Short History of the Specialist
By CSM Dan Elder
The Army developed a program to
separate specialists from NCOs, which gave birth to
our current specialist system we now know. This
program, which went in to effect 1 July 1955,
grouped NCO grades E-4 to E- 7, which had a
corresponding specialist position that mirrored it.
These new specialist would wear distinctive insignia
which is partially still in effect for theSpecialist
(E-4 / SPC) of today.
Noncoms had special
considerations not afforded to specialists. These
considerations were not to reduce specialists
privileges, but augment privileges and prestige of
NCOs. Leadership was the NCOs primary roles and so
noted. Specialists received pay commensurate with
In 1958 the DOD added two
additional pay grades to give enlisted soldiers more
opportunities to progress to a full career with
additional opportunities for promotion. This
included an addition of two specialist ranks at E-8
and E-9 and proficiency pay was incorporated into
the pay scales. In 1968 when the Army added the rank
of Command Sergeant Major, the specialist ranks at
E-8 and E-9 were abolished without anyone ever being
promoted to those levels.
In 1978 the specialist rank at
E-7 was discontinued and in 1985,the specialist
ranks at E-5 and E-6 were discontinued.
Today’s current rank structure
only includes one specialist rank, that at E-4. The
Specialist is in the normal career progression for
enlisted soldiers in between the career path of
going from an apprentice enlisted soldier, to the
journeymen role associated with noncommissioned
There is no current method to
identify senior enlisted specialists from those NCOs
in a leadership position.