To the American people there are five types of service members: Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. By the lights of the people whom you serve, if you are in the Navy, regardless of rank, you are a “Sailor.” You may also be many other things—officer, chief, aviation ordnanceman, submariner—but first and always, a Sailor.
Nevertheless, there is an active debate within the Navy with regard to what, exactly, a Sailor is. Actually, until the late 1980s, there was no real discussion regarding the word “sailor.” In the Navy, sailor was used only to describe an enlisted person, and the subject of capitalization or the meaning of capitalization never arose. Even today, dictionaries clearly describe sailors as personnel below the rank of officers. So, while the American people may never have differentiated, the dictionary and the Navy certainly did.