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What's the differences between an officer and an enlisted member of the military?

I've heard a lot of talk about animosity between officer and enlisted spouses. Is it true?

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Asked by Anonymous at 4:24 AM on Apr. 25, 2009 in Money & Work

Answers (9)
  • Officers are much higher on the totem pole. You can only be an officer in the military if you have a bachelors degree or higher. This generall means that officers are a bit older than the enlisted. There can be animosity between officer and enlisted spouses. Generally, they don't hang out together much because the enlisted members and the officers aren't supposed to hang out together. It's kind of like hanging out with your boss, and that's a no no. If there is an event where the wives would be mixed, they generally stick with their own, but sometimes the officers and their wives can be on a bit of a power trip and think they are better than the enlistees and their wives. Does this make sense? Hope it helps!

    Answer by mom2eliandjayde at 5:07 AM on Apr. 25, 2009

  • Enlisted you do not have to go to college, though you may have a degree and be enlisted. Officer, you have to have a degree. You can come in directly as an officer or you can be prior enlisted and get a commission once you're in. (though it's easier to come in as an officer than to go prior enlisted)

    I disagree that officers are generally older than enlisted, it would depend on paygrade, not all enlisted people are young. For example, my dh is enlisted, and he's a 37 yr old Chief in the Navy (which is an E-7, E meaning enlisted, 7 meaning what "level"or rank of enlisted). There are officers that we know that are much younger than he is, and are Jr officers. Part of my dh's job as a Sr Enlisted is to help train and mentor Jr Officers.

    There are pros and cons to both.


    Answer by Anonymous at 6:21 AM on Apr. 25, 2009

  • cont
    A good way to look at it is this - the CO (officer) sets the "vision" for what (s)he wants accomplished. They share that vision with the rest of their wardroom. Then, those officers divvy up the sections of that vision that pertain to their particular areas. They then turn it over to their Chiefs, or Sr Enlisted, who then devise a plan to achieve the vision that's been laid out. Then, they turn it over to the Petty Officers, who do the job / supervise the Jr Enlisted Seamen who do the job to achieve that vision.

    Every rank has it's place, and each serves a valuable purpose, it just really depends on what your personal strengths are. For example, my dh loves being Enlisted, and has turned down chances to apply to go Officer, because he prefers to be more on the "hands on" side of the house. It's what makes him happy.

    btw, I'm anon here b/c my dh's paygrade has nothing to do with me here, so I'm keeping it private

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:27 AM on Apr. 25, 2009

  • It is true about the education and such, but not always true about spouses being divided. I'm the wife of an enlisted man (with a Bachelor's degree working on his Master's, by the way), and we have friends within enlisted AND officer ranks - both members and spouses. I have never been snubbed or left out of anything.
    I believe it all has to do with maturity and compassion.

    Answer by PrydferthMenyw at 4:40 PM on Apr. 25, 2009

  • I agree PrydferthMenyw.

    Yes, there are those that do that, and yes, there are restrictions on how much socializing / fraternization the AD members can do, but that goes to the nature of their work. But I have friends who are fairly Senior Officers wives, and friends who are married to fairly Jr Enlisted. Yes, most of my military spouse friends have husbands who fall into paygrades around my dh's. But that has less to do with the military imposing this and more to do with they are often around my age, have kids around my kids' ages, live in the same neighborhoods (either because we're in housing and that's where we're assigned, or we live out in town and we get the similar housing allowances, and end up in the same neighborhoods). Also, they're the spouses of my dh's friends.


    Answer by sailorwifenmom at 5:12 PM on Apr. 25, 2009

  • I have friends on both sides of the coin, and the only annimosity I've seen from either group is towards the wives that think THEY wear the chevrons but you'll find those in both groups.

    Answer by BlueCollarMama at 5:36 PM on Apr. 25, 2009

  • BlueCollarMama,

    Exactly! There is a huge difference between a spouse who is like "you know, I've been doing this a long time, or I've gone through this or that, and this is what I've learned, maybe I can help you", and one who says "well, my spouse is this or that, so you all have to kiss my rear", or "your spouse is this or that, so you must automatically expect me to want you to kiss your rear" without getting to know if that's the case first.

    But I think you have that in the civilian sector, too. There are snobs (and "reverse snobs") in every area of life.

    Answer by sailorwifenmom at 5:45 PM on Apr. 25, 2009

  • Its actually a bit more complicated then what has been said. There are 3 basic categories for military personnel - enlisted, non-commissioned officers, and commissioned officers.
    Commissioned officers hold positions of authority, they derive their authority from soveriegn powers( the United States specifically here) directly, they are generally the only members who can act as commanding officers. They also generally hold some type of higher learning degree, however this is not always the case, ocassionally an enlisted man will work his way up the ranks to become a commissioned officer (my father did this) with the understanding he will attain a degree within a certain time frame.
    Non-coms are said to have control, or charge, but not in "command" per se. They do not derive their authority from the soveriegn power directly but from those higher up then themselves, and thusly are not "commissioned" with the authority to command.

    Answer by wyldreams at 1:19 PM on Apr. 28, 2009

  • (ugh I hate that 940 char limit)
    Enlisted are the worker bees, they take the orders and they carry them out. They are not allowed in a position of authority ( except in wartime direct battle situations)

    There is also something known as a warrant officer, which is sort of in between NCO's and CO's but it is specific to one service.

    There is a well known division between enlisted, NCO's and CO's look at the entertainment system set up onboard most military installations. There is an enlisted club, an NCO Club and then the O club ( which has all the nice amenities, like here it has the pool for the familes of officers). Fraternization between the ranks (enlisted vs officers) is not encouraged, thus it has bred a type of predjudice between enlisted and officers. It has always been this way and will always continue this way.

    Answer by wyldreams at 1:26 PM on Apr. 28, 2009

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