A rear admiral in the uniformed services of the United States is either of two different ranks of commissioned officers: one-star flag officers and two-star flag officers. By contrast, in most other countries, the term "rear admiral" refers only to an officer of two-star rank.
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Rear admiral (lower half) (abbreviated as RDML) is a one-star flag officer, with the pay grade of O-7 in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps.
Rear admiral (lower half) ranks above captain and below rear admiral. Rear admiral (lower half) is equivalent to the rank of brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Space Force and equivalent to the rank of commodore in most other navies.In the United States uniformed services, rear admiral (lower half) replaced the rank of commodore in 1985.
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Rear admiral (abbreviated as RADM), also sometimes referred to informally as "rear admiral (upper half)", is a two-star flag officer, with the pay grade of O-8 in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps and the United States Maritime Service.
Rear admiral ranks above rear admiral (lower half) and below vice admiral. Rear admiral is equivalent to the rank of major general in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Space Force. It is the highest permanent rank during peacetime in the uniformed services. All higher ranks are temporary ranks and linked to their specific commands or office and expire with the expiration of their term of command or office.
Before the American Civil War, the U.S. Navy had resisted creating the rank of admiral. Instead, they preferred the term "flag officer", in order to distinguish the rank from the traditions of the European navies. During the American Civil War, the U.S. Congress honored David Farragut's successful assault on the city of New Orleans by creating the rank of rear admiral on July 16, 1862.
During World War II, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard both had a temporary appointment, one-star rank of commodore, that was used in limited circumstances. By the end of the war, all incumbents had been advanced to the rank of two-star rear admiral and the commodore rank was abolished in both services. Both the Navy and the Coast Guard divided their rear admirals into "lower half" and full rear admirals, or "upper half", the former being paid at the same rate as a one-star brigadier general in the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and the newly independent U.S. Air Force. Lower-half rear admirals were eventually advanced to full rear admirals, or upper half status, where they would receive pay equivalent to a two-star major general. However, both categories of rear admiral wore two-star insignia, an issue that was a source of consternation to the other services.
At the same time, the Navy also bestowed the title of commodore on selected U.S. Navy captains who commanded multiple subordinate units, such as destroyer squadrons, submarine squadrons and air wings and air groups not designated as carrier air wings or carrier air groups. Although not flag officers, these officers were entitled to a personal blue and white command pennant containing the initials, acronym abbreviation or numerical designation of their command.
In 1981, Pub. L. 97–86 expanded commodore from a title to an official permanent grade by creating the one-star rank of commodore admiral. After only 11 months, the rank was reverted to just commodore but kept the one-star insignia. However, this caused issues with the Navy due to the difficulty in differentiating those commodores who were flag officers from commodores who were senior captains in certain command positions. Then in 1985, Pub. L. 99–145 renamed commodore to the current grade of rear admiral (lower half) effective on November 8, 1985.
Up until 1981 all rear admirals wore two stars on their shoulder boards and rank insignia. Since then, rear admirals (lower half) wear one star while rear admirals wear two; verbal address remains "rear admiral" for both ranks. On correspondence, where the rear admiral's rank is spelled out, the acronym (LH) and (UH) follows the rear admiral's rank title to distinguish between one and two stars.
Beginning around 2001, the Navy, Coast Guard, and NOAA Corps started using the separate rank abbreviations RDML (one star) and RADM (two stars), while the Public Health Service continued to use the abbreviation RADM for both.The Public Health Service formally adopted the RDML abbreviation for the O-7 pay grade in 2022.
As flag officers, the flags flown for rear admirals of the unrestricted line of the U.S. Navy have one or two white, single-point-up stars on blue fields for the lower half or upper half, respectively. The flags of restricted line officers and staff corps officers have blue stars on a white field. All services officially list the two-star grade as rear admiral and not rear admiral (upper half) as stated by 10 U.S.C. § 8111 and 37 U.S.C. § 201 of the U.S. Code of law. However, the four uniformed services will sometimes list the rank as rear admiral (upper half) to help the general public distinguish between the two grades.
Although it exists largely as a maritime training organization, the United States Maritime Service does use the ranks of rear admiral (upper half) and rear admiral (lower half). By law, the Service has the same rank structure as the United States Coast Guard, but its uniforms are more similar to the United States Navy.
