View Full Version : Military Question: When Army Meets Navy

04-01-2004, 10:01 AM
I don't know if this is a real scenario, but if the army and navy ever had to work together, side by side, to get a mission accomplished, who outranks whom? Who salutes whom? Who takes orders from whom?

This question popped into my head from a MASH episode where a Naval officer and his Admiral rush to MASH on a misunderstanding. I believe, at the end, Col. Potter salutes the Admiral. If this is legit, is it based on the idea that an Admiral is like a General? Or, would protocol say he need not salute at all?

Are/Have there any real-life scenarios where this could be true? (Never really thought about it.) - Jinx

04-01-2004, 10:11 AM
Back in the Nav, we followed the same saluting rules for officers from all services.
If I were walking down the street and a Marine captain passed by, I had better salute him.

Anyone in the military is familiar with the equivalent ranks across the services, though this was a moot point for pond scum such as myself who simply saluted any officer. Period.

There may be subtle points: Navy personnel never salute each other indoors, but I have seen plenty of Army folks do so in films (could be bogus, but I'm not sure). As a sailor, I would never have saluted anyone indoors, and that might have caused confusion when passing by an Army officer.

04-01-2004, 10:13 AM
All US Military barnches have equivalent ranks. If a Navy officer outranks an Army officer, the Army officer renders all courtesies to the superior officer, including salutes. If the visiting Navy officer issues an order that countermands standing Army orders, the Army rules apply under normal circumstances. An Admiral cannot roll into a MASH unit and command them to move to another location, for instance. He/She can, though, order a junior Army member to straighten a uniform, or some other small thing.

The Great Sun Jester
04-01-2004, 10:26 AM
Most military campaigns these days are joint operations anyway. It's not a new thing--D-Day is a good example of multiple nations using multiple branches in a single mission.

Lets say we're doing a massive beach assault using Navy for transportation and battlefield prep (bombing the snot outta the beach before the ground troups get there) and Army & Marines to secure the beach. One branch would be in charge of the whole schmear--it seems we typically appoint the Army this task, possibly because once the beach is taken the navy is done for the most part, marines are specialized at killin' and the army, well they get to do administration because the marines done killed everybody (just kidding, the army gets to do a fair amount o killin' too).

Once the upper echelons of command (Generals & Admirals) work out the details of how their particular forces will participate, orders are sent down within those branches. Boat captains (equivalent of a colonel, I believe) are directed to get their vessels to point X and conduct a specific operation, and the ground forces receive orders on what to do once they hit the beach from their own leadership. As a matter of protocol, individual soldiers/marines (should) show equal respect to superiors regardless of service. Similarly, commanders maintain/restrict responsibility for their own people. Conflicting orders from officers of different services should be rare.

Admiral does have rank on a colonel, and it is proper for the colonel to defer to the higher rank just as he would a general.

04-01-2004, 11:03 AM
In NATO nations we have spine point system of rank.

It means that every military position is represented by a number which starts at E1 and goes all the way up to Supreme Commanders - if ever another Supreme Commander is ever appointed.

As far as Navy ranks go, these are all even numbers, and as far as British Army ranks go, these are all odd numbers.

The effect is that the lowest supervising person in the Navy, is rated above the lowest supervising person in the army, and AFAIK, this continues at least all the way through the enlisted personel, I cannot speak for officers as there would have to be some protocol for fields of expertise and specialist knowledge.

Occasionally a specialist person, say an electrician in the Navy, might be in a position where their knowledge would compel them to issue instructions to say an army officer - or any other officer for that matter - to protect their life, but this would be very task specific.
No officer could make an order about a technical matter unless they had enough knowledge themselves, and no officer would do so in the absence of that knowledge .An officer would be expected to be able to understand the limits of their knowledge and know where to get best advice.

I can think of one situation where one particular senior army officer did actually act against the advice of a Royal Navy officer who was of lower rank, and this resulted in the deaths 48 men.

Specificaly the loss of RFA Sir Galahad during the Falklands war.

What happened was that the OC of the Welsh Guards wanted his men to have some rest before making a landing.

The book re-tells how a Royal Marines Major, Ewen Southby-Tailyour, with vast knowledge of Falklands' waters, ordered that the Welsh Guards, kept aboard Sir Galahad for several hours, should immediately be ferried ashore. But two Army Majors, unable to grasp the vulnerability of the anchorage to air attack, rejected his orders and demanded that the Welsh Guards be taken by sea to Bluff Cove.

