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In the United States Navy, commissioned officers are either line officers or staff corps officers. Staff corps officers are specialists in career fields that are professions unto themselves, such as physicians, lawyers, civil engineers, chaplains, and supply specialists. For example, a physician can advance to become the commanding officer (CO) of a hospital, the medical (hospital) on a hospital ship or large ship, or a medical school or the chief of the Medical Corps or of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, while a supply officer can become the CO of a supply depot or a school or the head of the Naval Supply Systems Command.

The eight staff corps fall under different organizations throughout the navy. The four medicine-related corps (Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Nurse Corps, and Medical Service Corps) all fall under the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED).[1] The Civil Engineer Corps and Supply Corps fall under two of the Navy's systems commands, respectively Naval Facilities Engineering Command and Naval Supply Systems Command.[2][3] The Judge Advocate General's Corps and Chaplain Corps are directly under the Navy Secretariat.[4][5]

Staff Corps officers wear their specialty insignia on the sleeve of the dress blue uniforms and on their shoulder boards, in place of the star worn by line officers. On Winter Blue and Khaki uniforms, the specialty insignia is a collar device worn on the left collar, while the rank device is worn on the right.[6]



Current corpsEdit

The office of Purveyor of Public Supplies, which would eventually evolve into the Supply Corps, was established in 1795.[7] The insignia of an oak leaf and acorn was adopted in 1830 to signify members of all staff corps then in existence, which included doctors and pursers. The Medical Corps originally additionally used a rod of Asclepius, while the Pay Corps (renamed the Supply Corps in 1919) used a cornucopia.[8] The Medical Corps was formally founded in 1871,[9] and after several design changes, in 1894 symbols resembling the modern insignia were adopted.[8]

The Chaplain Corps was established and conferred relative rank in 1863. Chaplains had been appointed to the Navy since at least 1799. The Civil Engineer Corps came into existence in 1881, when they were conferred relative rank, despite the fact that civil engineers had been employed by the Navy at least since 1827. The insignia of two crossed silver sprigs was adopted in 1905.[8]

The Nurse Corps was established in 1908, and they were granted relative rank in 1942. In 1948 female Naval uniforms were standardized using the current corps insignia. The Dental Corps was established in 1912, and its current insignia was adopted the following year. The Medical Service Corps was established in 1947; from 1941 until 1947, these officers had been part of the Hospital Corps, which normally had contained only warrant officers and enlisted men. Its current insignia was adopted the following year.[8]

In 1918, the uniforms for all staff corps became identical to those of line officers, except for the distinguishing staff corps insignia. This was in response to complains of inequality from staff corps officers. Prior to this, staff corps were distinguished by colored bands between the rank stripes, with a different color for each corps.[10]

Although there had been a Judge Advocate General of the Navy since 1865, naval lawyers were line officers until they were split into their own staff corps in 1967.[11]

As of January 2015, the chiefs of five of the eight staff corps were women, including the Medical and Nurse Corps. The chiefs of the Civil Engineer, Chaplain, and Judge Advocate General's Corps were the first women to hold those posts.[1][12]

Former corpsEdit

The Engineer Corps was established in 1842, and they were conferred relative rank in 1859. From 1861 their insignia was four silver oak leaves in the form of a cross. The corps was disestablished in 1899 with its officers becoming line officers.[8] The absorption of ship engineers into the line was the result of conflicts in the chain of command; as staff officers, engineers were not authorized to command ships, but when in battle the engineer was in charge of maneuvering the ship while under steam power, which occurred usually during battle. An exchange of open letters in 1878 voiced line officers' concerns that discipline was suffering because engineers were sometimes of higher rank than the ship's second-in-command executive officer. The assimilation of engineers as line officers was a compromise that clarified the chain of command and elevated the status of engineers. This move made the United States Navy unusual, as other modern naves such as the Royal Navy still have a separate engineering corps. Due to the increasing complexity of ships' engineering systems after World War II, commanding officers were themselves required to undergo basic engineering training.[13]

