In the United States military, enlisted personnel pay grades are designated by the letter E and a number representing the step up the pay chart. E-9 is the highest step on the chart, but not all E-9s are created equal. In the Navy, the designation can represent one of four different possible rates -- rather than ranks -- depending on the sailor's particular duties.
Master Chief Petty Officer
The basic E-9 rate in the Navy is the master chief petty officer. Sailors of this rate are called master chiefs. This step follows senior chief petty officer (E-8), chief petty officer (E-7) and the three classes of petty officer (E-4 through E-6). Senior chiefs and master chiefs have more than 15 years of experience and often serve as a unit commander's right hand in dealing with enlisted personnel.
Command Master Chief Petty Officer
Every Naval force of more than 250 sailors has a senior enlisted man. This particular master chief is known as the command master chief petty officer, and this is usually the highest rate a sailor can attain. A command master chief must go through the Command Master Chief Program, which prepares her for the responsibilities of the job. This includes both leadership and communications training. The command master chief serves not only as the senior noncommissioned officer on a vessel or for a flight wing, but also as a bridge between the sailors and the commissioned officers who lead them.
Fleet Master Chief Petty Officer
Just as individual vessels and flight wings have a command master chief. so too do entire fleets -- consisting of ships, aircraft and more -- have a senior fleet master chief petty officer. The fleet master chief plays the same type of role as other E-9s, but on an even larger command scale. This sailor usually has served in one or more assignments as a command master chief before earning the promotion to fleet master chief.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
Finally, there is one master chief who is the senior enlisted man for the entire United States Navy. This master chief is known as the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. He outranks every other enlisted man in the service and serves as an advisor to the Navy's highest commanding officers, including the Chief of Naval Operations and Chief of Naval Personnel. In addition, he represents the Navy's enlisted personnel at everything from ceremonies to Congressional hearings.It is highestE-9 rate to which a sailor can aspire.