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Can you name these military ranks? (Readers can)

July 25, 2011 |  2:14 pm

CASE 1: Air Force

Betty Ford funeral

The caption: Air Force officers stand guard as former First Lady Betty Ford lies in repose after the funeral at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church.

The problem: "Those two personnel are not officers, they are both enlisted personnel," reader Greg Sirbu emailed. "As journalists you need to know the difference."

How can he tell? The insignia on the men's sleeves.

The answer: The Department of Defense helpfully charts enlisted and officer rank insignia for the military. A check of the enlisted insignia shows that the man on the left is a technical sergeant, and on the right is a senior airman.

A correction was published July 16.

CASE 2: Marines

John Allen, David Petraeus

The caption: Marine Gen. John R. Allen, left, speaks with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus at a transfer ceremony at NATO's heavily fortified headquarters in Kabul.

The problem: "A Marine general would have four stars, but it appears that Gen. Allen only has three," emailed reader Warren Cereghino. "That makes him a lieutenant general, which is one rank below general."

The Defense Department insignia chart confirms that.

The wrinkle: Allen was promoted to four-star general as part of the transfer of command of U.S. operations in Afghanistan. Allen succeeded Petraeus, who became CIA chief.

Rrj-allen2 This was puzzling. Had the star not caught up with his uniform?

That theory was quickly debunked by the photo (at left) on the same day's front page, which showed Allen, with four stars on his collar, listening to Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The answer: The photo above wasn't from the transfer ceremony. It was taken sometime earlier, but NATO released it to wire services on July 18 to coincide with the event. 

A correction was published July 22.

 -- Deirdre Edgar

Top photo: Betty Ford's funeral in Palm Desert. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Middle photo: Gens. Allen and Petraeus. Credit: NATO

Bottom photo: Allen with four stars. Credit: AFP / Getty Images