By statute, Congress has expressly limited the total number of flag officers that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active duty flag officers is capped at 162 for the Regular Navy,augmented by a smaller number of additional flag officers in the Navy Reserve who are either on full-time active duty, temporary active duty, or on the Reserve Active Status List as part-time drilling reservists. Some of these billets are reserved or set by statute. For example, the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Navy is a two-star rear admiral in the Navy. A newer statute enacted in 2016 lowers the cap on the total number of active duty flag officers in the Department of Defense to 151, effective December 31, 2022.
In the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, at least half of the Assistant Surgeons General are one-star rear admirals and no more than half are two-star rear admirals.The Coast Guard's chief medical officer is also a commissioned corps two-star rear admiral, on assignment to the Coast Guard. Officers serving in certain intelligence positions are not counted against the statutory limit.
For the Navy and the Coast Guard, to be promoted to the permanent grade of rear admiral (lower half) or rear admiral, officers who are eligible for promotion to these ranks are screened by an in-service promotion board composed of other flag officers from their branch of service.This promotion board then generates a list of officers it recommends for promotion to flag rank. This list is then sent to the service secretary and the joint chiefs for review before it can be sent to the President, through the defense secretary, for consideration.
The president nominates officers to be promoted from this list with the advice of the Secretary of Defense, the service secretary, and if applicable, the service's chief of staff or commandant.The President may nominate any eligible officer who is not on the recommended list if it serves in the interest of the nation, but this is uncommon. The Senate must then confirm the nominee by a majority vote before the officer can be promoted. Once confirmed, a nominee is promoted by assuming an office that requires or allows an officer to hold that rank. For one-star or two-star positions of office that are reserved by statute, the President nominates an officer for appointment to fill that position. For the Navy and the Coast Guard, because the one-star and two-star grades are permanent ranks, the nominee may still be screened by an in-service promotion board to add their input on the nominee before the nomination can be sent to the Senate for approval. For the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, one-star and two-star rank are achieved by appointment from the President, or from their department secretary, and do not require senatorial approval.
The standard tour length for most rear admiral positions is three years, but some are set at four or more years by statute. For the Navy, Coast Guard, and NOAA Corps, both grades of rear admiral are permanent ranks and do not expire when the officer vacates a one-star or two-star position. The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, however, employs permanent promotions in both grades of rear admiral as well as position-linked temporary appointments in both grades (e.g., Assistant Surgeons General).Their temporary ranks expires when those officers vacate certain temporary positions of office designated to bear those ranks.
By tradition in the United States Navy, when an officer is selected or appointed to flag rank, all current Navy flag officers write the selectee a letter congratulating him or her for attaining flag officer status.
Other than voluntary retirement, statute sets a number of mandates for retirement. All one-star officers must retire after five years in grade or 30 years of service, whichever is later, unless they are selected or appointed for promotion or reappointed to grade to serve longer.All two-star officers must retire after five years in grade or 35 years of service, whichever is later, unless appointed for promotion or reappointed to grade to serve longer. Otherwise all flag officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday. However, the Secretary of Defense can defer a flag officer's retirement until the officer's 66th birthday and the President can defer it until the officer's 68th birthday. Flag officers typically retire well in advance of the statutory age and service limits, so as not to impede the upward career mobility of their juniors.
Commodore is a senior naval rank used in many navies which is equivalent to brigadier or brigadier general and air commodore. It is superior to a navy captain, but below a rear admiral. It is either regarded as the most junior of the flag officers rank or may not hold the jurisdiction of a flag officer at all depending on the officer's appointment. Non-English-speaking nations commonly use the rank of flotilla admiral, counter admiral, or senior captain as an equivalent, although counter admiral may also correspond to rear admiral lower half abbreviated as RDML.
Rear admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to a major general or divisional general and air vice marshal and above that of a commodore and captain, but below that of a vice admiral.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known informally as the NOAA Corps, is one of eight federal uniformed services of the United States, and operates under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a scientific agency overseen by the Department of Commerce. The NOAA Corps is made up of scientifically and technically trained officers. The NOAA Corps and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps are the only U.S. uniformed services that consist only of commissioned officers, with no enlisted or warrant officer ranks. The NOAA Corps' primary mission is to monitor oceanic conditions, support major waterways, and monitor atmospheric conditions.
