Military units are named according to their size. For instance, regiments are bigger than platoons. This type is used to designate what size category a military unit falls into.
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Units of this type:1st Battery Connecticut Light Artillery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems. The term is also used in a naval context to describe groups of guns on warships.
Historically the term 'battery' referred to a group of ordnance systems (commonly cannon) in action, used as field artillery or in a siege of a fortress or a city. Such batteries could be a mixture of cannon, howitzer, or mortar types. A siege could involve many batteries. The term also came to be used for a group of cannon in a fixed fortification, for coastal or frontier defence, and for the placement of artillery in a temporary field position during a battle. During the 18th century 'battery' began to be used as an organizational term for a permanent unit of artillery in peace and war, usually organised with between six and twelve ordnance pieces, often including cannon and howitzers. By the late 19th century this use had become normal and mostly replaced earlier terms for artillery units such as company or troop.
In the 20th
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 30,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps. In most modern militaries, a division tends to be the smallest combined arms unit capable of independent operations; due to its self-sustaining role as a unit with a range of combat troops and suitable combat support forces, which can be divided into various organic combinations.
While the focus of this article is on army divisions, in naval usage division may refer either to an administrative department aboard Naval and Coast Guard ships and shore commands, or to a sub-unit of several ships within a flotilla or squadron. In the administrative usage, unit size varies widely, though typically divisions number far less than 100 persons. In the U.S. and Commonwealth Navies, a divisional officer (DIVO) is usually an Ensign or Lieutenant (JG), but may be an officer of much higher rank in certain circumstances or aboard large warships, who oversees a team of enlisted sailors in their duties.
In the West, the first general to think of organising an army
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of three to six battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment. Usually, a brigade is a sub-component of a division, a larger unit consisting of two or more brigades.
Brigades formed into divisions are usually infantry or armoured (sometimes referred to as combined arms brigades), in addition to combat units they may include combat support units or sub-units such as artillery and engineers, and logistic units or sub-units. Historically such brigades have sometimes been called brigade-groups. On operations a brigade may comprise both organic elements and attached elements, including some temporarily attached for a specific task.
Brigades may also be specialized and comprise battalions of a single branch, for example cavalry, mechanized, armored, artillery, air defence, aviation, engineers, signals or logistic. Some brigades are classified as independent or separate and operate independently from the traditional division structure. The typical NATO standard brigade consists of approximately 3,200 to 5,500
Abteilung (shortened Abt) is a German language word often used when referring to German or Swiss military formations (although used by Germans in a more civilian fashion, meaning something like "office department").
Depending on its usage this term could mean detachment, department, or battalion.
In the Second World War, the term Abteilung generally referred to battalion-sized formations in the armoured, cavalry, reconnaissance and artillery arms of the Heer and Waffen SS. Exceptions to the word meaning battalion were Armee-Abteilung and Korps-Abteilung. In these cases terms Army Detachment and Corps Detachment can be substituted.
Units of this type:Plato's concept of an army of lovers and beloveds
Commanded by rank:Tetrarch
The Sacred Band of Thebes (Ancient Greek: Ἱερὸς Λόχος, Hieròs Lókhos) was a troop of picked soldiers, consisting of 150 pairs of male lovers which formed the elite force of the Theban army in the 4th century BC. It is said to have been organised by the Theban commander Gorgidas in 378 BC and to have played a crucial role in the Battle of Leuctra. It was annihilated by Philip II of Macedon in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.
The earliest surviving record of the Sacred Band (Ἱερὸς Λόχος, Hieròs Lókhos) by name was in 324 BC; in the oration Against Demosthenes by the Athenian logographer Dinarchus. He mentions the Sacred Band as being led by the general Pelopidas and, alongside Epaminondas who commanded the army of Thebes (Boeotia), were responsible for the defeat of the Spartans at the decisive Battle of Leuctra (371 BC).
Plutarch (46–120 AD), a native of the village of Chaeronea, is the source of the most substantial surviving account of the Sacred Band. He records that the Sacred Band was originally formed by the boeotarch Gorgidas, shortly after the expulsion of the Spartan garrison occupying the Theban citadel of Cadmea. The 2nd century AD Macedonian author Polyaenus in his
An army (from Latin arma “arms, weapons” via Old French armée, “armed” (feminine)), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military branch, service branch or armed service of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps. Within a national military force, the word army may also mean a field army an army composed of full-time career soldiers who 'stand over', in other words, who do not disband during times of peace. They differ from army reserves who are activated only during such times as war or natural disasters.
In several countries, the army is officially called the Land Army to differentiate it from an air force called the Air Army, notably France. In such countries, the word "army" on its own retains its connotation of a land force in common usage. The current largest army in the world, by number of active troops, is the People's Liberation Army of China with 2,250,000 active troops and 800,000 reserve personnel followed by the Indian Army with 1,325,000 active troops and 2,142,821 reserve personnel.
