Military Chain of Command



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Military Chain of Command


The world is contracting day by day, which does not mean in physical perception, but in means of the resources that are available, as compared with the number of people that are using these resources in different parts of the world - Military Chain of Command introduction. Over years, a huge change in population has been observed by a number of experts during different studies and in this case, the need of a military command has been felt by almost population in the world.

In this regard, we will try to define, discuss, and analyze different perspectives of chain of command in a military context. Issues that are related to the military command and its responsibilities, which are affecting millions of people around the world in different and various ways, will be discussed during the paper.

In a military context, the orders are passed along a long of authority, as well as, the responsibility, which is referred and known as the Chain of Command. Generally, a higher-ranker soldier will be the highest in the line of command, whereas, a lower-ranked soldier will be lowest and down the chain of command. In other perception, the chain of command in a military context is ruled out by different senders and receivers.

These constituents give and take orders to their juniors, and receives the same from their seniors respectively. A commissioned officer is an example of the higher-ranked soldier, who gives order. On the other hand, a common soldier is the example of lower-ranked soldier, who takes order and performs accordingly.

In generally, the chain of command only allows the orders to be given by the higher-ranked officers to the lower-ranked soldiers directly. Similarly, orders must also be received directly from the higher-ranking officers. For instance, a common soldier is found to be in some difficulty related to the accomplishment of an order, and the chain of command is not observed by him.

In addition, an officer of his direct command is skipped by him; he is likely to be disciplined, if a higher-ranked officer in his chain of command is confronted by this common soldier for his appeal directly, rather than communicating with the officer of his direct command. In this way, the military chain of command is very strict and must be followed by every junior and senior soldier and officer in the military.

A person is not entitled to give orders by the higher rank alone, which is implied by the concept of chain of command in the military. For example, common soldiers of another unit cannot be commanded directly by an officer, who has been given a separate military unit, because, the chain of command is outside the authority and responsibility of the abovementioned exemplary higher-ranked officer.

In this regard, if the soldiers of another unit are wanted by the officer, it is generally expected that proper chain of command will be followed by him, that is, through approaching the designated officer of the specific military unit. In the result, the military chain of command shows high amount of discipline, authority, regulation, as well as, the chastisement in its chain of command.


As we have briefly discussed the definition and concept of the chain of command, we will now understand the ranking system in the military. In this regard, seniority and command is graded by a unique system of ranking within armed forces or military-style organizations, such as, cadet schools, etc. This type of grading system in the military perspective is known as the Military rank, and sometimes, it is commonly refer as Rank.

Within the armed forces, the ranks or ranking system has been used and considered universally. However, this ranking system was abolished by some of the armies of the world, in order to re-establish their power and themselves during their difficulties of control and command. Some of the examples of these armed forces are the Soviet Red Army, the Albanian Army, as well as, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

The chain of command has also been found in the history of armed forces of different eras and regions according to the different studies and proofs of the ranking system in these military commands. In this regard, some of the examples of the military armed forces, which used the concept of chain of command, were Persian armies, Greek army, Roman army, and Mongol army.

Different and unique types of grading system were used by the abovementioned armies, who followed the concept of chain of command during their different military operations in different parts of the world. It has also been found that the armed forces were used to make the chain of command according to the strength and power of an individual or a sect. In this way, the armed forces used the same strategy to accomplish their missions. However, there was just the difference of ranking systems in these military commands of the world.

Modern Chain Of Command

Three sources of French-language origins descend most of the English-language military ranks. For instance, corporal came from the renaissance mercenary title, caporal. Similarly, sergeant, general, as well as, the captain came from the French-language origins. Colonel, lieutenant, and marshal came from the era of the Napoleonic Wars. Some of the specialist ranks and commands have come from the World War II. Three broad categories of personnel have been recognized by most of the modern military services. Geneva Conventions have codified these categories. In this way, officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted men have been distinguished ambiguously by it.

Commissioned Officers

Holding of a commission distinguish officers from other military members. In this regard, training is given to these officers, by whom, command positions are held in the military. Three levels have been formed to further separate these officers in the military chain of command. These three levels have been discussed below, in order to understand the military chain of command in a broader perspective.

General, Air, or Flag Officers

In army, marines, and some of the air forces, the referring of General Officers is given to those officers, by whom, specific independent units or formations are commanded for extended periods. Some of the examples of these units that come under the responsibility of the abovementioned officers are brigades, flotillas, as well as, large squadrons in the marine ships. However, these responsibilities of commanding independent units and formations are hold by Flag Officers in the navy, and Air Officers in some of the Commonwealth air forces.

Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General, and on the top, General are included in the chain of command of General Officers in the army. However, variations in these rankings and command might be different, such as, Division General, or Force General.

In the past, the presence of an officer with the flag of the command was taken as a symbol of power and win is practiced traditionally by the ranking of Flag Officers. Both ship and land make the use of Flag Officers in their different military and training operations. Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, and on the top, Admiral heads the chain of command in different military forces in the world. However, variations in these rankings and command might also be different, such as, the rank of Commodore in the Canada’s military is also considered as the rank of a Flag Officer.

