Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 46

Thread: Company commander - captain or major?

  1. #1
    Staff Emeritus
    Military Professional
    Defense Professional Shek's Avatar
    Join Date
    23 Feb 05
    Location
    Krblachistan
    Posts
    11,636

    Company commander - captain or major?

    I find it quite interesting the dichotomy between the US and British Army in the rank of company commanders, with company commanders in the US Army being junior captains, while company commanders in the British Army are majors.

    I'd be interested in hearing peoples' thoughts on the two different approaches and any insight into the historical development of these two different timelines.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  2. #2
    Senior Contributor
    Join Date
    20 Jun 07
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia.
    Posts
    2,578
    In the British Army the Officer Rank structure does not have a Junior Captain. It follows 2Lt, Lt, Capt, Maj, Lt Col, Col, Brig etc. Trust this answers your question.

  3. #3
    Military Professional
    Join Date
    05 Nov 04
    Location
    Glasgow
    Posts
    801
    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    I find it quite interesting the dichotomy between the US and British Army in the rank of company commanders, with company commanders in the US Army being junior captains, while company commanders in the British Army are majors.

    I'd be interested in hearing peoples' thoughts on the two different approaches and any insight into the historical development of these two different timelines.
    i think - and i believe that this is OoE's views as well - that its an accident of the colonial policing role that was the BA's bread and butter for several hundred years. relatively small forces could be responsible for quite large areas in an age where comms are either bad or non-existant, ergo the commander of that unit might need almost plenipotentary powers to make peace and war (particularly as 'divide and rule' is one of the best ways to secure influence when you don't have great numbers), obviously this isn't a job for a twenty-five year old... there are two other reasons that spring to mind, firstly that the US Army was built on a 'Prussian model', one of very strict discipline and a very 'top-down' operational model, whereas the BA has a somewhat different approach of not just allowing initiative at a very junior level, but requiring it - you can imagine that local initiative (and effectively self-sufficiency of command) is a requirement for a rifle company on the North-West frontier where the next level of command might be a weeks march away.

    also woth noting that British junior officer ranks alternate betwwen command ranks and staff ranks (it doesn't always work out like that, but you get the jist): 2nd Lt isn't in charge of anything, least of all himself, a Lt actually does command a platoon/troop - though with significant input from SNCO's and Coy ic, a Captain might be an Ops Officer, Adjutant, Coy 2ic - generally a desk warrior, a Major will command a Coy/Sqn/Battery.

    personally i prefer the British system, you allow a young officer to get a little more operational, command and administrative/study experience under his belt and then when you do give him a company command you allow him to get on with it in the way he sees fit. from personal experience when in Bosnia i watched a US Army battalion Orders Group that micro-managed the way Captains would operate to a degree that a British Corporal wouldn't accept. i imagine things have changed because of the Iraq experience, but it gave the impression of a command system that was obsessed with 'the plan' and couldn't handle the concept of 'we'll see when we get there' and therefore deliberately put people in sub-unit commands who wouldn't think of either challenging the plan or just binning it and making a new one to suit the conditions on the ground.

    Shek, you are one of the most interesting (and interested) US Army officers its been my privilige to 'meet', i think you particularly would get an awful lot out of an exchange tour with a BA infantry unit, especially one in Afghanistan.

    (thats not a sly dig at the US Army, a kind of 'we'll show you how its done', but demonstrating an operational/intellectual model that you seem to be interested in. it would give you an opportunity to see if you think it actually works in practice)
    before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.................... then when you do criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  4. #4
    Staff Emeritus
    Military Professional
    Defense Professional Shek's Avatar
    Join Date
    23 Feb 05
    Location
    Krblachistan
    Posts
    11,636
    Quote Originally Posted by Cornishchunky View Post
    In the British Army the Officer Rank structure does not have a Junior Captain. It follows 2Lt, Lt, Capt, Maj, Lt Col, Col, Brig etc. Trust this answers your question.
    Cornishchunky,