By convention, irregular military is understood in contrast to regular armies which grew slowly from
A corps ( /ˈkɔər/ "core"; the plural is spelled the same as singular but pronounced /ˈkɔərz/ "cores"; from French, from the Latin corpus "body") is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service. Corps may also refer to a particular unit or a particular branch of service, such as the United States Marine Corps, the Corps of Royal Marines, the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, or the Corps of Commissionaires.
The military term was subsequently adopted for public service organizations with a paramilitary command structure, volunteer public service organizations, such as the Peace Corps, various ambulance corps, some NGOs (non-government organizations), and other civic volunteer organizations. Due to this use of the term, it has also spread to some other civic or volunteer organizations that lack the paramilitary structure.
In many armies, a corps is a battlefield formation composed of two or more divisions, and typically commanded by a lieutenant general. During World War I and World War II, due to the large scale of combat, multiple corps were combined
A Marine Expeditionary Force or MEF (formerly known as a Marine Amphibious Force) is the largest type of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. A MEF is the largest building block of United States Marine Corps combat power.
An MEF is larger than a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) or Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB).
Each MEF consists of a division as the ground combat element, an aircraft wing as the aviation combat element, and a logistics group as the logistics combat element.
The MEF also contains a Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) and is the training section component for the MEU and MEB. The SOTG oversees the training and evaluation exercises for the MEU's annual Special Operations Capable Certification.
A MEF also commands several smaller MAGTFs, including MEBs and MEUs.
A squadron, or naval squadron, is (in modern usage) a unit of 3-4 major warships, transport ships, submarines, or sometimes small craft that may be part of a larger task force or a fleet. A squadron is usually composed of a homogeneous group of the same classification of ships, such as battleships, battlecruisers, cruisers, destroyers or frigates, or of various types tasked with a specific mission such as coastal patrol, blockade, or minesweeping. Smaller warships are usually grouped in flotillas.
In the United States Navy, the term squadron has always been used for formations of destroyers and submarines.
Before 1864 the entire fleet of the Royal Navy was divided into three squadrons, the red, the white, and the blue.
A fleet is usually commanded by a flag officer such as a vice admiral or a rear admiral, but squadrons are sometimes commanded by commodores or simply the most senior captain (often the same thing), depending on the importance of the command. A large squadron will sometimes be divided into two or more divisions, each of which might be commanded by a subordinate admiral. Like a fleet, a squadron is usually, but not necessarily, a permanent formation.
There are several
Units of this type:10th (North Lincoln) Regiment of Foot
Commanded by rank:Colonel
A regiment is a title used by some military units. The size of a regiment varies markedly, depending on the country and the arm of service.
Historically, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a full-strength regiment was typically supposed to be a thousand men, and was commanded by a colonel.
Today, there is no set size for a unit calling itself a "regiment", which may be:
The French term régiment entered military usage in Europe at the end of the 16th century, when armies evolved from collections of retinues who followed knights, to formally organised, permanent military forces. At that time, regiments usually were named after their commanding colonels, and disbanded at the end of the campaign or war; the colonel and his regiment might recruit from and serve several monarchs or countries. Later, it was customary to name the regiment by its precedence in the line of battle, and to recruit from specific places, called cantons. The oldest regiments which still exist include the 1521 Swedish Life Guards, the 1537 British Honourable Artillery Company and the French premier régiment d'infanterie de ligne, created from the ancient "bandes de Picardie" first established in 1479.
A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads and containing 26 to 50 soldiers. Platoons are organized into a company, which typically consists of three, four or five platoons. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer—the platoon leader or platoon commander, usually a lieutenant. He is usually assisted by a senior non-commissioned officer—the platoon sergeant.
In some armies, platoon is used throughout the branches of the army. In others, such as the British Army, most platoons are infantry platoons, while some carry other designations such as tank, mortar, or heavy weapons platoons. In a few armies, such as the French Army, a platoon is specifically a cavalry unit, and the infantry use "section" as the equivalent unit.
The word is derived from the 17th-century French peloton, meaning a small detachment of soldiers. The word came from pelote meaning a small ball. The suffix "-on" is in principle a diminutive suffix in French, so peloton is a diminutive of "small ball". It then took the meaning of a small group of people, in particular a small group of soldiers, a platoon or, more specifically, a firing
Units of this type:43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry
Commanded by rank:Lieutenant Colonel
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a lieutenant colonel or a colonel. Several battalions are grouped to form a regiment or a brigade.
The nomenclature varies by nationality and by branch of arms, for instance, some armies organize their infantry into battalions, but call battalion-sized cavalry, reconnaissance, or tank units a squadron or a regiment instead. There may even be subtle distinctions within a nation's branches of arms, such as a distinction between a tank battalion and an armored squadron, depending on how the unit's operational role is perceived to fit into the army's historical organization.
