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Air Force Colonel

O-6 Field Officer, U.S. Air Force
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Brigadier General

Air Force Ranks » Colonel RankCol PayCol Rank History

Rank badge of a Colonel O-6 Colonel - U.S. Air Force Ranks

Air Force Colonel
Air Force O-6 Colonel Air Force Military Ranks
Class Field Officer
Abbr. Col
Title Colonel (last name)
Paygrade O-6 (DoD Paygrade)
OF-6 (NATO Code)
Basic Pay $8,068/mo

Colonel (Col) is the third Field Officer rank in the United States Air Force. It is just above Lieutenant Colonel and below Brigadier General. Colonel is the highest Field Officer rank, and it is therefore, just below the General Officer ranks. They are typically responsible for commanding a wing of 1,000 to 3,00 airmen of lower ranks. Colonels commanding a wing have a Command Chief Master Sergeant as their primary Non-Commissioned Officer adviser. Some Colonels will command a group, which is a primary component of a wing. Some Colonels will also be the head of staff in a Numbered Air Force level staff agency.

The rank insignia for Colonel is a silver eagle that is a stylized representation of the eagle in the seal of the United States coat of arms. They are sometimes informally referred to as “Full-Bird Colonels” as a way to differentiate between them and Lieutenant Colonels, because Lieutenant Colonels are often referred to as simply, “Colonel.”

Colonel is the 22nd rank in the United States Air Force , ranking above Lieutenant Colonel and directly below Brigadier General. A colonel is a Field Officer at DoD paygrade O-6, with a starting monthly pay of $8,068.

How do you become a Colonel?

A Colonel is most often promoted from Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Co), although promotion from lower paygrades may occur with sufficient display of leadership and experience.

Most colonels are lieutenant colonels who were promoted
About 50% of all lieutenant colonels will be promoted to colonel. By law, colonels must have twenty-two years of service and a minimum of three years of service as a lieutenant colonel. Most colonels spend three years as a lieutenant colonel before being promoted.

Colonel-selects must also complete more training in order to be promoted. This includes staff education, command positions, and relevant job training.

What is the proper way to address a Colonel?

The correct way to address a Colonel named Mr. Rodriguez is "Colonel Rodriguez", or written as Col Rodriguez. In formal situations, a Colonel should always be addressed by their full rank.

How much does a Colonel earn?

Basic pay for an entry-level Colonel with 2 or less years of experience is $8,067.90 per month.

A Colonel receives an automatic raise to their basic pay every one to two years. Basic pay is only a small percentage of a Colonel's final compensation package.

In addition to a monthly basic pay salary, a Air Force Colonel may be eligible for multiple types of allowances and bonus pay including food allowance, clothing allowance, education allowance, hazard pay, and more.

For full details on the Air Force's Colonel compensation and retirement plan, visit the 2024 Air Force Colonel Pay Chart. A full table of the Air Force's current paygrades are available at the Air Force Pay Chart.

Patch of a Colonel Equivalent Ranks to the Air Force's O-6 Colonel

Coast Guard Captain - Equivalent to Colonel
Coast Guard
Marine Corps Colonel - Equivalent to Colonel
Marine Corps

To learn more about the Air Force's rank structure, see our complete list of Air Force ranks.

The Government civilian-employee equivalent of a Colonel is paid under the General Schedule payscale. For more details, see this Air Force rank to GS grade conversion table .

To see a list of military medals and decorations that can be earned by servicemembers in the Air Force and other branches of the military, see our list of military decorations and medals.