The Corps of Professors of Mathematics was established in 1848, consisting of schoolmasters responsible for instructing midshipman at the Naval Academy, Naval Observatory, and aboard ships.[8] Although they were civilians, discipline at the Naval Academy required that they have commissioned ranks. Despite the name, their specialties were not limited to mathematics, but included astronomy, engineering, justice, and the teaching of foreign languages.[14] They were conferred relative rank in 1863, and in 1866 their insignia was defined as a silver live oak leaf and an acorn. In 1916 it was provided that no further appointments would be made to the Corps of Professors of Mathematics, but that existing members would retain their appointment until all such members had died, resigned, or been dismissed.[8] The corps' dissolution was the result of their own efforts in training line officers who would replace them, making civilian appointments unnecessary.[14]

The Naval Construction Corps was established and assigned relative rank in 1863, before which they were civilians. Their insignia was two silver leaves of live oak arranged vertically.[8] In 1940, the corps was abolished and naval constructors became line officers.[15]

List of current staff corpsEdit

Name Designator Insignia Highest-ranking position/Chief Incumbent
Medical Corps 210X   Surgeon General of the United States Navy  
VADM C. Forrest Faison III[1]
Chief, Medical Corps  
RDML Paul D. Pearigen[1]
Dental Corps 220X   Chief, Dental Corps  
RDML Gayle D. Shaffer[1]
Nurse Corps 290X   Director, Nurse Corps  
RDML Tina A. Davidson[1]
Medical Service Corps 230X   Director, Medical Service Corps  
RDML Anne M. Swap[1]
Chaplain Corps 410X varies by religion:


Chief of Chaplains of the United States Navy  
RADM Brent W. Scott[16]
Supply Corps 310X   Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command  
RADM Michelle C. Skubic[17]
Civil Engineer Corps 510X   Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command  
RADM John W. Korka[2]
Judge Advocate General's Corps 250X   Judge Advocate General of the Navy  
VADM John G. Hannink[18]

An officer designator describes their general community or profession. The (fourth) digit (X) denotes whether the officer has a Regular (0), Reserve (5), or Full Time Support (7) commission.

See alsoEdit


This article incorporates text in the public domain from the United States Navy.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Navy Medicine Leadership". US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Key Leadership". US Naval Facilities Engineering Command. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Supply Corps". US Naval Supply Systems Command. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Organization". US Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  5. ^ "10 U.S. Code § 5142 – Chaplain Corps and Chief of Chaplains". Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  6. ^ "United States Navy Specialty Insignia — Staff Corps". Navy Data. U.S. Navy. Retrieved 2006-12-26.
  7. ^ "Managing Logistics Across History: Navy Supply Corps 1795–2014". Navy Live. United States Navy. 22 February 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Lawrence, Alma R. (6 October 1952). "Insignias: Op-296/ARL". US Navy Department Library. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Navy's Top Doc Honors Medical Corps Birthday". United States Navy. 2 March 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  10. ^ Broderick, Justin T. (17 April 2014). "U.S. Navy Officer Corps Insignia Changes, 1918–1922". Uniform-Reference.Net. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Navy JAG History". US Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Top Female Leadership". US Navy Personnel Command. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  13. ^ Kopin, Zach (30 April 2013). "Convergent Corps: Line Officers, Staff Officers and the Modernization of the U.S. Navy". Naval Historical Foundation. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  14. ^ a b Peterson, C. J. (1987). "The United States Navy Corps of Professors of Mathematics". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 19: 1037. Bibcode:1987BAAS...19.1037P. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  15. ^ "An Act To transfer the active list of the Construction Corps to the line of the Navy; and for other purposes.". Public Law No. 76-657 of 25 June 1940 (PDF).
  16. ^ "Change of office and retirement ceremony". Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  17. ^ "Rear Admiral Michelle C. Skubic". U.S. Navy. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Vice Admiral John G. Hannink". U.S. Navy. Retrieved 12 February 2019.