-Z- (Z@Gundam.Com)
Sun, 10 Oct 1999 16:33:04 -0700

At 03:12 10/10/1999 -0400, you wrote:
>In a message dated 10/9/99 4:09:58 PM Mountain Daylight Time, Z@Gundam.Com
>> Sometimes there's a problem even in the same country. The Air Force is the
>> only American service that awards NCO status to the E-4 paygrade, which it
>> separates into two ranks, Senior Airman (enlisted) and Sergeant (NCO).
>Not true. The Army still has Corporals and Specialists, which are both pay
>grade E-4, but Corporals are NCO's while Specialists aren't.

My memory has played tricks on me again -- it was, after all, over 20 years
ago. The rank in contention was E-3, not E-4. This may have confused the
issue, so let me try to clarify it now.

Back in 1976, when this divisive issue came up, the Air Force ranking
system was as follows:

E-1 = Airman Second Class (A2C) later Airman (Amn)
E-2 = Airman First Class (A1C)
E-3 = Senior Airman (SrA)
E-4 = Sergeant (Sgt)

A2C was changed to Amn during the Vietnam era, with the morale-boosting
slogan: "No one in the USAF is second-class!"

The Air Force awarded NCO status to E-3 after a certain number of years in
grade and that's what created the problem. In all of the other services,
E-4 was the lowest NCO rank: Petty Officer Third Class in the Navy and
Corporal in the Army and Marines. E-3 was the highest enlisted rank:
Seaman in the Navy, Lance Corporal in the Marines and Private First Class
in the Army.

In 1976, I was a Senior Airman and the Army refused to recognize me as an
NCO, even though I had been serving as one for over a year in the Air
Force. From the Army's point of view, it was bad enough having to call
E-4s "Sergeant" and no way were they going to let E-3s into their NCO Club!

The problem was resolved in 1980 when the Air Force restructured its
ranking system as follows:

E-1 = Airman Basic (AB)
E-2 = Airman (Amn)
E-3 = Airman First Class (A1C)
E-4 = Senior Airman (Sra) -> Sergeant (Sgt)

The new Air Force E-4 rank followed the same pattern as the Army Corporal
and Specialist 4, except that rather than being a dual-track system of
Specialists and Non-Coms, the Air Force promoted to the Senior Airman as an
enlisted rank and only conferred Sergeancy upon certification, as by
completion of NCO Leadership School. By this time, I had made Staff
Sergeant (E-5) and was thus past caring, although I applauded to move as
one less bone of contention to fan the already heated flames of
interservice rivalry. It created quite a bit of controversy among those
below the pay grade of E-4, many of whom saw themselves as being demoted,
if only in name.

By the way, the Army used to have an entire Specialist career track, E-4
through E-6, for those who wished to pursue a technical carrer in the Army
without the burden of command responsiblity, requiring certification as an
NCO for those who wished to go further. This was eliminated in the late
70s ro early 80s, about the same time that the Air Force restructured, and
Spec 4 became to the Army what SrA is to the Air Force, a probationary
non-NCO slot in the same pay grade.


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