A battalion is generally the smallest military unit capable of independent operations (i.e., not attached to a higher command), although many armies have smaller units that are self-sustaining. The battalion is usually part of a regiment, group or a brigade, depending on the organizational model used by that service. The bulk of a battalion will ordinarily be homogeneous with respect to type (e.g., an infantry battalion or a tank battalion), although there are many
A Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU, pronounced Myuu), formerly called Marine amphibious unit (MAU), is the smallest Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) in the United States Fleet Marine Force. Each MEU is an expeditionary quick reaction force, deployed and ready for immediate response to any crisis.
A Marine Expeditionary Unit is normally built around the building blocks of a MAGTF: a reinforced Marine infantry battalion is the ground combat element, the aviation combat element is a composite helicopter squadron, a battalion-sized logistics combat element, and a command element. Troop strength is about 2,200 and usually commanded by a colonel, and is deployed from an amphibious assault ship.
The MEU is unique in that its air and ground combat elements are combined with a logistics combat element under one commander; other services do not unite the command of air and ground forces until much higher command levels.
When the United States Army integrates with Air Force assets, it typically is at the theater or corps level, with a general commanding, while at the division level it will integrate with Army aviation, which can be organized as organic at the battalion level.
Units of this type:Norwegian Independent Company 1
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure. Several companies are grouped to form a battalion or regiment, the latter of which is sometimes formed by several battalions.
Rifle companies consist of four platoons and a company headquarters. The artillery equivalent of a company is a battery and within armoured and engineering units, the equivalent is known as a squadron.
The British Army infantry normally identifies its rifle companies by letter (usually, but not always, A, B and C) within a battalion, usually with the addition of a headquarters company and a support/heavy weapons company. Some units name their companies after regimental battle honours; this is commonly the case for composite units, for example the London Regiment with its Somme, Messines and Cambrai companies. The foot guards regiments use traditional names for some of their companies, for example Queen's Company, Left Flank, Prince of Wales's Company etc.
Royal Marines companies are designated by a letter that
A Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) is a formation of the United States Marine Corps, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force of approximately 14,500 Marines and Sailors constructed around a reinforced infantry regiment, a composite Marine aircraft group, a logistics group and a command element. The MEB, commanded by a general officer (usually a Major General or sometimes a Brigadier General), is task-organized to meet the requirements of a specific situation. It can function as part of a joint task force, as the lead echelon of the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), or alone. It varies in size and composition, and is larger than a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) but smaller than a MEF. The MEB is capable of conducting missions across the full range of military operations.
The following MEBs were deployed operationally:
Wing is a term used by different military aviation forces for a unit of command. The terms wing, group or Staffel are used for different-sized units from one country or service to another.
In some military aviation services, a wing is a relatively large formation of two or more groups, which in turn control two or more squadrons. In other contexts a wing is a smaller unit, comprising two to four squadrons, with several wings forming a group. For example, In the United States Air Force, a wing is equivalent to a group in the air forces of most Commonwealth countries (although the Canadian Forces are an exception; see below) and both are equivalent to an army regiment, and a USAF group is equivalent to a wing in most Commonwealth air forces.
On its establishment in 1912, the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was intended to be an inter-service, combined force of the British Army and Royal Navy. Given the rivalry that existed between the army and navy, new terminology was used, in order to avoid marking the corps out as having an army or navy ethos. While the term "wing" had been used in the cavalry, its more general use predominated. Accordingly, the word "wing", with its allusion of
A field army or numbered army, usually referred to simply as an Army, is a military formation in many national military forces, superior to a corps and beneath an army group. Likewise, air armies are equivalent formation within some air forces.
Particular field armies are usually named or numbered to distinguish them from "army" in the sense of an entire national land force. In English, the normal style for naming field armies is word numbers, such as "First Army"; whereas corps are usually distinguished by Roman numerals (e.g. I Corps) and subordinate formations with ordinal numbers (e.g. 1st Division).
The Roman Army was among the first to feature a formal field army, in the sense of a very large, combined arms formation, namely the sacer comitatus, which may be translated literally as "sacred escort". The term is derived from the fact that they were commanded by Roman emperors (who were regarded as sacred), when they acted as field commanders. While comitatensis (plural: comitatenses) is sometimes translated as "field army", it may also be translated as the more generic "field force" or "mobile force" (as opposed to limitanei or garrison units).
In some armies, an "Army" is or
A Roman legion (from Latin legio "military levy, conscription," from legere — "to choose") normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but were typically composed of up to 5,000 soldiers, originally divided into maniples and later into cohorts. Maniples/Cohorts were divided into centuries.
In reference to the early Kingdom of Rome (as opposed to the republic or empire) "the legion" means the entire Roman army.
For most of the Roman Imperial period, the legions were a part of the Imperial army and formed its elite heavy infantry, recruited exclusively from Roman citizens (provincials who aspired to the citizenship gained when honorably discharged from the auxiliaries). Each legion always included a small cavalry attachment. The Roman army (for most of the Imperial period) consisted mostly of "auxiliary" cohorts who provided additional infantry, and the vast majority of the Roman army's cavalry.
Because of the enormous military successes of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, the legion has long been regarded as the prime ancient model for military efficiency and