The Welsh Guards offer to defend the ship against air attack with machine guns was surprisingly rejected by Sir Galahad’s captain, in the belief there was effective defence by ground-based Rapier missile batteries and air combat patrols. But the Rapiers were malfunctioning and the Harrier strip at San Carlos had been rendered non-operational by a crash landing, forcing the air combat patrols to revert to the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, far out to sea, so reducing their effectiveness. “Fate was conspiring against 5th Infantry Brigade”. So was the weather, which cleared to facilitate the Argentine air attack.


The commander of the Welsh Gaurds was also infomed by the Captain of HMS Pymouth (it might have been HMS Torquay but I'm doing this from memory) to evacuate the Sir Galahad and get out of Bluff Cove asap.

Unfortunately the CO of the Welsh Guards overruled him, in the belief that there was no immediate threat, despite not having any real appreciation of naval surface warfare and kept his men afloat where many were killed.

04-01-2004, 11:07 AM
See the U.S. Department of Defense's rank equivalency tables for officers (http://www.dod.mil/specials/insignias/officers.html) and enlisted (http://www.dod.mil/specials/insignias/enlisted.html). Note that these tables also give pay grades, such as E-4 and O-7. Note that pay grades are not ranks.

04-01-2004, 11:25 AM

This has links to charts showing how different names are equivalent across the American military services.

The differing names has caused confusion before if the personnel are not familiar with the other services. I was told that a guy at church caused wonderment when he went on a local Navy base to buy stuff at the PX, because he said he was a captain while appearing about 29 years old.

In the navy, a captain is an O-6, but he meant an army captain, which is an O-3. 29 isn't unreasonable at all for an army O-3. My brother will probably be an army captain at about age 27. After that they really vet people for promotion and it's not automatic at all, he says.

04-01-2004, 11:59 AM
To clarify the navy rule, salutes are not given when uncovered, that is not wearing a hat. Of course covers are not worn indoors but they are often not required at sea. At least this was the case on both carriers I was on. We were always told that when on another service's installation to follow the "When in rome" rule and salute officers even when uncoverd as an act of military courtesy.

Spavined Gelding
04-01-2004, 05:13 PM
It has been a while, Hell, it's been a long, long while, but my recollection that hand salutes were not required or encouraged indoors with one big exception. You saluted when reporting for duty. There was even a script for this: "Sir, Lieutenant Gelding reports for duty as ordered."

It doesn't always work that way.

When I reported to my first duty station, Fort Lost in the Woods, Missouri, I went to the Executive Officers office and started to go into the mandated spiel, but it went like this:

SG: Sir, Lieutenant Geld...
XO: Sit down son. Glad to have you with us, Spav. People do call you Spav, don't they?
SG: Sir, Lieutenant Gelding reports...
XO: Son, I know who you are. I know why you're here. Now sit down. (Shouting into the next office) Bob, the new guy is here.

Both the XO and the Staff Judge Advocate, a lieutenant-colonel and a full bull, were WWII veterans (the XO had carried a BAR from one end of Italy to the other and the SJA had jumped on D-Day and at Arnheim) and both had been on continuous active duty since Korea. That, and the fact that it was a staff section of lawyers, may have had something to do with the surprising informality of my reception.

Also, the hat comes of indoors, especially in mess halls where the mess steward will politely ask you to uncover if you forgot. The exception to the uncover rule is when under arms.

The old general rule was to figure obvious officers in other services, including foreign services, received military courtesies. So did foreign countries' national anthems and national flags when passing in review.

Let me emphasize one thing civilians forget or do not know. The hand salute is not a gesture of subordination. It is simply a courtesy. The failure to give that curtsey is rude. I have watched an army captain get a lecture at the hands of a brigadier general for failing to return a salute from an enlisted man.

Carry on. I’ll be in the area all day.

04-01-2004, 11:35 PM
IANA military man, but there is a distinction between rank/pay grade and billet.

The way I understand it, is that one's billet is more or less their job- i.e. company commander, executive officer, navigator, etc...

Rank is the actual name of your rank; Lieutenant, Ensign, Colonel, Commander, Admiral, etc...

