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The primary mission of personnel in the United States Armed Forces is to defend the country. Those in the Marines use amphibious assaults to open up positions, which those in the Army can then dominate. Both branches train their members extensively and expose them to the same level of risk. They are thus paid with competitive salaries, including perks unavailable to civilians.
Personnel in the Army and Marines receive the same pay for the same rank, experience and duties. This is because, like all members of the Armed Forces, they use the exact same pay tables. This ensures fairness and emphasizes that the risk to all service personnel are the same, regardless of service branch. These tables divide staff into enlisted and officers. The Marines have a third category of personnel that it shares with the Navy: warrant officers, who are technical specialists. Pay for all tables is divided into grades based on rank. These are further differentiated according to years of experience. Both the Army and Marines share the same rank designations such as private, first sergeant, colonel and general.
Salaries for enlisted men and women have nine grade levels, with the lowest of E-1 belonging to privates with no insignia and with less than four months of service. As of January 2011, their pay is $1,467.60 per month. At grade E-2, a private with an insignia, pay is $1,644.90 per month no matter the experience. Experience makes a difference at higher grades, so that by E-6, staff sergeant, pay ranges from $2,281.20 for two years or less of service to a maximum of $3,533.40 per month after 18 years of service. The highest pay goes to grade E-9, sergeant major, for over 38 years of service. Pay is $7,195.80 per month.
Officers have 10 grade levels starting with O-1, second lieutenant, which starts at $2,784 per month for under two years of service and goes to a maximum of $3,502.50 per month for over three years of service. Lieutenant colonels, who are grade O-5, make $4,893 per month for under two years of service to a maximum of $8,313 per month for over 22 years of service. Pay at grades O-7 (brigadier general) to O-10 (general) is limited to a maximum defined by Level II of the Executive Schedule, a pay table used for government executives. This is $14,975.10 per month.
Marines and soldiers receive free room and board while staying on bases. However, they can choose to reside in civilian quarters, and will receive a fixed food allowance and a basic housing allowance that depends on rank and number of dependents. They also receive additional pay for special duties and responsibilities. For example, flyers or those serving on sea vessels get incentive pay, and those who are professional health officers such as doctors or nurses get special pay.