better manage their professional and personal responsibilities. Veterans confronting complex military benefits processes, seeking treatment for injuries or psychological trauma, or readjusting to child care responsibilities will benefit from these programs as much as other employees. Some workplace flexibility options cited by Sloan Award applicants include job-sharing, flexible scheduling, part-time employment and telework.
• Some veterans need involved medical treatment or therapy for injuries and psychological trauma suffered during their deployments that goes beyond the limits of regular workplace flexibility and FMLA leave. In response, some employers grant these veterans additional sick or vacation leave to pursue the care that their conditions require. Additional leave can also be used for separation and reunion events so military members, veterans and their families can take the time to say goodbye or reconnect without having to miss work.
• Some employers allow employees and/or their families to continue accessing benefits and services, like health insurance or child care, even after the period covered by law has expired.
Employer-supported child care (i.e., regular, sick and back-up care) is an important benefit for civilian employees that helps them manage their work and family care responsibilities. Employers noted that their child care supports were also of great use to military families.
• Employers with large numbers of veteran employees have started veteran resource groups to provide forums for veteran employees to help one another. Some employers have instructed their veteran groups to:
o identify priorities for veterans in the organization and develop plans for addressing them;
o develop resource guides to help veterans as well as their coworkers understand the policies and benefits that apply to employees with military experience; and o develop business relationships and strategies that capitalize on their veterans’ military experiences.
• Other employers with large veteran populations have established veteran affairs liaisons and coordinators who provide assistance with filing military benefits forms and accessing other services.

Best Practices

Recruiting Military Veterans

- Dedicate a portion of the recruiting budget to military recruiting
- Use of DVOPs and LVERs at the local state employment office
- Utilize an on-line military to civilian job translator
- Outreach with Veteran groups in your community, volunteer, parades, etc
- Establish partnerships with Wounded Warriors type groups
- Apply for any type awards for supporting or recruiting military, ie ESGR, VFW, American Legion, GI Jobs
- Hire recruiters who have experience in placing military and has a military background
- Have a system to look at military or veterans in your candidate assessment system
- Provide training on the military for all staff who have any part with the sourcing, recruiting, selecting, interviewing or on boarding of your organization.
Human Resources
- Offer pay differential to reserve or guard employees when they are on training or deployed
- Don't make your Guard or reserve employees use leave, sick or vacation time for military service or training.
- Comply with all parts of USERRA
Company Website

- Highlight any military or military spouse type programs
- Provide links or special pages of news stories that highlight any type of military related corporate citizenship efforts/or military inclusion group
- List military friendly policy on the website also list Veteran awards or ranking for support in any military type magazines.
- Note the percentages of military employees, recently hired military, disabled veterans, and spouses.
- Set up a blog or web cast with current veteran employees who can communicate with potential job seekers.
- Military newsletter from Military group or activities and events.
- Add video clip or highlight current military employees
- List military career fairs, job fairs, and all military related recruiting events so candidates can talk with recruiters.
- Customized military career page
- Offer to send text messages to military job seekers on any recruiting event or special positions who sign up.
Branding/Marketing the Organization to the Military

- Exhibit and participate in military career fairs.
- Have military staff members volunteer to attend and help recruit at events.
- Solicit current military employees to recommend military friend/contacts.
- Post positions at all Army ACAP, Navy and USMC Family Service Centers and Air Force Airman Centers at military facilities.
- Volunteer to sit on Employer panels at area Military Transition Assistance classes.
Company Military/Veteran Support

- Establish a Veteran Inclusion/Affinity Group
- Assign a former military mentor to all new military employees.
- Designate a former military in your organization as an ombudsman who has knowledge of USERRA.
- Conduct a Veteran Appreciation Day for the organization.
- Recognize Veteran Employees on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
- Post military history days on company-wide on line bulletins.
- Send a Press statement to area newspapers, radio and television stations on any significant awards won the Military Team.
National Guard/Reserve Deployed Employees

- Publicly send-off and welcome back any deployed employee.
- Encourage employees to send cards or "goodies" to deployed employees.
- Maintain contact with family of the deployed employee, include the family in any Veteran functions.