In the United States Navy, officers have various ranks. Equivalency between services is by pay grade. United States Navy commissioned officer ranks have two distinct sets of rank insignia: On dress uniform a series of stripes similar to Commonwealth naval ranks are worn; on service khaki, working uniforms, and special uniform situations, the rank insignia are identical to the equivalent rank in the US Marine Corps.
The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, also referred to as the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service, is the uniformed service branch of the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and one of the eight uniformed services of the United States alongside the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Space Force and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. The commissioned corps' primary mission is the protection, promotion, and advancement of health and safety of the general public.
A flag officer is a commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which the officer exercises command.
Commodore admiral (COMO) was a short-lived military rank of the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard that existed for less than 11 months during the year 1982. The rank of commodore admiral was established as the Navy's one-star admiral rank after over forty years during which all promoted Navy and Coast Guard captains were advanced directly to the two-star position of rear admiral, but were still paid as one-star officers in the pay grade of O-7 while in a "rear admiral, lower half" category. This was a result of the Navy Personnel Act of 3 March 1899 that eliminated the "rank" of commodore in the US Navy. The same protocol was adopted by the US Coast Guard when it was established as a military service in its current form and title in the early 1900s. In the early 1940s, commodore was briefly reinstituted as a one-star wartime rank in the US Navy and US Coast Guard, but most promoted captains were still advanced to the two-star insignia rank of rear admiral, lower half. With nearly all of the one-star commodore incumbents promoted to rear admiral by the end of World War II, the rank of commodore was again suspended.
Admiral is a four-star commissioned officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps with the pay grade of O-10. Admiral ranks above vice admiral and below fleet admiral in the Navy; the Coast Guard and the Public Health Service do not have an established grade above admiral. Admiral is equivalent to the rank of general in the other uniformed services. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps has never had an officer hold the grade of admiral. However, 37 U.S.C. § 201 of the U.S. Code established the grade for the NOAA Corps, in case a position is created that merits the four-star grade.
In the United States military, a general is the most senior general-grade officer; it is the highest achievable commissioned officer rank that may be attained in the United States Armed Forces, with exception of the Navy and Coast Guard, which have the equivalent rank of admiral instead. The official and formal insignia of "general" is defined by its four stars.
Commodore was an early title and later a rank in the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard and the Confederate States Navy, and also has been a rank in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps and its ancestor organizations. For over two centuries, the designation has been given varying levels of authority and formality.
United States Coast Guard officer rank insignia describes an officer's pay-grade. Rank is displayed on collar devices, shoulder boards, and on the sleeves of dress uniforms.
In the United States Armed Forces, a brigadier general is a one-star general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force.
In the United States Armed Forces, a major general is a two-star general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force.
A tombstone promotion is an advance in rank awarded at retirement. It is often an honorary promotion that does not include any corresponding increase in retired pay, whose only benefit is the right to be addressed by the higher rank and have it engraved on one's tombstone.
Lieutenant commander (LCDR) is a junior officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, with the pay grade of O-4 and NATO rank code OF-3. Lieutenant commanders rank above lieutenants and below commanders. The rank is also used in the United States Maritime Service. The rank is equivalent to a major in the United States Army, United States Air Force, United States Marine Corps, and United States Space Force.
Vice admiral is a three-star commissioned officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, with the pay grade of O-9. Vice admiral ranks above rear admiral and below admiral. Vice admiral is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant general in the other uniformed services.
A general officer is an officer of high military rank; in the uniformed services of the United States, general officers are commissioned officers above the field officer ranks, the highest of which is colonel in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force and captain in the Navy, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (NOAACC).
In the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, captain is the senior-most commissioned officer rank below that of flag officer. The equivalent rank is colonel in the United States Army, Air Force, Space Force, and Marine Corps.
The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps uses the same commissioned officer rank structure as the United States Navy and Coast Guard: from ensign to admiral. While the commissioned corps is authorized to use warrant officer ranks W-1 to W-4 under the U.S. Code of law, it does not currently use these ranks.
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