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Team Rank and Structure

Rank has rarely been a significant issue in official Joe fiction, but grades from E-3 to O-10 appear on most Joe and some Cobra filecards. See Wikipedia for information on real-life military pay grades. With regard to promotions and demotions, the following assumes a setting contemporary with the latest releases, understanding most comic-pack and 25th-anniversary filecards to be retrospective.

Army Joes by Grade

O-8 (major general)
O-7 (brigadier general)
Gen. Flagg
O-6 (colonel)
Col. Courage
O-5 (lieutenant colonel)
Sure Fire
O-4 (major)
Maj. Storm, Bullet-Proof, Maj. Barrage
O-3 (captain)
Doc [both], Claymore, Psyche-Out, Maverick, Windmill, Capt. Grid-Iron, Updraft, Rapid-Fire, Gears
O-2 (first lieutenant)
Steeler, Falcon, Super Trooper, Sub-Zero
O-1 (second lieutenant)
W-4 (chief warrant officer 4)
Wild Bill
W-2 (chief warrant officer 2)
Flint, Lift-Ticket, Major Altitude
E-9 (sergeant major)
E-8 (master sergeant or first sergeant)
Duke, Blizzard, Drop Zone, Skydive, Airwave, Dojo, Mace, Double Blast, Big Brawler; Storm Shadow [when a Joe]
E-7 (sergeant 1st class)
Stalker, Snake Eyes, Snow Job, Beach Head, Dodger, Shockwave, Armadillo, Hot Seat, Long Range [89], Salvo, Airborne [SP], Static Line, Cold Front, T'Jbang, Crossfire, Sidetrack
E-6 (staff sergeant)
Zap, Rock 'n Roll, Mutt, Spirit, Roadblock, Blowtorch, Lady Jaye, Low-Light, Iceberg, Dial-Tone, Repeater, Windchill, Stretcher, Pathfinder, Snow Storm, Mirage, Effects, Whiteout, Sidetrack, Dart, Rampage
E-5 (sergeant)
Short-Fuze, Breaker, Flash, Scarlett, Grunt, Grand Slam, Clutch, Airborne, Thunder, Bazooka, Alpine, Frostbite, Tollbooth, Lifeline [both], Cross-Country, The Fridge, Jinx, Tunnel Rat, Chuckles, Outback, Sneak Peek, Steam-Roller, Hardtop, Starduster, Avalanche, Blaster, Blocker, Knockdown, Budo, Recoil, Backblast, Freefall, Bullhorn, Heavy Duty, Nunchuk, Barricade, Bushido, Long Arm, Ice Cream Soldier, Sideswipe, Kamakura, Wide Scope, Switch Gears, Long Range [05], Sparks
E-4 (specialist* or corporal)
Tripwire*, Cover Girl*, Rip Cord, Recondo, Airtight, Quick Kick, Dusty, Footloose, Barbecue, Crankcase, Heavy Metal, Sci-Fi, Crazylegs, Law, Fast Draw, Rumbler, Charbroil, Hit & Run, Lightfoot, Spearhead, Muskrat, Hardball, Skidmark, Wildcard, Scoop, Dee-Jay*, Downtown, Cloudburst, Clean-Sweep, Ozone, Banzai, Blast-Off, T'Gin-Zu, Space Shot, Cross Hair, Barrel Roll, Wreckage, Red Spot, Agent Faces, Hi-Tech, Hard Drive, Rollbar, Tiger Claw, Bombstrike, Cannonball, Med Alert, Red Zone, Rook, Checkpoint
E-3 (private first class)
Ambush, Robo-J.O.E.
Back-Stop, Sgt. Hacker, Steel Brigade Commander

Marine Joes by Grade

E-7 (gunnery sergeant)
Gung-Ho, Sgt. Slaughter, Leatherneck
E-6 (staff sergeant)
Hollow Point
E-5 (sergeant)

Navy Joes by Grade

O-9 (admiral)
W-5 (chief warrant officer 5)
Wet Down
W-4 (chief warrant officer 4)
E-7 (chief petty officer)
Deep Six, Shipwreck, Tracker
E-6 (petty officer, 1st class)
Wet-Suit, Topside
E-5 (petty officer, 2nd class)
Depth Charge
E-4 (petty officer, 3rd class)
Rampart, Dr. Link Talbot

Coast Guard Joes by Grade

O-2 (lieutentant, junior grade)

Air Force Joes by Grade

O-6 (colonel)
O-5 (lieutenant colonel)
O-4 (major)
O-3 (captain)
Ace, Countdown
O-2 (1st lieutenant)
Slip-Stream, Dogfight

Oktober Guard by Rank

Colonel Brekhov / (Navy) Captain Red Star (ranks are comparable)
(Navy) Lieutenant Gorky
(Army) Lieutenant Volga=Daina
Master Sergeant-equivalent Dragonsky
Sergeants Big Bear and Misha
no ranks listed for Shrage, Horror Show, or Stormavik

Rank in Cobra Forces

Very few Cobra agents have rank listings on their filecards, and no official structure for the 100+ types of Cobra troops has emerged. The following are pointers for organizing one's personal Cobra forces.

