Military Terms – What is a Brigade, a Battalion or a Company? Updated on December 6, 2012 Russ Moran – The Write Stuff moreContact Author Military terms can be confusing, especially for someone who has never served in the armed forces. This article aims to clear up the confusion. The next book you read or film you see about a military subject will be more meaningful if you understand what’s going on. Most authors, whether fiction writers or historians, seem to assume that the reader knows military terminology. That is a big assumption. This article discusses American military terminology as it applies to the ground forces of the United States Army. For an overview of the entire American Armed Forces see this article. A ground forces unit is usually described in terms of how many people serve in that unit. The numbers are not exact but are approximations. Most of the terms in this article are from an official United States Army publication.
The units are discussed from the smallest to the largest. The is the smallest unit and is assigned specific tasks. In the movie Big Red One, Lee Marvin played a sergeant in charge of a rifle squad. Big Red One is the name for the 1st Infantry Division The movie traces the experiences of the squad from D-Day through the end of World War II. A squad is commanded by a non-commissioned officer, usually a sergeant. The size of a squad depends on its assignment, but usually consists of nine to 10 soldiers. A platoon is commanded by a commissioned Lieutenant with a staff sergeant or sergeant first class as second in command. Through the coordination of squads a platoon is assigned to complete a task or will coordinate with other elements to accomplish a mission. The exact size of a company depends on the type of unit that it is. A company is commanded by a Captain who is assisted by a First Sergeant.
A company can receive additional combat and combat support elements. A company is a cohesive unit and it can perform specific functions on its own. The company is the basic tactical element of a battalion. Battery – An artillery unit the equivalent size as a company. Troop – An armored or air cavalry unit the equivalent size as a company. A battalion or squadron is usually commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel assisted by a command Sergeant Major. A battalion has a staff that oversees the battalion’s mission, including training, administration and logistical functions. A battalion is self sufficient both administratively and tactically. A battalion can conduct independent operations of limited scope and duration. An armored or air cavalry unit the equivalent size as a battalion. What is a Garrison? Garrison is a very loose term and does not refer to a particular part of an army, but rather is a term used to indicate a place where troops are gathered. For example, you may read that the 82nd Airborne Division is garrisoned at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
A brigade is commanded by a Colonel who is assisted by a Command Sergeant Major. Combat and combat support elements may be attached to a brigade for specific functions. A brigade typically has a field artillery battalion and a support battalion attached to it. A regiment or group is an armored cavalry, Ranger and special forces unit the size of a brigade. Divisions are numbered and missions are assigned based on its structure. A division is commanded by a Major General. A division may be infantry, airborne, air assault, light or mechanized infantry or armored. Divisions have a rich history all their own. Think of the 82nd Airborne Division (“All Americans”) or the 101st Airborne Division (“Screaming Eagles”). A division performs major tactical operations, and can conduct sustained battles and engagements. · Subordinate combat brigade headquarters. A corps is a deployable command unit that synchronizes and sustains combat operations. A corps is typically commanded by a Lieutenant General. A corps provides command, control and logistical support for 2 to 5 divisions.