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Perhaps one of the most mystifying elements of the military is the organization of different units. For example, when you hear the phrase "2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division," how does that fit into the Army as a whole? Today, we're going to try and demystify the basics.

At its most basic level, the Army consists of squads of soldiers. With anywhere from four to 16 soldiers, and led by either a sergeant or staff sergeant, it takes three to four squads to form a platoon. At this level, a 1st or 2nd lieutenant (not so affectionately referred to as commissioned privates) is in command, often with the help of a platoon sergeant (usually a sergeant first class).

Things scale up from here, with three to four platoons or 100 to 200 soldiers constituting a company, often with a captain in command. Gather up three to five companies, and you'll end up with a battalion, while three battalions form a brigade. In the former, a lieutenant colonel is in command, while in the latter, it's a full-bird colonel.

Now we're getting into the really big units. Three brigades forms a division, which usually consists of 10,000 to 18,000 soldiers, while a corps includes anywhere from two to five divisions. According to the Army's website, putting two to five corps will form a field army. At this level, only generals are in command, with a major general (two stars) at the division level, a lieutenant general (three stars) at the corps level and a four-star general at the field army level.

As with anything in the military, the variety here is very nearly limitless. There are different names for different units based on their function, such as section, troop and regiment, making it difficult for us to break them all down here. Even the numbers listed fluctuate based on a units function. That said, this basic listing should provide a basic knowledge of the Army's groupings, so you won't be fully in the dark the next time you hear about a local unit on the news.

If you have any suggestions on a phrase you aren't sure about, be sure to reach out to brandon dot turkus at autoblog dot com, and we'll be sure to feature it in the coming days.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Brad Franks
      • 10 Months Ago

      First, why is this on Autoblog? 

      Second, your description is correct but unnecessarily complex. Minor correction: The smallest unit in the Army is the individual solder. After that you can generally say that the Army organization chart is devised to be easily described as 3+1=1. 

      3 Soldiers + 1 Team Leader (SGT) = 1 Fire team

      2 Fire Teams + 1 Squad Leader (SSG) = Squad

      3 Squads + 1 Command Squad (1LT) = Platoon

      3 Platoons + 1 Command Platoon (CPT) = Company

      3 Companies + 1 Command Company (LTC) = Battalion 

      3 Battalions + 1 Command Battalion (COL) = Brigade

      3 Brigades + 1 Command Brigade (MG) = Division

      3 Divisions + 1 Command Divsion(-) (LG) = Corps

      3 Corps + 1 Command DIvision(-) (LG/G) = Army

      3 Armys + 1 Command DIvision(-) (GA) = US Army

      The exceptions to the 3+1 are obvious - 2 Fire teams in a squad, and above the Battalion level the command and control sections are generally limited to a Brigade sized element, or sometimes listed as a Division(-) meaning Division level authority (2 Star General) without the full size/manning/equipment of a fielding Division. Interestingly, the US Army is one of the few militaries to have a Brigade that isn't led by a Brigadier General.

      It hasn't been since WW-II that the US has fielded a full set of Armies. When we do is when we promote someone to 5 Star General and title them General of the Armys.

      The command elements usually contain the command and support structure for their parallel units. For instance, In the Platoon the support squad is command/control for that platoon with the Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Medic, Combat Engineer, Radio/Telephone Operator (RTO), plus fire support with the Forward Artillery Observer (who interfaces with higher Artillery units) and two heavy machine gun teams. At the company level and higher, this support section also includes a supply/logistics section and a personnel/manning section. As you go up in echelons the functions remain the same in that support section, but their abilities grow. The medic becomes a field hospital, the FO becomes larger and larger artillery pieces, et-cetera. 

        Brandon Turkus
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Brad Franks

        Hi Brad,

        Thanks for the comment. This feature is part of a new section of Autoblog that focuses on the Military (you can check out just military content here), with a particular focus on military vehicles, aircraft and ships. Our Terminology feature is a daily item that helps shed some light on some of the more difficult to understand aspects of the armed forces.