  • Certain agents have emerged over the years as a clear part of Cobra's leadership.
    • Cobra Commander and Serpentor; Destro and the Baroness (when not with the Iron Grenadiers), Tomax and Xamot (through Extensive Enterprises, with the Crimson Strike Team on the side), and Overlord (whose Coil army is a secret). Storm Shadow (whose loyalties are a mystery) and the mad scientist Dr. Mindbender are also near the top and have apprentices and/or forces under their personal command. Not much loyalty at the top here, is there?
  • Most of the other named agents can be assumed to have broad authority over any Prefix-Vipers and other mass forces.
    • Scrap-Iron, Wild Weasel, Crystal Ball, Big Boa, Raptor, Croc Master, Interrogator, Slice, Dice, the first Vypra, Rip It, Scalpel, Black Out, Shadow Strike, Guillotine, Gallows, Grim Skull, Hotwire, and possibly Overkill and Hannibal (depending on how they are regarded in your Joeverse).
  • Long-time mercenary agents should probably be treated as Cobra leaders. As an alternative, they may be given authority over the specific troops assigned to their mission while officially remaining outside the command structure.
    • Maj. Bludd, Firefly, Copperhead, Zartan, Zandar, Zarana, Cesspool, Slash, and possibly Ghost Bear and the Ninja Guardian Vypras.
  • Agents whose primary job is to command a single troop type may have been recruited from within that troop and have authority only over those units.
    • Sky Creeper (over the Air Commandos), Neo-Viper Commander, Skull Buster (over Range Vipers), C.L.A.W.S. Commander, Snow Serpent Commander, Lt. Clay Moore (over Shock Vipers), and Night Stalker Commander; some may regard the Flaming M.O.T.H. versions of Ice-Viper, Night-Viper, Frag-Viper, Range-Viper, and Flak-Viper to be the leaders of their respective troops.
  • Crimson Guards are considered the most elite of Cobra's general forces. It is unclear whether they are recruited from the Viper Corps, the Cobra Corps, or both. Imperial Guards are also identified as elite and may be related, given their red outfits.
    • In descending order: Crimson Guard Commanders, Immortals, Officers, Squad Leaders, and Troopers. Crimson Shadow Guards are probably ranked in a similar fashion.
  • The Viper command structure is probably more horizontal than vertical; that is, each Viper troop probably includes troopers, squad leaders, and officers as opposed to directing other kinds of Vipers. However, some are specifically said to be elite, or are promotions or demotions from other Viper types requiring additional expertise or training.
    • First tier: Ninja Vipers; Shadow Vipers; Lampreys, Sea Slugs, Hydro-Vipers, Para-Vipers, Morays; Snow Serpents, Ice Vipers; Heli-Vipers.
    • Second tier: Alley Vipers (I and II); Mega-Vipers, Cyber-Vipers, Nitro-Vipers, Medi-Vipers; Eels, Sub Vipers; Astro-Vipers, Star-Vipers, Aero-Vipers.
    • Third tier: Sand Vipers, Pit Vipers; Tele-Vipers, Techno-Vipers, Track Vipers, Fast Blast Vipers; Secto-Vipers; Strato-Vipers, A.V.A.C.s, Gyro-Vipers, Air Viper Commandos.
    • Fourth tier: Vipers, Night-Vipers, Rock Vipers, S.A.W. Vipers, Range-Vipers, Neo-Vipers, Shock Vipers, Jungle Vipers, Viper Guards; Motor Vipers, H.E.A.T. Vipers, Frag-Vipers, Laser-Vipers, Flak-Vipers; Swamp-Vipers; Air-Vipers.
    • Fifth tier: Desert Scorpions; Toxo-Vipers, Sludge Vipers; Heavy Waters.
  • Forces in the "Cobra Trooper" family tend to be described in filecards as on-the-spot recruits and lesser-organized units. It would probably be giving the Vipers too much credit to compare this difference to that between commissioned and non-commissioned officers, but the Cobra Corps appears to have less training and sophistication than Viper teams.
    • Higher-ranking: Cobra Officers, Cobra Squad Leaders, Night Watch Officers, Ninja Troopers; H.I.S.S. Drivers, H.I.S.S. Commanders, Arctic H.I.S.S. Drivers; Stinger Drivers, W.O.R.M.S., Cobra Coils; Decimators; possibly Create-a-Cobras.
    • Lower-ranking: Cobra Troopers, Incinerators, C.L.A.W.S., Desert C.L.A.W.S., Cobra Infantry Troopers, Night Troopers, Night Stalkers, Night Watch Troopers; Cobra Bazooka Troopers, Vehicle Gunners; Cobra Divers; Viper Pilots, Vapors, Night Vultures, Air Devils, Air Troopers, Cobra Pilots, Cobra Paratroopers.
  • Venom Troops and other severely mutated Cobras should be considered low-rank due to the animalistic effects of their alteration. Androids are likewise below the command structure for obvious reasons.
    • Razor Troopers (led by Razorclaw), Sand Scorpions (led by Neurotoxin), Electric E.E.L.s, Swamp Rats, Snow Wolves, and the agent Coil Crusher, all led by Venomous Maximus.
    • Toxo-Zombies, Bio-Vipers, and Monstro-Vipers.
    • B.A.T. v5s (incl. Sky B.A.T.), B.A.T. v4s, B.A.T. v3s (incl. B.A.T. II), B.A.T. v2s (incl. Inferno B.A.T.), B.A.T. v1s, and B.A.A.T.s, all led by Overkill.
  • Certain troops are said in filecards to be independent groups for hire. Only in highly unusual situations should they be given actual Cobra forces to command.
    • Night Creepers (led by Night Creeper Leader), Red Ninjas (with Red Ninjas Leaders above them), Blackstars, Black Dragon Ninjas, and the Headhunters (Guards, Stormtroopers, BATs, and Drivers, led by Headman and Gristle).
    • The Coil Troopers, Skull Squad Troopers, and Cobra Mortal from the 2006 Convention set, and the mercenaries Wraith and Munitia would also fall into this category.
  • Dreadnoks and Dreadheads should probably not be trusted with authority over anyone.
    • Buzzer, Ripper, Torch, Monkeywrench, Thrasher, Zanzibar, Road Pig, Gnawgahyde, Burn Out, Crusher, Demolishor; Joe-Bob, Billy-Bob, Otis, Cletus, Vance, and Roscoe.
  • The incorporation of some versions of Iron Grenadiers, Nullifiers, and Undertow into Cobra is not recognized in my personal Joeverse; the IGs, Shadowloo, Black Dragon, and Lunartix Empire should be considered entirely separate, and even opposing, outfits. Cobra-La may occasionally work with Cobra, behind the scenes, or against Cobra Commander depending on their place in your 'Verse.
    • Nullifiers, Ferrets, T.A.R.G.A.T.s, Wild Boars, Undertow, and Iron Anvils, and elite Iron Grenadiers (officers and troopers) and Annihilator; led by Voltar, Metal-Head, Darklon, Gen. Mayhem, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and ultimately Destro.
    • Vega, Balrog, and Sagat, led by M. Bison.
    • Black Dragon Troopers, led by Black Dragon.
    • Lobotomaxx, Predacon, Carcass, Warwolf, Iguanus, and Slythor, all independent bounty hunters.
    • Nemesis Enforcer and the Royal Guards, led by Golobulus.
  • You're on your own with Montezuma's Skeleton.

