Rank has rarely been a significant issue in official Joe fiction, with experience seeming to count more rather than actual rank. The cartoon seemed to ignore it altogether, except in the movie, when Lt. Falcon tried to pull rank on Duke and failed. Nevertheless, the filecards take care to report the rank of all but two or three Joes, and even early Cobras had equivalents ranging from E-4 to O-5. Enlisted rank insignias are rarely seen, but when they are, they are sometimes upside-down from real-life insignias and sometimes not.
U. S. Military Pay Grades
|Grade||Army||Marines||Air Force||Navy||Coast Guard|
|O-9||Lieutenant General||Vice Admiral|
|O-8||Major General||Rear Admiral (Upper)|
|O-7||Brigadier General||Rear Admiral (Lower)|
|O-2||First Lieutenant||Lieutenant Junior Grade|
|W-5||Chief Warrant Officer||(discontinued)||Chief Warrant Officer|
|W-4||Chief Warrant Officer||Chief Warrant Officer|
|W-3||Chief Warrant Officer||Chief Warrant Officer|
|W-2||Chief Warrant Officer||Chief Warrant Officer|
|W-1||Warrant Officer||Warrant Officer|
|Grade||Army||Marines||Air Force||Navy||Coast Guard|
|E-9||Sergeant Major||Chief Master Sergeant||Master Chief Petty Officer|
|E-8||Master Sergeant or First Sergeant||Senior Master Sergeant||Senior Chief Petty Officer|
|E-7||Sergeant First Class||Gunnery Sergeant||Master Sergeant||Chief Petty Officer|
|E-6||Staff Sergeant||Technical Sergeant||Petty Officer, 1st Class|
|E-5||Sergeant||Staff Sergeant||Petty Officer, 2nd Class|
|E-4||Specialist or Corporal||Sergeant or Senior Airman||Petty Officer, 3rd Class|
|E-3||Private First Class||Lance Corporal||Airman First Class||Seaman|
|E-2||Private||Private First Class||Airman||Seaman Apprentice|
|E-1||Private||Private||Airman Basic||Seaman Recruit|
The vast majority of Joes are in the U.S. Army. But the following represent foreign armed forces or other branches of the U.S. military:
British Secret Service (M.I.5)
- Lt. Stone (Sigma 6)
Law Enforcement (currently or formerly)
- Red Zone
- Sneak Peek (II)
- Law (and Order)
- Steel Brigade Commander
- Steel Brigade Paratrooper
- Wide Scope
- Deep Six
- Depth Charge
- Dr. Link Talbot
- Harpoon (Extreme)
- Wet Down
Oktober Guard (Soviet Union)
- General Iron Bear Vaskovia
- Big Bear
- Col. Brekhov
- Daina / Volga / Vorona
- Lt. Gorky
- Red Star
- Sgt. Misha Zubenkov
No Rank Given
- Mercer (listed as E-5 Equivalent)
- Red Dog (listed as E-5 Equivalent)
- Specialist Trakker (specialist implies E-4)
- Storm Shadow (as G.I. Joe member)
- Taurus (listed as E-5 Equivalent)
Rank on the cartoon
As mentioned above, the Sunbow cartoon generally disregarded Joe rank. Otherwise, the first-season Joe team would have been led by Ace and Doc, with the next-ranking officers being Cutter and Steeler. Shipwreck would have outranked Beach Head, and Bazooka would have been giving orders to Alpine.
The various team members usually treated one another as equals, and leadership on a mission was more a matter of functionality and experience than official rank. The only Joes addressed by rank on the series were First Sergeant Hauser, Sergeant Slaughter, Lieutenant Falcon, and General Hawk, plus "colonels" Dial-Tone, Lifeline, and Shipwreck. (In their episode, Beachhead expressed surprise that the promotions had not gone to him, Roadblock, or Slip-Stream.)
G.I. Joe's leadership, as reported in "Arise, Serpentor, Arise" and "The Most Dangerous Thing in the World," had Hawk at the head of the team, followed by Duke, then Flint, and finally Beachhead and Sgt. Slaughter. In the absence of these, Scarlett, Ace, and Lady Jaye usually took the lead on their missions, and Stalker, Gung-Ho, Cover Girl, Cutter, Roadblock, Dusty, and Tollbooth also took on leadership roles at times. Shipwreck was not averse to shouting orders to his teammates, but he apparently never carried legitimate authority over anyone. In addition, Cutter sat next to Flint at Dusty's court-martial, and Slip-Stream, Wild Bill, and Admiral Ledger were alongside Hawk at Falcon's hearing. Admiral Ledger was in charge of the USS Flagg but seemed to be outside the Joe team itself, on par with Colonel Sharp.
Rank in the comic
Rank seems to have little to do with who is in charge of any given mission. As one example, in issues 6 and 7, Stalker (E-5, Sergeant) was put in charge of a team that included Steeler (O-2, First Lieutenant). Stalker went so far as to remind Steeler, an officer, that "this ain't no democracy." Similar examples abound; Keel-Haul should outrank everyone (including Hawk) but virtually no-one behaves as though this were true, Duke and Stalker routinely lead teams that include officers or at least higher-ranking enlisted men, and so on. In a possible reference to the cartoon, at least once - the disastrous Trucial Abyssmia mission - it has been a minor plot point that Duke was in charge of a team that included Falcon despite the latter's higher rank.
- ↑ Tripwire, Airborne, and Spirit's first figures.
- ↑ Eleven men have held rank higher than the four-star O-10. "Five star" Generals of the Army: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, and Bradley; Fleet Admirals Leahy, King, Nimitz, and Halsey; and General of the Armies of the United States John J. Pershing and George Washington. (Washington's rank was awarded posthumously in 1976.)
- ↑ The Air Force is the only branch that does not have any ranks available in the Warrant Officer Tier.
- ↑ Army E-4's are regarded as specialists except when specifically named corporals. It is presumed that most Joe E-4's are classified as corporals as part of their assignment to the G.I. Joe team.
- ↑ Assumes the "Mega Marines" of 1993 were all Marines. If not, then Blast-Off, Clutch, and Mirage are probably Army, and the Marines are probably angry about lending their name to three Army guys.