Army Chain of Command

The Army Chain of Command is a line of authority and responsibility, in which orders are transmitted from one unit to another and one Soldier to another.

Orders are transmitted down the chain of command from a higher ranking Soldier, such as a Commissioned Officer or NCO to a lower-ranking Soldier.

Orders are either executed immediately or are delegated down the chain of command as appropriate.

Normally, military leaders give orders only to those directly below them in the chain of command and receive orders only from those directly above them.

In other words, if your supervisor wants something done they would give the order to you.

And, you would execute the mission order or delegate the order to one of your subordinate Soldiers.

On the contrary, your supervisor would not task one of your Soldiers to complete a task without going through you first (not typically anyway).

Similarly, if one of your Soldiers has an issue, they should first bring it to you first before going to a higher level in the chain of command.

Failing to follow the proper chain of command can lead to confusion, frustration, inefficiency, relief for cause or other disciplinary actions.

The chain of command is not just about rank.

Just because someone has a higher rank than you does not entitle them to order around people they outrank.

For instance, an Army Officer in one unit does not directly command lower ranking members of another unit.

In addition, when an Officer has a problem with a Soldier or NCO in another unit, they should contact the commander of that unit to remedy the situation rather than deal with the Soldier directly.chain of command

Simply put, the chain of command means that Soldiers take orders from only one superior and only give orders to a defined group of people immediately below them.

In addition, within combat units line officers are in the chain of command, but officers in specialist fields (such as medical, dental, legal, supply and chaplain) are not, except within their own specialty.

For example, a signal officer in an infantry battalion would be responsible for the signal personnel in that unit, but would not be eligible to command the battalion or any of its subordinate units.

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The National Guard Chain of Command

Within the National Guard, the chain of command in each State starts with the Governor.

During peace-time, the Governor has control over their troops.

They can “activate” or “mobilize” their troops for state emergencies such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.

The next person in the chain of command is the Adjutant General.

The Adjutant General is normally a Major General, but can also be a Brigadier General.

The Adjutant General is appointed by the state’s governor and oversees all state National Guard personnel (Army and Air Force).

Next, the Assistant Adjutant General – Army (TAAG) is the next officer in the chain of command.

They are responsible for all Army troops within the state.

TAAG is normally a Brigadier General or Colonel (P), who provides guidance to Army Brigade Commanders.

Underneath TAAG are the Brigade Commanders.

Also known as the Major Subordinate Commands, MSCs are Brigade sized units.

Depending on the type of unit, it can be commanded either by a Brigadier General or Colonel.

Most states have somewhere between three to ten MSCs.

Next, the Battalion Commander works for the MSC Commander.

Each MSC normally has two to seven battalions.

The Battalion Commander leads 300-800 Soldiers, depending on the type of battalion.

Each Battalion Commander normally has three to seven companies in their battalion.

Next, the Company Commander is the next echelon in the chain of command.

The Company Commander leads 100-200 Soldiers and has command authority over them.

Each company consists of three to five platoons.

The Platoon Leader works for the Company Commander, but the Platoon Leader does not have command authority.

They report directly to the Company Commander and makes recommendations for UCMJ action and Soldier discipline.

The Platoon Leader is normally a Second Lieutenant or First Lieutenant.

The NCO Support Channel

In addition to the chain of command, there is also a NCO Support Channel.

Each Commander has a senior NCO; either a First Sergeant or Command Sergeant Major.

The NCO Support Channel advises the chain of command on all enlisted issues.

Although the NCOs do not have command authority, they play an important role in remedying Soldier issues and helping maintain disciplined, trained units.

NCOs are the backbone of the Army.

Within a platoon-size element, the NCO Support Channel consists of a Platoon Sergeant, Squad Leader and Team Leader.

The NCOs handle most Soldier issues and recommend UCMJ actions up the chain of command, first to the Platoon Leader and then the Company Commander.

Example Chain of Command in an Infantry Battalion

Let me give you a quick hypothetical example of how the chain of command in an Infantry Battalion would work.

Let’s suppose Private Snuffy has a problem and needs assistance.

They would follow these simple steps.

1. Team Leader: Private Snuffy would first approach his Team Leader.

The Team Leader is where the rubber meets the road.

The Team Leader normally supervises three to five Soldiers.

They are the First Line Leader in the Army.

2. Squad Leader: If the Team Leader can’t resolve the issue, the Squad Leader gets involved.

The Squad Leader normally manages eight to twelve Soldiers, which consists of two teams.

Once again, each Team is led by a Team Leader, who reports to the Squad Leader.

3. Platoon Sergeant/Platoon Leader: If the Squad Leader can’t fix the issue, they would contact the Platoon Sergeant or Platoon Leader.

The Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant typically manage 30-75 Soldiers, consisting of three to five squads.

The Platoon Sergeant works for the Platoon Leader and the Platoon Leader works for the Company Commander.

4. First Sergeant/Company Commander: When the Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant can’t fix the Soldier’s problem, they would contact the First Sergeant and Company Commander.

The First Sergeant and Company Commander lead 100-200 soldiers, consisting of three to five platoons.

The First Sergeant works for the Company Commander and the Company Commander works for the Battalion Commander.

5. Battalion Commander/Commander Sergeant Major: If the Company Commander and First Sergeant couldn’t fix the problem, they would escalate it to the battalion level.

The battalion is led by a Lieutenant Colonel and Command Sergeant Major.

The battalion consists of three to five companies, each led by a Captain and First Sergeant.

The Battalion Commander is the first field grade officer in the chain of command.

Above the battalion level, you have Brigade and Division.

99% of all Soldier issues never make it this far up the chain of command.

In most cases, Soldier issues are handled at the Team Leader level.

Sometimes they are escalated to the Squad Leader and Platoon Sergeant level.

Very seldom are they escalated to the First Sergeant or Company Commander level or higher.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the chain of command is extremely important in the military.

It is vital for giving orders, getting things done and surviving in combat.

When it works well, it’s a beautiful thing.

When it doesn’t work right, leadership is ineffective and some personnel end up doing other people’s jobs for them.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think about the chain of command?

Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

I look forward to hearing from you.


5 thoughts on “Army Chain of Command”

  1. An excellent breakdown on the chain of command. I would say this covers about 99.8% of all situations. The only situations where I can see going outside the normal chain of command would be a crime of some sort.
    Of course for some issues you can utilize the chaplain or similar social service, but I would still keep my direct supervisor in the loop for that.

  2. As a civilian, your overview of the Chain of Command was very helpful. I had a cousin who has a Platoon Leader and I didn’t really understand what that meant. He would explain what is role was but I never really understood it within the overall context of the Chain of Command. This was helpful. Thanks.

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