Employer Assistance Web Sites - The US Department of Veterans Affairs web site. - This Department of Veterans Affairs web site contains fact sheets, reference guides, and Frequently Asked Questions list that provide information on a variety of veteran hiring questions. - This Federal Government web site provides resources for employers and Veterans’ Employment Service Providers. - The Department of Labor website that provides resources and expertise to assist and prepare military veterans to obtain meaningful careers, with a special section for employers. - Job Bank USA is a source for businesses to find new employees who are top performers quickly, easily and cost effectively. Jobs can be posted locally and nationwide


Military 101 Primer

Abbreviated United States Military Overview
Branches of US armed forces
Engage in large scale ground operations
Ensure American dominance of the oceans, seas and rivers, and transport other assets across waters
Air Force
Ensure American dominance of air, space, and cyberspace; provide the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world; provide “close air support” to ground forces, transport personnel, equipment, and supplies worldwide
Marine Corps
Serve as an expeditionary “force in readiness” prepared to deploy at a moment’s notice and be on the ground within about five days, with at least a battalion, anywhere in the world. Marines are the first force on the ground in any combat operation, and the last out.
Coast Guard
Both a military and law enforcement service. During peacetime, falls under Dept of Homeland Security. During war, under Dept of the Navy.
Type of service
  • Active: Military members who serve on full time status in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps.
  • Reserve Component: Refers to military members who service a minimum of 39 days of military duty every year and augment active duty when necessary.
  • National Guard: Only the Army and Air Force have National Guard components, which are under the command of state governors. The U.S. President can federalize these troops for national needs.
Prior to 2001, the distinction between these components was much clearer, but due to the high volume of soldiers being sent overseas, the Reserve and National Guard spend a lot of time on full-time, active status.
Rank Structure
There are two types of service members, enlisted and commissioned, distinct due to how they enter service.
  • Enlisted troops make up the majority of today’s forces (85%), enlist or join the ranks, and are often the implementers and technical experts of the corps. In senior positions, they are non-commissioned officers.
o  Junior enlisted (E-1 to E-3) serve in combat and are technicians andanalysts.
o  Non-commissioned officers (E-4 to E-9) train and supervise, enforce policies, make decisions.
  • Commissioned officers must have a 4-year bachelors degree, and can earn a commission (the ability to take command) through a Service Academy, ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps), or Officer Training School. They are the decision-makers and leaders of the military, and make up 15% of the total forces. 
Military Courtesy
Service-members of different services go by different names; they are not all “Soldiers.” Using the correct terminology is critical to gaining respect. If a service member is in the Army = Soldier, Marine Corps = Marine; Navy = Sailor; Air Force = Airmen; Coast Guard = Coast Guardsman. “Troops” or “servicemember” is also appropriate.
Department of Defense
The Department of Defense is headed by a civilian; the Secretary of Defense, who is appointed by the President of the United States. Under the Secretary of Defense, there are three military departments: The Department of the Army, the Department of the Air Force, and the Department of the Navy. Each of these military departments are also headed up by civilians; the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Air Force, and the Secretary of the Navy. These "service secretaries" are also appointed by the President.
There are five military branches: The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The Army is commanded by a four-star general, known as the Army Chief of Staff. The Army Chief of Staff reports to the Secretary of the Army (for most matters). The top military member in the Air Force is the Air Force Chief of Staff. This four-star general reports (for most matters) to the Secretary of the Air Force. The Navy is commanded by a four-star admiral, called the Chief of Naval Operations. The Marines are commanded by a 4-star general called the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Both the Chief of Naval Operations and the Marine Corps Commandant report (for most matters) to the Secretary of the Navy.
These four "flag officers" also make up a group called the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JSC). The Joint Chiefs of Staff comprise the four Service Chiefs, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chairman is nominated by the President and approved by the Senate (as are other general and flag officer positions). For operational matters (such as war or conflict), the JCS by-passes the individual service secretaries and report directly to the Secretary of Defense, and the President.