Pay grade is where the equivalence comes in- i.e. an Army/Air Force/Marine Captain and a Navy Lieutenant are all O3, and wear double-bars. Colonel(Army/AF/Marine) and Captain (Navy) are equivalent, and all wear eagles (birds).

The way that all this works is that essentially the billet is what counts, I think. Generally speaking, they won't put a lower ranking officer in a higher billet, but they will put equal ranking officers in higher billets than others.

In other words, you could conceivably have a Captain as a battallion commander and have all of his company commanders also be Captains. The batallion commander is still the head dude though. So in the case of joint operations, somebody's in charge, and it doesn't matter what service they're in. That's how Gen. Franks was ordering around Air Force and Navy forces in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There were almost certainly Admirals and Generals of equivalent rank (4 star?) under him.

Not sure how it'd work if you had flip-flopped ranks though- any military dopers know? Does that even happen?

04-02-2004, 12:22 AM
... The exception to the uncover rule is when under arms. ...

Why does being under arms in the military provide an exception to the uncover rule? I'm curious because, as a (non-military) police officer, I am not allowed to wear a hat indoors, yet, I'm always armed.



04-02-2004, 01:11 AM
I'm currently working in a joint Army-Navy operation at the port in Kuwait. Since the commanding unit is an Army unit, the Navy personnel fall under the Army's control for this particular operation. As has been mentioned before, all courtesies of rank are followed between the services, i.e. an O-3 in the Navy outranks my O-2 in the Army (though we're both Lieutenants....). Anyway, the only difference I've noticed is that Navy O-1s (Ensigns) call O-2s (1st Lieutenant, Army, AF, Lieutenant JG, Navy) 'sir' and 'ma'am,' while Army personnel consider O-1 and O-2 to be peer ranks.

04-02-2004, 02:33 AM
Very recently I was on a cruise from Naples, Italy to Lisbon, Portugal for an exercise. I had an Army Major working in my office, as well as others on board. All US Military ranks respect eachother respectively (!). Despite the differences in names, we all use the same heirarchy. It looks like this.


Warrant Officer




Note that not all services use ALL of them, for example, the Navy does not use all of the Warrant Officer ranks. You might also be interested in knowing that not only does the US military use this heirarchy, but it is standard for NATO forces also (I have 5 countries represented in my building), and there is an equivalent for civilians who work in the US military as well. Wikipedia has a good article with charts on NATO equivalents here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_military_ranks). Also note that civilians are ranked equivalent to officers, not enlisted.

04-02-2004, 02:41 AM
And to add, I salute all foreign officers officers on base just as I would a Navy Officer. (Though we do not salute military equivalent civilians. We have a GS-15 in the building which is equivalent to a 1 star Admiral. He gets 'respect' like, "WHoa!" and thats about it :)

Spavined Gelding
04-02-2004, 07:10 AM
Why does being under arms in the military provide an exception to the uncover rule? I'm curious because, as a (non-military) police officer, I am not allowed to wear a hat indoors, yet, I'm always armed.



It is my recollection that a side arm, usually a pistol on your hip, did not count as "under arms." A rifle, a grenade launcher, a rocket launcher did, so you kept your hat on. I suppose this is because a guy with a rifle needed both hands for the weapon and did not have a spare hand to hold his hat. Just another of the rules, like not carrying an umbrella while in uniform.

04-02-2004, 07:35 AM
In the event that a question of authority cannot be resolved, I believe that tradition dictates a best two-out-of-three "Rock Scissors Paper" tournament be employed.

Although some services prefer to do "Odds and Evens" or have a third party think of a number between one and 100, with whichever person whose guess is closer being declared in charge.

04-02-2004, 08:32 AM
(Though we do not salute military equivalent civilians. We have a GS-15 in the building which is equivalent to a 1 star Admiral. He gets 'respect' like, "WHoa!" and thats about it :)

Heh...I wonder if he was the one who told you that a GS-15 is the same as a flag officer. That would be flattering.

I'm a DoD civilian, and the civilian/military grade equivalency is pretty straightforward on this AFB and every other installation I've encountered. The civilian equivalent to a general officer is an SES (Senior Executive Service). SES positions fall above the Title V (GS) scale in both pay and seniority. If you've been a GS-15 for a while, you might aspire to get promoted to an SES. There are relatively few...but then again, there are relatively few generals in the AF compared to colonels. GS-15's, however are a dime a dozen. Around here, the elicit no fear or awe. SESs, on the other hand, are somewhat imposing.