Usually, Air Chief Marshal, Air Marshal, Air Vice-Marshal, and Air Commodore are included in the ranking of Air Officers in the military chain of command. The military forces of the United Kingdom and most of the Commonwealth air forces use the abovementioned chain of command, which is headed by Air Chief Marshal in the Air Officers chain of commands. However, army’s General Officer rankings are used by the United States, Canada, and some of the other American Air Forces.

In some forces, one or more superior ranks might be found from the abovementioned examples that are used commonly by the militaries. For instance, the ranking of Field Marshal is used by many armies. Similarly, U.S. Navy uses Fleet Admiral, and U.S. Air Force use Marshal of the Royal Air Force in their chain of commands. However, discontinuation has been found in these ranking systems, such as, Canada and Germany.

In various countries, the numbers of stars that are wearing by the officers represent their position in the chain of command, and thus, their responsibilities and authorities in the military. In this regard, the maximum number of stars that are worn by a higher-ranked officer is five in all the military services in the United States, excluding the U.S. Marines in the country.

Field or Senior Officers

Field-grade Officers or Senior Officers are the two terms that have been related with the referring of Field Officers in the military chain of command. Field Officers are generally inversely proportional to the abovementioned categories of the General Officers, as independent units and formations, which are operated for a short period, are commanded by the Field Officers in the military. Some of the examples of these units of short-period operations are air squadrons, artillery, as well as, the cavalry regiments, infantry battalions, large warships, etc. Another responsibility of the Field Officers is the filling of staff positions in the military.

Primarily, marines and armies are found to be using the term of Field Officers in their command. However, the term senior officer instead of field officer is used by air forces and navies in the world. In addition, it is not necessary that synonymy may be found in the usage of these two terms in the military. In this regard, Colonel heads the chain of command in the ranking of army and marine Field Officers, which is followed by the Lieutenant Colonel, and Major. The field rank of Brigadier is used in many Commonwealth countries in the world. However, in other countries, the position of Brigadier General is by the abovementioned rank.

In Navy, Captain heads the senior officer command, which is followed by Commander, and Lieutenant Commander. In some countries, Commodore is considered as the more senior rank. In addition, the position of Commodore is used below the position of the Flag Officers. Group Captain, Wing Commander, and Squadron Leader are included in the chain of command of Senior Officers in many Commonwealth Air Forces.

Company Grade or Junior Officers

The three of four lowest ranks of officers are the ranks of junior officers, or sometime, company grade officers in the military chain of command. For any significant length of time, independence of working separately is not given to the units or formations, which are commanded by these officers. However, in some units, staff roles are filled by the company grade officers. In some militaries, the position of permanent commanding officer is acted by a captain. For instance, a signal or field engineer squadron may be commanded by a captain, which comes under the ranking of company grade or junior officers in the military chain of command.

Typically, captain and various grades of Lieutenant are included in the ranking of Company Officers in armies. Similarly, various grades of Lieutenant and Ensign are included in the ranking of Junior Officers in the navy. In this regard, Flight Lieutenant, Flying Officer, and Pilot Officer are the grades that are included in ranking of Junior Officers in most of the Commonwealth Air Forces.

Warrant Officers

There are some levels in the military chain of command, which are other than the abovementioned three levels of the Commissioned Officers. In this regard, the position of Warrant Officers is one of them. In every country, this position is used differently than the other one. It is often taken as a hybrid rank in the form of a Warrant Officer. Specialist personnel are given the position of a warrant officer, which are often regarded as a senior non-commissioned officer, which cannot be graded in either commissioned or non-commissioned officers in the military chain of command.

Enlisted Personnel

In the United Kingdom and some of the Commonwealth countries, vast majority of the military personnel is made up by the enlisted military personnel, who followed the commissioned, as well as, the warrant officers in the military chain of command.

Non-Commissioned Officers

Significant administrative responsibilities and other military members are supervised and assigned by some of the enlisted personnel, who are known as the non-commissioned officers. A higher-ranked officer grants some authority to these officers in different commands of the military.

In some militaries, the consideration of a backbone of the army is given to these non-commissioned officers, such as, in the U.S. Army. The posting, caring, and control of junior military members are some of the responsibilities of the non-commissioned officers. The smaller field units, such as, executive officers, are often functioned by these officers in a military chain of command.

The junior warrant officer, as well as, the junior commissioned officer comes even above the most senior non-commissioned officers. However, these junior officers are found to be having less experience relating to the combat, as compared to the most senior non-commissioned officers. In some military organizations, formal responsibility might be given to the senior non-commissioned officers. In this regard, mid-career non-commissioned officers are promoted to the post of warrant officers. In some countries, senior enlisted ranks are mostly replaced by the warrant ranks in the military chain of command.