The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Defense. However, the Coast Guard is considered a military service, because, during times of war or conflict, the President of the United States can transfer any or all assets of the Coast Guard to the Department of the Navy. In fact, this has been done in almost every single conflict that the United States have ever been involved in. The Coast Guard is commanded by a 4-star admiral, known as the Coast Guard Commandant.
The United States Army is the main ground-force of the United States. The Army's main function is to protect and defend the United States (and its interests) by way of ground troops, armor (tanks), artillery, attack helicopters, tactical nuclear weapons, etc. The Army is the oldest U.S. Military service, officially established by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775. The Army is also the largest U.S. Military Service. The Army is supported by two Reserve Forces which can be tapped for trained personnel and equipment during times of need: The Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard. The primary difference between the two is that the Reserves are "owned" and managed by the federal government, and each state "owns" its own National Guard. However, the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense can "activate" state National Guard members into Federal military service during times of need.
Marine Corps
The Marines are often referred to as the "Infantry of the Navy." Marines specialize in amphibious operations. In other words, their primary specialty is to assault, capture, and control "beach heads," which then provide a route to attack the enemy from almost any direction. The Marines were officially established on 10 November 1775 by the Continental Congress, to act as a landing force for the United States Navy. In 1798, however, Congress established the Marine Corps as a separate service. While amphibious operations are their primary specialty, in recent years, the Marines have expanded other ground-combat operations, as well. Like the Navy, there is no Marine Corps National Guard, but Marines are supported in times of need by the Marine Corps Reserves.
Like the Army, the Navy was officially established by the Continental Congress in 1775. The Navy's primary mission is to maintain the freedom of the seas. The Navy makes it possible for the United States to use the seas where and when our national interests require it. In addition, in times of conflict, the Navy helps to supplement Air Force air power. The Navy is also primarily responsible for transporting Marines to areas of conflict. The Navy is supported in times of need by the Naval Reserves. However, unlike the Army and Air Force, there is no Naval National Guard (although a few states have established "Naval Militias.")
Air Force
The Air Force is the youngest military service, established in 1947. The primary mission of the Air Force is to defend the United States (and its interests) through exploitation of air and space. To accomplish this mission, the Air Force operates fighter aircraft, tanker aircraft, light and heavy bomber aircraft, transport aircraft, and helicopters (which are used mainly for rescue of downed-aircrew, and special operations missions). The Air Force is also responsible for all military satellites, and controls all of our Nation's strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. Like the Army, the active duty Air Force is supplemented by the Air Force Reserves, and the Air National Guard.
Coast Guard
 The United States Coast Guard was originally established as the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. In 1915, it was reformed as the United States Coast Guard, under the Treasury Department. In 1967, the Coast Guard was transferred to the Department of Transportation. Legislation passed in 2002 transferred the Coast Guard to the Department of Homeland Security. In peacetime, the Coast Guard is primarily concerned with law enforcement, boating safety, sea rescue, and illegal immigration control. However, the President of the United States can transfer part or all of the Coast Guard to the Department of the Navy in times of conflict. The Coast Guard consists of ships, boats, aircraft and shore stations that conduct a variety of missions. The Coast Guard is also supported by the Coast Guard Reserves, and a volunteer "Coast Guard Auxiliary" in times of need.
Organization/Chain of Command
Each of the services have their own unique organization. The Army is organized in Squads, Platoons, Companies, Battalions, Brigades, Divisions, and Corps. The Air Force is organized in Flights, Squadrons, Groups, Wings, Numbered Air Forces, and Major Commands. The Marine Corps is organized in Teams, Squads, Platoons, Companies, Regiments, and Divisions. The Navy has fleets, etc. (NEED TO CLARIFY)
The United States military prides itself on values. These values not only apply for the military at war but also bear meaning for personal behavior. Each of the services has their own set of values but the Army’s values illustrates the way in which our military views values:
1.       Loyalty: Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and fellow Soldiers.
2.       Duty: Fulfill your obligations.
3.       Respect: Treat others as they should be treated.
4.       Selfless Service: Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
5.       Honor: Live the Army Values.
6.       Integrity: Do what's right, both legally and morally.
7.       Personal Courage: Face fear, danger, or adversity, both physical and moral.
Understanding the values of our service members is important, their underlying ethos encompasses