Equivalency farther down the list:

GS-15 ===== O-6 (an AF colonel)
GS-14 ===== O-5 (Lt. Col.)
GS-13 ===== O-4 (Major)
GS-11/12 === O-3 (Captain)
GS-9 ====== O-2 (1Lt.)
GS-7 ====== O-1 (2Lt.)

This is easiest to see if you notice the restrictive signs in some parking lots. Some spaces say "Eagle/GS-15." Eagle is used to include all services, since colonels and Navy captains both wear eagles. Some even say "Star/SES." Star, of course, denotes general officers (generals and Navy admirals).

The interesting thing is that equivalent positions in parallel organizations are not filled by equivalent grades when you compare military and civilians. The boss a couple levels above me in my organization is a colonel. But if his position were filled by a civilian, they would have to be an SES. My direct supervisor is a GS-15, but other managers at the same level who wear blue are usually majors, and sometimes even established captains.

So for the same job, the military folks get more authority earlier in their career.

Also, AF personnel almost never salute when uncovered, that is, indoors.

04-02-2004, 08:40 AM
Spavined, in the Navy, sidearms do count as being "under arms," but there are exceptions when you uncover.

From the U.S. Navy General Uniform Regulations (http://buperscd.technology.navy.mil/bup_updt/508/unireg/chapter1/CHAPTER_1.htm):
...Indoors, personnel shall remain uncovered at all times unless directed otherwise by higher authority for a special situation/event. Those service members in a duty status and wearing side arms or a pistol belt may only remove headgear indoors when entering dining, medical or FOD hazard areas or where religious services are being conducted.

Someone brought up the distinction of one's billet vs. rank. Another situation that arises is duty status. At sea, you do what the Officer of the Deck (OOD) tells you do, even if you outrank him (or her). (The main exception to this is that the Commanding Officer can relieve the OOD at any time.)

Another hypothetical situation is the distinction (in the Navy) between line officers versus staff corps officers. At sea, if a seniority issue comes up, the senior line officer has precedence. For example, if the ship is in combat situation, and the senior line officers are lost in battle, the most senior line officer remaining takes command of the ship. A line lieutenant has seniority in this situation over a medical corps commander. The line lieutenant in case would have the billet of commanding officer, and give orders to the medical corps commander.

04-02-2004, 11:07 PM
1. The Marines post an equivlancy chart different from that posted by Audilover at https://lnweb1.manpower.usmc.mil/CCLD/working/working_usmc_rank_equivalencies.htm:

O-6 GS-15
O-5 GS-13/14
O-4 GS-12
O-3 GS-10/11
O-2 GS-9
O-1 GS-7

2. I think I remember reading somewhere that among officers of equivlent rank, the more senior is the one with the earliest date of rank (i.e., the one whose promotion was the least recent) and that among officers of equivalent rank with the same date of rank, the more senior is the one belonging to the more senior service (the service that has been in existence the longest).

04-03-2004, 04:27 PM
thanks !


04-03-2004, 08:08 PM
In the event that a question of authority cannot be resolved, I believe that tradition dictates a best two-out-of-three "Rock Scissors Paper" tournament be employed.

Although some services prefer to do "Odds and Evens" or have a third party think of a number between one and 100, with whichever person whose guess is closer being declared in charge.

I'd love to see that game, but joking aside, the real answer as to which person of equal rank, and assignment, would be "superior" would be determined by "Time in rank".

e.g. If I made O-3 before another O-3, I'd be the superior the Chain of command (assignments being equal)

-Butler (IANAsoldier, but I've a passion for that knowledge.

04-04-2004, 09:57 AM
1. The Marines post an equivlancy chart different from that posted by Audilover at https://lnweb1.manpower.usmc.mil/CCLD/working/working_usmc_rank_equivalencies.htm:

That's not too far off. And I've never seen our equivalencies written down...they're just kinda understood in the collective unconscious. Also, we don't have any GS-10's in my organization.

Then again, most of us in the lab are on an alternate pay system anyway (myself included.) So to figure out where I am against the officer pay grades, I have to convert my pay grade to GS then to O. :rolleyes: