Rank: Does It Matter, Or Doesn’t It?


Please excuse me here, I’m on a little rant.  I hope that I don’t offend anyone, or start some sort of argument.  Andi’ll kill me if I do…

I was just reading over my Facebook page, and the American Forces Network Europe (AFN) status update advertised an USO-sponsored contest for a trip to Disney.  I honestly didn’t have any intention of entering, but I did click through to check out the details.  Family of five, boo, must leave from Frankfurt, inconvenient, late July, not going to work for us, must be E-4 or below, …WHAT?

I may be the only person on the planet who feels this way, but I find the mixed messages regarding rank to be very confusing.  Here at SpouseBUZZ, we try very hard to treat every single person as a person.  Because we are all people, and we all put our pants on one leg at a time, and because this is not a military organization.  And most military spouses are not also in the military, and the ones who are don’t come to SpouseBUZZ for military stuff, but for military spouse stuff.

And spouses, as we are constantly reminded, have no rank.

Except for when we do.  Well, we still don’t, but our lives are directly impacted by our spouse’s rank.  Like with the new MyCAA program.  Or the Sure Start program at the Elementary School.  Or this contest.  All things that my family can not use because my spouse has been in the military too long.

Because honestly, what this boils down to, is time, not rank.  I don’t know all the career paths of every individual part of the military, but from what I have seen, most service members will promote past the E-4 level if they stay in the military long enough.  And if these policies are, in effect, about time in the service, then doesn’t that seem a little backwards?  Here, you haven’t been in very long, let’s give you all these extras.  Once you’ve stayed, we’ll take them away.  Thanks for your loyalty.

So, which is it?  Should family programs be affected by their sponsor’s rank, or not?  I don’t really care what the answer is, but I find it frustrating that the answer changes depending on the situation.

What do you think?

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Sarah H.

    This chaps me… this is the same philosophy that gave all fo the new RCI housing to our first termers but forced mid-careerist to take the nearly condemned, older than Custer housing. I get it – it’s a retention thing, but at what point do those who have committed to the military get forgotten?

  • Amy

    It bothers me too but that’s probably because Im on the non-receiving end. I was also denied the MyCAA grant for certificate education because of my husband’s rank. We are riddled with student loan debt and arent making that much more than enlisted of comparable service time after paying those loans.

  • Sherry S.

    What a logical way to think about it. What makes me smile about this is that it sounds like you have to have a family of 5 and be an E-4 or below. My husband was an E-5 by the time we met in his early 20’s. I know some do start families young, but do we really want to promote that lifestyle on limited income as a part of Military “family values.” I understand about the inconsistencies, I was about to apply for the MyCAA program and found out the rules had changed and as a now officer spouse, no longer qualified. Whose to say I don’t need the money for school for a more travel friendly career?

    • Brandie

      I was quite shocked when I read 5 but maybe they mean extended family? If it’s Europe it could be a foreign national’s family members…I hope….Unless the E-4 has a spouse that makes a lot of money I don’t see them having 3 kids!

  • Sarah

    I remember an event from our old post, there was a raffle for a Harley Davidson jacket and for a whole danged motorcycle. I knew both winners: the jacket was won by my friend’s husband, an E-4, and the Harley was won by an O-3’s wife. Now this was a straight-up raffle, you just bought a ticket and had the same chance as anyone. But ohhhh, how chapped people were that the commander’s wife won. And the commander already had a Harley, which made the griping even worse. People clearly were miffed that she won the bike because they figured (whether right or wrong) that she could’ve afforded it herself.

    I’m just thinking the same griping and sour taste in people’s mouths would happen if a higher-ranking family won a trip to Disney.

    • Chaplain Ed

      As a field grade officer myself I would buy a raffle ticket and not put my real name/phone number on the receipt. That way I could support a worthy cause and not actually win!

    • SAG

      Yes, and it can be argued that the O-3 spouse has much more money to spend on the raffle than the lowly E-3!

  • Chrystine

    I agree with both lines of thinking. I agree that sometimes there are extra benefits for lower ranking soldiers who earn less and its fair at times. I also agree that loyalty should be rewarded. I get annoyed sometimes when “retirees” aren’t allowed discounts that private sectors give “active” military, I worked 24 years to get that Retired ID card. Doesn’t that count for something?>

  • SuckItUp

    I think that it is nice that anyone is donating anything to anyone. I am sorry that these things strike a chord with you. If you would like to be in our shoes, feel free to request demotion. We qualify for welfare. I am separated from my child as per requirements for enlistment and a lack of money to remedy the legal matter. We have student loan payments. We have insane child support payments because of the amount of time said child can visit due to distance. We have other children in our home that we are struggling to support. We are “required” to do things that are against Army regs, because there is no way to report without retaliation, or the IG just does not care. Oh and by the way, even if we won the trip to Disney, our chain would not grant leave for us to go unless it occurs inside of a block leave period pre-determined and allowed to change at anytime upon a whim of our ‘leaders’…. so please would you like some milk and cookies from me too???

    • Retired E-8

      If you don’t like it get out. Try seeing how sympathetic they are in the civilian job market to your child support and vistation woes.

    • Getoveryourself

      You don’t have a rank issue you have a habitual bad decision issue. Don’t go around p-ssing on others legs because you took a number of wrong turns.

    • SuckIt~suckitup

      wow-really? you need a job (ACS offers free classes from interviews to resumes), budget counseling (again, ACS can help you with that for free), and therapy for your “poor me; the world is out to get me” whinning (call your PCM for a referral to a shrink, that service is also free). sounds like you make life real good for your kids..your rant states “our”, so im not sure if youre the sm or your spouse, but sounds like you make life real good there as well. people with attitudes like yours make me sick. have some self pride, do something for yourself. dont get pissed because “nobody” does enough for you….

  • Rain into Rainbows

    The thing that bothers me the most about that is that it is a USO sponsored contest. When people donate to the USO, they aren’t donating to certain branches, ranks, bases, etc. They are donating to the troops, period.

  • SemperSteen

    I don’t know how other branches are, but in the Marines time served and rank don’t always match up. It can take quite a long time to get promoted from E-3 to E-4 due to high cutting scores and the fact that this branch is so dang small, so room for promotion is limited. They say the Marine Corps is run by lance corporals because so many don’t exceed that rank in their first enlistment. So at least in this branch a contest designed for E-4 and below would cover a large percentage of active duty members.
    Also, an E-4 or below would likely not have the funds to take their family to Disneyworld.

  • Crosswind

    Like the “progressive” tax structure our country has in place, this is punitive for thoase who have attained some measure of success in their career. Like requiring an Officer pay for uniforms and patches when Enlisted get them for free. What is the reason for the slightly higher pay again?

    • Katie

      Free? My husband just laid three hundred dollars out of one paycheck on deployment gear. It was his first deployment and his packing list was given to him 10 days before he left. You remind me of an E5 I know that complains about how much gas is for his BMW.

  • Elijah Tishbite

    One small point. Rank has its benefits. Rank is earned. The higher the rank, more benefits. You come across like the person who owned 100 horses but still desired the poor mans mule. Point: Be ye thankful for what ye have, least that be taken also.

  • spouse

    Yea that E4 would have loved that Harley until he got the bill at tax time for that little “gift”, then it would have been a lot of griping about how they can’t afford the taxes on it. Unless of course they qualify for the abomination of the “unearned” income tax credit/child tax credit that is

  • AF Spouse

    I have to be honest–As a former enlisted member now married to an officer I have no problem with junior ranking troops getting more “perks.” They need them more. I grew up in a military family (father was enlisted 26 years in USN), joined the AF after high school (9 years enlisted), and now married to an AF officer. The officers have it good. Damn good in my opinion. Just compare paychecks. When junior enlisted folk get a promotion pay goes up maybe $150. When my wife gets a promotion it’s more like $1200 a month. We worked hard and sacrificed for many years on my enlisted salary to get her through college and i feel we earned that pay raise. It does put us in a great financial position. Since I know what it is like to be junior enlisted I have absolutely no problem giving extra “perks” to junior folk because they can benefit most from them.

  • CMSgt Chandler

    Rank is not to be an issue in family or personal life of the spouse or their family. No where in any regulation or instruction does rank play an issue in the spouse or family life. “Rank has it privileges” is spelled out in regulations and instructions – they cover specific privileges “earned” by the military serving member by obtaining the “rank” they have earned. The military is not a social engineering arena. What will you do when the base commander’s wife demands your wife act in an issue? Is it fair that an E-4’s children or below get benefits that those above cannot have because they don’t earn enough? Use your enlisted and officer organizations and your community programs – not the social engineering routes that open doors to surfdoms. Remember, we have rules, UCMJ, regulations, and instructions that fill our daily lives. Let’s not bring our families into the fray of ranks and privileges where problems always arise from such issues. Would you give away your rank so someone who has less can earn a higher rank? Better to use the systems outside the chain (i.e. professional organizations and spouse organizations) to help them than to pursue this cause.

  • CTOCS77

    Simple RHIP…This happens everywhere not just in the military. How many of you have been invited to the White House for a beer or an easter roll?

  • Fed Up!

    I’m w/ Brandon! It’s amazing how women can find practically anything to complain about!!!

    The USO is trying to lessen the burdened on over-worked, underpaid and under-appreciated service members and their families. But instead of championing this attempt to include a segment that often made to feel outside the cliquish circle of acceptance… this dumb broad is complaining about it!!!

    Honestly, I doubt the author really cares about this issue. It was just another way for her to loudly, and ignorantly complain. I’m sure her husband happily VOLUNTEERS to works long hours, just to avoid having to come home to this miserable shew!!!

  • Chris

    Many of the spouses don’t realize that E-4 and below, get a tremedous amount of the “unfavorable” details. Ofcourse, RHIP is applied here. However, so is the idea of taking care of your troops. Don’t get stuck on a horse you can’t get off of. Enjoy the perks you have, the civilian world really doesn’t care about your rank or the fact that you served or you’re a military wife.

    • M.M

      We started somewhere too. We too were those lower ranking personnel that had to do the “unfavorable” details. So yes RHIP, because don’t you think we earned it?

  • graceofone

    Personally strikes a cord with me because we live in area where the only preschool is SureStart and of course my child does not qualify based on rank. Is that fair to my child? I would even be willing to pay for the preschool but that is not even an option with SureStart.

    • guest

      It is not your rank that keeps you from qualifying for Sure Start, it is your income. Surestart is a state-funded program not military affiliated. If you want your child to have free preschool you need to write to your senator and ask him to draft a bill to add preschool to the public education system so it can be free to all children regardless of income. This is not a rank or military issue.

  • Robin

    *shrugs* I feel like life’s too short to worry about “Who’s getting mine? Am I not getting mine?” Getting sucked into feelings of entitlement and resentment over what other people get/earn/buy/are given isn’t a helpful thing for my peace of mind and probably not for most people’s. If a soldier out there whose family is probably barely holding it together financially and who probably rarely gets time off a hard job can spend some time with her or his spouse and kids on a vacation with some donated help, that’s a big “awww, nice” from me but otherwise has no effect on me. If I want to take my kids to Disney, I’ll worry about my own spouse’s leave time and our available income. Boundaries, you know? Got enough other things in this world to raise my blood pressure.

    This is also not the first time I’ve seen resentment about rank on this blog, which surprises me. It seems like sometimes posters are eager to attribute negative things to rank (a generalization) when really it’s a case of individuals being jerks, regardless of what pin they or their spouses wear. Is it easier to say, “Oh, it’s because he’s just an enlisted guy” or “Yeah, all officers’ wives are snotty like that” than to actually deal on a personal level with the particular human beings involved that are bothering you?


    I think that lower ranking families, O-1 through O-3 included, should get a couple of breaks that the “higher ups” don’t. But there should be just as many exclusive offers geared for the ones with more time in service. But any raffle or give away should be open to anyone regardless of rank, income, time in grade, family size, etc. The only caveat would be restricting family oriented give aways, like trips to Disney, to members with families. Keeping it, again, open to any grade, family size, etc.


      Let me clarify where I’m coming from on this decision. My husband has been in the AF less than 2 years and is already an E-3. He was an E-3 straight out of Tech School. So in terms of getting the use out of these “free” services that others might coming in as an E-1, we won’t get as much time to do so. As far as housing goes, we didn’t get a new unit. We didn’t qualify because of his rank. The only ones allowed in new housing on my base are the officers and NCOs. If you rank up while here and want to move into that section, you pay huge fee. (I’m talking $2,000+) But housing here is privatized and based on your BAH. So the more you have to give them, the better the unit you get to have. Got to love capitalisim! Also, my cousin is a low ranking officer in the USN so I know that they don’t get the financial priviledges that enlisted get.

      • M.M

        O1-O3 included? Do you not realize that an O-2 makes more money then an E6 with 18 years in??

  • Barbara

    I don’t personally have any issue with E-4 and below families getting needed perks. I remember all too well what it was like to be a young junior enlisted family trying to scrape by. That said, I find the restructuring of the MyCAA program to be a little odd. As an E-6 spouse, I lost my education benefits when MyCAA changed their program. Then my husband got promoted to WO-1, and I now qualify again. Clearly, we make more money now as an officer family than we did as a senior SNCO. I’m grateful for the school money either way, but the rationale of the setup isn’t very clear.

  • Darryl

    ” Out here, if a spouse… rank, oh no, spouse should not have rank, for instance spouse is coming in a casket… from the frontlines, and ah, send a purple heart to the spouse’ s parents, and without a flag, either, okay, all the while wearing normal everyday daily activity clothing. ”

  • I’m just glad that even if I qualify for different programs designed for ranks, that I don’t need them. I really think it boils down to choices. While my husband is enlisted, we don’t have debt, we take vacations, we buy new cars every 10 years or so, and we have three kids. I finished my MBA before we had kids, and while that might not be on everyone’s list, it was on ours. I qualify for the MyCaa, but I haven’t used it. I probably qualify for most things, but I can’t imagine how anyone can use it if they plan accordingly. What I can’t stand currently in my FRG is that because of my husband’s rank, I am thought to be an idiot, when I know that my intelligence far outweighs theirs, lol.

    • SemperSteen

      Perhaps it’s your arrogant attitude that’s giving you trouble with your FRG. Just because you personally do not need programs offered to enlisted spouses doesn’t mean you’re somehow better or smarter than anyone else, or that those enlisted programs aren’t needed. Everyone’s situation is different and things don’t always go according to plan in life, regardless of how carefully those plans are laid out. Also, the number of college diplomas on your wall is not a measure of intelligence.

    • Stir the pot more…

      Oh God, FRG! Why would anyone want to be a part of FRG? We are Navy and lived one year on a army base and couldn’t believe some of the wackos! Then again, now that I think of it, I recall many wackos in the Navy too! I should write a book….in all of my 15 years of working in the civilian world nothing compares to the soap operas that I encountered in my husband’s squadrons. Absolutely crazy stuff!
      BTW – no one can make you feel inferior (or in your words an idiot) without your approval.

  • Brandon

    Ugh. Freakin’ women. God y’all suck.

    “I find it frustrating that the answer changes depending on the situation.” …Well that’s because you’re a typical woman. And you are unable to use your stupid brain to realize that very little in life is cut & dry, black or white. I realize that when your entire life revolves around making dinner, washing clothes and tuning into your daily soaps… it is extremely difficult to understand this… but life is actually quite complex! Often many answers in life are dependent on situational factors. Things are rarely answered with the simplicity that you seek.

    So what’s the lesson here? Easy: shut up and get back to cooking dinner. :)

    • Navy wife

      AMEN !!! I agree and I am a WOMAN!! hahaha… Get Over it spouses!! It is what it is, live with it or get out !!! I say if that E4 has all those dependents, they surely need the perks. I have absolutely No problem with it.

      • Dawn

        Hey Brandon, personally, I think that you suck. How about you shut up and stop hurling insults and making assumptions based on a post that simply poses a question. You don’t know anything about the author or her home situation, so please stop pretending that you do.

        Sounds to me that maybe you’re a little bitter about something. Then again, that would only be an assumption.

    • Mary M

      Brandon, I am going to guess that you are trying to be humorous in your posts. However, one day your wife is going to whack you upside the head with that frying pan she’s supposed to be cooking with. And I hope it’s a cast iron one! :)

  • Guest

    You do not understand how complex life truly is. But one thing is quite simple: your ignorance disgraces the uniform you wear.

  • Mary M

    Okay, I have a comment that is a cousin to what the original post was. What about the BOSS program. I personally think it is an excellent thing and the one here is very active and does some great mentoring and such. However, they also have great trips and activities of which many are free. There is nothing like that for married soldiers. I know of many couples, my husband and I included, who would love to have the activities and the opportunities to mentor and volunteer. I volunteer with Army Community Services (ACS), but to have a family progrsm similar to the BOSS program in the Army would be wonderful and a book for all.

  • Mary M

    Soory, that should be “boon” not “book.” OOPS!!

  • Mary M

    And again, should be “sorry” not “soory.” Time to stop typing.

  • E5’s wife

    Speaking about this specific contest…I see nothing wrong with it. E4’s do not make a lot of money, and this is a nice “thank you” to them for starting their careers in a not-always-easy world. Each rank has perks and each rank has cons. My husbands (who’s an E5) unit is not paying their E6 and below guys travel pay, but E7 & above get full incentive. How is THAT fair? You travel 400 miles but get nothing for it? But these are the things we deal with as military families. We may not like everything but this is the life we’ve all chosen. And Im still real proud of my husbands work for this Country.

  • Another wife-

    I guess the guidelines for the contest are to help narrow it down to families they feel would be happiest and neediest to win. My spouse was an E-4 with 3 kids… Then was and E-6 with 4 and made W01 and with the slight pay raise of about $60 we got bumped up a tax bracket and lost $50 more each month to taxes… Anyways, my point is: the same way an E-4 and below has financial hardships, so can other higher ranks depending on their circumstances. I know as a W3 and 5 kids we had to watch our $ because of our family size and the fact that student loans and other financial responsibilities don’t magically disappear as soldiers make rank. I even know of a good amount of high ranking warrants that adopt or having to take in family (children) so that their W-4 pay gets spread as thin as the pay an E-4 would have. So who’s to judge? I guess the people giving away the prize.

  • Mark

    what if the E-4 has the same amount of kids as the W-4? Nobody told either of them to have so many kids. Also, nobody likes to see the commander’s or Chief’s wife winning a vacation when their family easily brings in 3-5 times the amount a junior enlisted member makes. It’s about morale for the people at the bottom of the workforce not the people at the top.

  • Officer’s Wife

    Just because you are of a certain rank, doesn’t always mean that this particular O3 is making more money in the civilian world than this particular E4. My husband is an O3, National Guard, we struggle most times to make ends meet because he is working in the civilian world getting civilian pay – if he were Active Duty I would understand totally why I would not be eligible for offers. I personally know an E5 and an E4 who are lawyers in the civilian world, hmmm, somehow the freebies and offers going to them but not us make me very disgruntled at times….

    • M.M

      Guard and Reserve are paid entirely different. It’s apples to oranges with AD pay. However that is the choice that was chosen. Not being mean but really? How can you complain??

  • I honestly haven’t read through all of the comments but I’ve thought about this for a LONG time. As my husband is a warrant officer, I’ve experienced this lifestyle from when he was a PFC until here we are 17 years later…and it boils down to this – is it CHARITY or is it APPRECIATION? BIG difference. If it’s charity to help out with school supplies, diapers, furniture, glasses, etc..then okay, fine. But if it’s to “appreciate” the military and military spouses for serving, then there should be NO rank restriction on who can enter/win/join/etc. I don’t know WHY every time we sign up for something via ASYMCA, USO, and other groups, I have to put down a rank. I DON”T have one, so I refuse to put my husband’s down, I write in “family member” in the space.

    It’s like we’re discriminated against JUST because my husband achieved something significant in his career over 17 years of service, and I happen to have stayed married to him all this time.

    Thank you for not being scared to put it out there – rank discrimination by not only individuals but by whole organizations against a family or a spouse is real.

  • M.M

    O1-O3 included? Do you not realize that an O-2 makes more money then an E6 with 18 years in??

    For example an E6 with 18+ yrs gets $3590 base pay (2012 pay chart)
    an O-2 with 2 years in (how many officers do you know make O2 under 2 years) gets $3711 base pay. Now if said O2 lives off base his/her BAH is higher then enlisted also. So no O1’s-O-3’s don’t deserve the same freebies as an E-1-E-4.

  • Mike

    Military rank……the oldest caste system. It is overplayed and outdated.

  • Mimi

    Little late to this game but I would much rather have the respect and positive assumptions that officers’ wives get right out of the gate than a chance to win (as an enlisted wife) some silly trip

  • Guest

    Rank is like money.. It only matters to those who don’t have it. Spouses included