Other Enlisted Ranks

Private, Marine, Aircraftman, Airman, and Seaman are some of the titles that are bear by usually personnel with no command authority. In some countries and military services, different titles are found in military personnel of different branches. A variety of grades might be found in these branches, but only pay and salary variations may reflect from these grading, and not any increment in the authority or commands. Therefore, different countries refer these posts as the ranks or not as ranks in their chain of command.


When an authority is exercised by a person, the instrument is referred as the Appointment. In most monarchies, a Royal Commission appoints military officers. In many other countries, a Presidential Commission is responsible for the appointment of the officers. In the Commonwealth countries, a Royal or Presidential Warrant is held by the Warrant Officers. A certificate and a written document are some of the examples of instruments of appointment, which appoint the non-commissioned officers in the military chain of command.

Size of Command

We will not try to analyze the relative levels and sizes of each military command, in order to understand the practical meaning of the abovementioned ranks in different armed forces and services of the world. For this purpose, we will take the example of U.S. Marine ground forces for the proper analysis of the ranking and command system.

In this regard, it should be remembered that own and unique systems would be used by other countries, which will be different from the U.S. Marine ground forces. In fact, a different rank is assigned by the U.S. Army, in order to allow the commanding of same type of unit or formation, as compared with the Marines. Under this system, a Fire Team, which usually consists of three other marines, is lead by a Corporal. Above this, a Squad of three fire teams is lead by a Sergeant. As a result, approximately thirteen individuals are found in a full squad.

A Platoon is commanded by a Lieutenant, in which, three of four squads are found. In Marine infantry units, usually three Rifle Squads of thirteen individuals are consisted in Rifle Platoons. In addition, a Platoon Sergeant, a Platoon Commander, and a Navy corpsman are also included in these thirteen individuals.

A Company is commanded by a Captain. A Gunnery Sergeant, and similar seven others can be included in the command of this Captain. Roughly, 175 to 225 individuals can comprise of a Company. Batteries and Detachments are examples of equivalent units and formations that are commanded by the Captains.

A Battalion or a Squadron is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. Various members of the command post, as well as, the four Companies are often consisted in these battalions. A Regiment or a Group is commanded by a Colonel, which consist of four battalions, and sometimes, consist of more than four or five Air Groups.

In the upper level, a Brigadier General commands a Brigade, in which, two or more regiments are consisted in it. However, this structure is being outdated by a number of superseding military structures. Presently, a little larger size than a regiment consists of a brigade in the U.S. Army. The Division is found in the next level in the chain of command. A Major General commands the Division, and approximately, 10,000 to 20,000 military personnel are included in it. All over the world and throughout history, a standard of a military chain of command is illustrated in these examples.

Other Responsibilities

We will now discuss some of the responsibilities that are fulfilled by different rankings in the military chain of command, which were not discussed earlier in the paper.

Company Commander

A Company Commander is responsible for the coordination and proper communication with the staff, which is responsible for the support of the military personnel. In addition, it is the responsibility of a company commander to control, organize, and encourage the junior companies and officers in their different training and operations. During the training operations, it is a duty of the company commander to prepare and plan different operations that may help in the proper guidance and training of the individuals.

In this regard, risk assessment is done by him in a brief manner. Subordinates are utilized efficiently and properly by the company commander. In addition, it is the responsibility of the Company Commander to ensure safety of all the junior individuals in the military chain of command.

Executive Officer

The supplies and equipments, which are required during the training of the military personnel, are supported by the coordination of Executive Officers. The Commander is assisted and supported by the Executive Officers in regard of his duties and responsibilities.


First Sergeant

Company formations are organized by the position of First Sergeant in military chain of command. Field Mess operations and activities are controlled and coordinated by the first sergeants in their specific formations and units. First Sergeants are also required to follow the directions and orders of the Commander during different military operations.

Platoon Leader

It is the responsibility of a Platoon Leader to coordinate and cooperate with the Commander, as well as, the Executive Officers in a military chain of command. In addition, platoon plan of action is planned, organized, and established by the Platoon Leader. In addition, it is the duty of a platoon leader to control and supervise all the operations and activities of junior companies and formations of the services.


Conclusively, we have discussed different perspectives of a chain of command in military context. In the beginning, we discussed the historical perspective of the military chain of command, which was considered and implemented by different armed forces of the world. The discussion and understanding of modern ranking and chain of command was discussed, and their size was analyzed in the paper.

In the end, we discussed some of the remaining responsibilities of the military chain of command. We hope that our study will benefit professionals, as well as, the students in understanding chain of command and its importance and significance in a military context.





















DIANE. (1995). Force Structure. DIANE Publishing Company.

Jerold E. Brown. (2000). Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Army. Greenwood Press.

James David Meernik. (2004). the Political Use of Military Force in US Foreign Policy. Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Keith E. Bonn. (2002). Army Officer’s Guide. Stack pole Books.

University of Michigan. (1973). U.S. Military R & D Management. Georgetown University Press.


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