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APPENDIX D: FIELD OFFICERS

Historically, a regiment or battalion’s field officers constituted its command element.

Colonel

  • The highest field-grade officer, ranking just below the general officer grades in most armies or below brigadier in the UK model.
  • A Colonel was traditionally the commanding officer (CO) of a regiment or brigade.
  • In air forces that use the same titles of rank as the army, such as the US Air Force, a Colonel’s command is usually a group; the comparable grade in the Royal Air Force is Group Captain.
  • When not exercising command of a regiment, group, or equivalent formation, a Colonel is generally placed in a senior staff officer (e.g. Chief of Staff) or administrative post.
  • In most armies a regiment is a body of troops commanded by a Colonel and organised, for tactical control, into battalions (infantry), companies (infantry), batteries (artillery) or squadrons (non-infantry).
  • French cavalry units were called regiments as early as 1558. The word is derived from the Latin regimen, a rule or system of order, and describes the regiment’s functions of raising, equipping, and training troops.

Lieutenant Colonel

  • The middle field-grade officer in most armies.
  • A Lieutenant Colonel traditionally assisted the Colonel in the running of the regiment.
  • In modern armies a Lieutenant Colonel will generally be the CO of a battalion, usually one of several within a regiment. For example, the UK Parachute Regiment has four battalions (three regular and one reserve), each commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel.
  • In air forces that use the same titles of rank as the army, such as the US Air Force, a Lieutenant Colonel’s command is usually a wing; the comparable grade in the Royal Air Force is Wing Commander.
  • When not exercising command of a battalion, wing, or equivalent formation, a Lieutenant Colonel is generally placed in a staff officer (e.g. SO1 Training) or administrative post.
  • In most armies a battalion is a body of troops commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel and organised, for tactical control, into companies and platoons.
  • The term battalion has been used in nearly every Western army for centuries and has had a variety of meanings. In the 16th and 17th centuries it denoted a unit of infantry forming part of a line of battle and was loosely applied to any large body of men. During the Napoleonic Wars the
  • French developed an army organisation in which the regiment was a unit of administration for its battalions serving as fighting units in the field. In this connection, the terms regiment and battalion often were used interchangeably, but in most modern armies the regiment is a higher unit than the battalion.
  • In the armies of the Commonwealth countries infantry battalions are tactical units formed within regiments (regiments being administrative parent organisations rather than tactical). The equivalent tactical artillery and armoured units are known as regiments. In most armies the cavalry, aviation and support services equivalent of the battalion is the squadron.

Major

  • The lowest field-grade officer in most armies.
  • In modern armies a Major will generally be the officer commanding (OC) of a company or squadron, usually one of several within a battalion or regiment respectively.
  • In air forces that use the same titles of rank as the army, such as the US Air Force, a Major’s command is usually a squadron; the comparable grade in the Royal Air Force is Squadron Leader.
  • When not exercising command of a company/squadron, or equivalent formation, a Major is generally placed in a staff officer (e.g. SO2 Training) or administrative post.
  • In most armies a company/squadron is a body of troops commanded by a Major and organised, for tactical control, into platoons (infantry) and troops (non-infantry) – which are both further organised into sections or squads.
  • A company/squadron is usually the smallest body of troops that functions as a complete administrative and tactical unit.
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