Decisiveness: Military actions require innumerable split-second decisions under stressful conditions, waiting to act until one has all of the facts can cost lives.
Pride and Honor: Troops see the defense of our country as a calling and one of the greatest forms of service.
Commitment to Winning: The can-do attitude instilled in the military includes a commitment to getting the job done no matter what.
Community: The unparalleled sense of “family” within the military means that service members are often more comfortable with other service members – even when out of uniform.
Commitment to Service: The military is more than a paycheck; most join to be part of something larger than themselves, and to serve Americans and humankind.
The Importance of Community and the Common Good: Military leaders emphasize the importance of taking care of each other, especially those in lower ranks. 
Military Rank/Rate
Military rank is more than just who salutes whom; military rank is a badge of leadership. Responsibility for personnel, equipment, and mission grows with each increase in rank. Do not confuse rank with pay grades, such as E-1, W-2 and O-5. Pay grades are administrative classifications used primarily to standardize compensation across the military services. The "E" in E-1 stands for "enlisted" while the "1" indicates the pay grade for that position. The other pay categories are "W" for warrant officers and "O" for commissioned officers. Some enlisted pay grades have two ranks.
There are three general categories of rank/rate (Note: The Navy/Coast Guard calls it "rate," the other services refer to it as "rank"): Enlisted personnel, Warrant Officers, and Commissioned Officers.
Enlisted Personnel

Enlisted members are the "backbone" of the military. They perform the primary jobs that need to be done. Enlisted members are "specialists." They are trained to perform specific specialties in the military. As enlisted personnel progress up the ranks (there are nine enlisted ranks), they assume more responsibility, and provide direct supervision to their subordinates. Enlisted personnel in certain grades have special status. In the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, this status is known as "Noncommissioned Officer status, or "NCO." In the Navy and Coast Guard, such enlisted are known as "Petty Officers." In the Marine Corps, NCO status begins at the grade of E-4 (Corporal).
In the Army and Air Force, enlisted personnel in the grades of E-5 through E-9 are NCOs. However, some Army E-4s are laterally promoted to "corporal," and are considered NCOs. Also in the Army and Air Force, personnel in the grades of E-7 to E-9 are known as "Senior NCOs." In the Marine Corps, those in the grades of E-6 through E-9 are known as "Staff NCOs." In the Navy/Coast Guard, Petty Officers are those in the grades of E-4 through E-9. Those in the grades of E-7 to E-9 are known as "Chief Petty Officers."
To join the military today, and become an enlisted member, requires a high school diploma (although a very few -- less than 10 percent each year, are accepted with "alternative credentials," such as a GED). However, a majority of enlisted members on active duty today have some college. Many have associates and bachelor degrees. Some even have higher-level degrees, such as masters and doctorates.
Enlisted Rank Structure
Warrant Officers are very highly-trained specialists. This is where they differ from commissioned officers. Unlike commissioned officers, warrant officers remain in their primary specialty to provide specialized knowledge, instruction, and leadership to enlisted members and commissioned officers alike. With few exceptions, one must be an enlisted member with several years of experience, recommended by their commander, and pass a selection board to become a warrant officer. The Air Force is the only service which does not have warrant officers. The Air Force eliminated their warrant officer positions when Congress created the grades of E-8 and E-9 in the late 60s. The other services elected to retain the warrant ranks, and shifted the emphasis from a promotion process for E-7s to a highly selective system for highly-skilled technicians. There are five separate warrant ranks. Warrant Officers outrank all enlisted members. Warrant officers are not required to have college degrees (they are selected primarily based upon technical skills and experience), but many of them do.

Warrant Officer Rank Structure
Commissioned Officers are the "top brass." Their primary function is to provide overall management and leadership in their area of responsibility. Unlike enlisted members and warrant officers, commissioned officers do not specialize as much (with certain exceptions such as pilots, doctors, nurses, and lawyers). Let's take for example, an infantry officer. An enlisted member in the Infantry Branch will have a specific infantry specialty, such as infantryman (MOS 11B), or indirect fire infantryman (11C). Unless that enlisted member retrains, he will remain an 11B or 11C for his career. The officer, however, is designated to the "Infantry Branch." He can start his career in charge of a light infantry platoon, then may move on to be in charge of a mortar platoon, then later in his career he may move on to become a company commander, commanding various types of infantry troops. As he moves up the ranks, he gets more and more experience in the different areas of his branch, and is responsible for commanding more and more troops. All of this has the primary purpose of (ultimately) generating an experienced officer who can command an entire infantry battalion or division.
Commissioned Officers must have a minimum of a four-year bachelor's degree. As they move up the ranks, if they want to get promoted, they will have to earn a master’s degree. Commissioned Officers are commissioned through specific commissioning programs, such as one of the military academies (West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy), ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps, or OCS (Officer Candidate School), called OTS (Officer Training School) for the Air Force.
There are ten commissioned officer grades, ranging from the "2nd Lieutenant (or Ensign for the Navy/Coast Guard) to the four-star general (or Admiral in the Navy/Coast Guard). Commissioned officers outrank all warrant officers and enlisted personnel.


