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Mexico: Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Personnel > Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia


Mexico originally adopted its system of officer ranks from the Spanish military. With some modifications, it has been retained in the modern armed forces. The highest rank within the Secretariat of National Defense is the rough equivalent of a general in the United States Army. The only officers with the rank of general are current army officers and former secretaries of national defense. Generals are identified by insignia composed of four silver stars and a gold eagle worn on their epaulets. The next highest rank, open to both army and air force personnel, is the equivalent of lieutenant general. Although there is no difference between the Spanish name for this rank and that held by secretaries of national defense, the officers are separately identified by three stars and an eagle. The rank equivalents of major general and brigadier general are distinguished, in addition to the emblem of the gold eagle on their epaulets, by two silver stars and one silver star, respectively.

Officers holding the rank of colonel command certain brigades and cavalry regiments, serve as chiefs of staff for military zones, or manage staff directorates. Colonels are identified by three gold stars arranged in a triangle on their epaulets. The equivalents of lieutenant colonels, a select few of whom may command a battalion or cavalry squadron but most of whom serve as instructors or administrative aides, wear two gold stars. Majors sometimes serve as second-in-command of battalions or squadrons, but usually are assigned to personnel management and training. They are identified by a single gold star.

Other commissioned ranks include first captain and second captain, both comparable to the United States rank of captain. First captains wear three gold bars on the epaulet; second captains have two-and-one-half gold bars. Captains command companies, squadrons, and batteries. Below these ranks are first lieutenants, with two gold bars, and second lieutenants, identified by a single gold bar.

The rank insignia of commissioned naval officers consist of gold stripes above the sleeve cuff, the uppermost stripe incorporating a braided loop. The rough equivalents of the United States Navy's ranks of admiral, vice admiral, and rear admiral wear insignia consisting of a wide gold stripe plus narrow and looped stripes. The equivalents of admiral and vice admiral are consolidated. The sleeve insignia of other officer ranks are similar to those of the corresponding ranks of the United States Navy, except that the upper stripe is looped. Officers of marine infantry units are distinguished by red piping on their insignia of rank.

The rank titles and rank insignia for enlisted personnel in the army and air force are the same, wears a plain green epaulet.

The rank insignia of enlisted naval personnel are indicated by white stripes above the sleeve cuff. Enlisted personnel in the navy have only three ranks, chief petty officer, petty officer, and seaman. A chief petty officer has three white stripes and a petty officer two. A seaman has a single V-shaped stripe.

The army officer corps has a blue dress uniform and a dark field-green service uniform. A khaki uniform is used for hot weather. The uniforms worn by naval personnel, including marines, are standard dark blue or white. The dress uniforms of army enlisted personnel are dark field-green; their branch of service is designated by a colored bar displayed on the epaulet. Infantry personnel wear a scarlet red bar; cavalry, hussar blue; artillery, crimson; armored, gray; and engineers, cobalt blue. The air force uniform was modified somewhat from that of the army in the early 1980s. Air force personnel are identified by purple bars. Members of the elite airborne brigade are distinguished by their camouflage fatigues and purple berets. Dress uniforms for enlisted army personnel include the use of helmets as headgear. Members of the officer corps wear caps with elaborate visor decorations and rank designations.

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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