Leadership in the Sunbow Cartoon

The animated series by which many children of the 80s were introduced to G.I. Joe paid little heed to the ranks listed on filecards. Nevertheless, there was a remarkable consistency in who gave orders to whom. (Inconsistencies are usually in the form of small cameos, as when Lady Jaye is briefly shown among Dusty's team in ASA part 2.)

  • First tier: Col. Sharp relayed orders to the Joes from outside the team during the first season. Gen. Hawk appeared in the second season. Both worked alongside non-Joe Adm. Ledger, who was of comparable rank to Hawk.
  • Second tier: Duke answered to Sharp and Ledger but otherwise led the team during the first season. In the second season he was just below Hawk.
  • Third tier: Flint is below Duke throughout the series.
  • Fourth tier: Beach Head and Sgt. Slaughter fill out the leadership as shown in The Most Dangerous Thing in the World. The episode they work together, Ninja Holiday, does not place one over the other.
  • Fifth tier: Gung-Ho, Lady Jaye, Scarlett, and Stalker are all major mission leaders. Scarlett is usually over Lady Jaye, and both can give orders to Stalker and Gung-Ho; otherwise they are apparently on about the same level when they work together, sometimes trading dominance between episodes. Doc is also in charge of other Joes on occasion. Cover Girl is difficult to pinpoint but may be of similar rank.
  • Sixth tier: Cutter, Deep Six, and Torpedo all lead water teams at various points in the series. Ace, Slip-Stream, and Wild Bill also frequently head up the cavalry, and Snow Job has a similar function in cold-weather environments. Roadblock is a mid-level leader, with Leatherneck apparently being his equal and the equal of Wet-Suit. Shipwreck probably fits here as well, given his role in the defense of Alexander the Great's tomb (ASA part 3).
  • Seventh tier: Airborne, Alpine, Breaker, Clutch, Dusty, Heavy Metal, Low-Light, Mutt, Recondo, Sci-Fi, Snake-Eyes, Spirit, and Tollbooth usually take orders from others but occasionally take the lead over small patrols or a single partner.
  • Eighth tier: The remaining Joes constitute the bottom of the pyramid, never giving their own orders and often following the lead of Joes in the seventh tier: Airtight, Barbecue, Blowtorch, Crankcase, Cross-Country, Dial-Tone, Flash, Footloose, Frostbite, Grunt, Iceberg, Lifeline, Lift-Ticket, Mainframe, Quick Kick, Rip Cord, Rock 'n Roll, Short-Fuze, Sparks, Steeler, Thunder, Tripwire, and Zap. The Rawhides would naturally be on the bottom as well, although Lt. Falcon tries unsuccessfully to pull rank on Duke.