Commissioned Officers Rank Structure

Military Rank with Civilian Business Equivalents
Although civilian businesses label their employees differently than the military, the roles of military members are similar in nature to any business. Think of the enlisted member as the worker in a civilian company. The enlisted are the ones who hands-on perform the job. Within the "worker group," NCOs (Army, Air Force, and Marines) and Petty Officers (Navy and Coast Guard) are the foremen and line-supervisors. They perform the job, but also provide direct supervision to the other workers. Senior NCOs (Army Air Force and Marines) and Chief Petty Officers (Navy and Coast Guard) are assistant managers who came up through the ranks of the corporation. They are valuable as managers because of their many years of experience, but will never make it to the Board of Directors. Commissioned officers are the managers of the company. They have broad areas of responsibility for the management, organization, and efficiency of various departments of the corporation. Senior commissioned officers (generals and admirals) are the board of directors. Warrant Officers can be thought of as the experienced technical specialists that the company hired to perform highly-specialized functions.
Officer Rank and Typical Role (Note: This is merely a guideline for how these roles and responsibilities might translate to civilian business. All candidates should be evaluated on their own merits.)
Corporate Position
Officer Rank
Typical Role
Typical years experience
General, (Navy Admiral)
O-7 through O-10 = 1 to 4 stars
Responsible for thousands of people and billions in equipment. Make major policy decisions within their command, and on strategic military policy.
22+ years
Vice Presidents
Colonel, (Navy Captain)
Command thousands of troops and significant impact on policy and warfighting
20+ years
Senior Management
Lt Col, (Navy Commander)
Can command hundreds of troops or hold important policy staff jobs in the offices of senior leaders
16-22 years
(age: 40s)
Middle Management
Major, (Navy Lt Commander)
Middle of officer ranks, a plateau point for many. Can run most staff operations, from logistics to combat plans. In the Navy, they may command ships
10-16 years
(age: 30s)
Junior Middle Management
Captain, (Navy Lieutenant)
Many O-3s get much done on the ground, particularly in combat situations. They may command groups of up to 100 or 200 troops, or aircraft.
4-10 years
(age: late 20s to early 30s)
Junior employees
1st Lieutenant, (Navy LT Junior Grade)
Knowledge of how things operate, but still gaining experience to effectively lead large groups. May command platoons
2-4 years (age: mid-20s)
Entry level
2nd Lieutenant, (Navy Ensign), O-1
Young, energetic, and in their first year of service.
O-2 years
(age: early 20s)
Points to Remember

Veteran Population. Veterans comprise a much larger part of the US population (7-8% as of February 2010) than those currently serving on active duty. The Veterans Administration counts 23.1 million living Veterans plus 37 million dependents = 20% of the population. There are approximately 2.5 million Veterans with Post 9/11 service.
The military is not just a “job”: The military see their role not as a “job” but more as a long-term commitment and a way of life.
For some, the military is a family tradition: Some families produce generation after generation of lawyers, or doctors, while some have generations in military service. For these families, service is not only a way to show patriotism but a proud family tradition.
Not all veterans have seen combat: Veterans who have been in war are “combat veterans”, but anyone who has served in war or peace is a “veteran” after active service.
The military is well educated: Military personnel are not drawn mainly from the poor and uneducated: 96% of officers have college degrees and 37% have advanced degrees. For enlisted service members, high school graduation rates average 10 points higher than the general population.
Forms of address are important. In the military, an officer is “sir or ma’am” to anyone but a higher-ranked officer (who will usually address a lower officer by rank and last name or, if an acquaintance, by their first name), while an enlisted individual is addressed by his or her rank and last name. A civilian who doesn’t distinguish between officers and enlisted, or doesn’t use the proper and polite form of address, is seen as being disrespectful to the military.