    We've got the exact same rank structure, minus our Brigadiers get general attached to their title. The junior/senior Captain is a description of the officer development timeline in the US Army, where the "normal" career path has a junior Captain commanding a company and then moving on to do something else (higher staff; grad school; working acquisition on some project; professional schooling for some jobs such as foreign affairs officer; etc.) during their senior Captain years.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  5. #5
    Staff Emeritus
    Military Professional
    Defense Professional Shek's Avatar
    Join Date
    23 Feb 05
    Location
    Krblachistan
    Posts
    11,636
    Quote Originally Posted by dave angel View Post
    i think - and i believe that this is OoE's views as well - that its an accident of the colonial policing role that was the BA's bread and butter for several hundred years. relatively small forces could be responsible for quite large areas in an age where comms are either bad or non-existant, ergo the commander of that unit might need almost plenipotentary powers to make peace and war (particularly as 'divide and rule' is one of the best ways to secure influence when you don't have great numbers), obviously this isn't a job for a twenty-five year old... there are two other reasons that spring to mind, firstly that the US Army was built on a 'Prussian model', one of very strict discipline and a very 'top-down' operational model, whereas the BA has a somewhat different approach of not just allowing initiative at a very junior level, but requiring it - you can imagine that local initiative (and effectively self-sufficiency of command) is a requirement for a rifle company on the North-West frontier where the next level of command might be a weeks march away.
    Dave,

    I figured it probably had to do with the colonial roots of the British Army, but wasn't sure. I'd agree that the US Army model is loosely built on a Prussian model, although you don't see separate paths from early on in officers' careers that creates a professional staff officer. Instead, the US Army model is much more egalitarian, attempting to give every officer a chance at becoming the Chief of Staff of the Army.

    There has been some change in this respect (and I am part of the change), where an officer can designate a career field and then competes within that career field for promotion instead of within his/her basic branch, with the knowledge that glass ceilings exist within the career field (e.g., while my basic branch is still infantry, I now work in the strategic plans and policy career field, meaning that I am guaranteed not to be promoted beyond O-6). This has created some peverse incentives, as many officers will choose a career field because it offers an opportunity (e.g. grad school) that no longer exists because the new dichotomy between basic branch/career field. However, I digress.

    It's a model that worked when we were fighting conflicts where our industry/mass mobilization capabilities could shine, but I agree with you that it has its drawbacks with small wars.

    Quote Originally Posted by dave angel
    also woth noting that British junior officer ranks alternate betwwen command ranks and staff ranks (it doesn't always work out like that, but you get the jist): 2nd Lt isn't in charge of anything, least of all himself, a Lt actually does command a platoon/troop - though with significant input from SNCO's and Coy ic, a Captain might be an Ops Officer, Adjutant, Coy 2ic - generally a desk warrior, a Major will command a Coy/Sqn/Battery.

    personally i prefer the British system, you allow a young officer to get a little more operational, command and administrative/study experience under his belt and then when you do give him a company command you allow him to get on with it in the way he sees fit. from personal experience when in Bosnia i watched a US Army battalion Orders Group that micro-managed the way Captains would operate to a degree that a British Corporal wouldn't accept. i imagine things have changed because of the Iraq experience, but it gave the impression of a command system that was obsessed with 'the plan' and couldn't handle the concept of 'we'll see when we get there' and therefore deliberately put people in sub-unit commands who wouldn't think of either challenging the plan or just binning it and making a new one to suit the conditions on the ground.
    Some of the micromanagement that you saw existed because of the casualty adverse environment that was created post-Cold War, partly due to civilian emphasis on no to low casualties so that the mission would maintain domestic support (or probably more appropriately worded, to avoid domestic opposition) and also because military commanders didn't want to lose soldiers to a mission that they felt they shouldn't be doing.

    Personally, I'd like to see the US Army more closely align company command with the timeline seen in the British Army. COIN and small wars, something that we will continue to do, requires folks that are thinkers just as much as fighting, and age provides experience and maturity that results more often than not in more thinking, which in this environment, means less fighting.

    I'd like to see senior Captains commanding in the US Army. Invest in the human capital of our junior Captains by sending them to language schools, grad schools, internships with NGOs, IGOs, USGOs, etc., or other alternative assignments that will broaden their horizons and give them new perspectives to use when they are leading their companies. Who better to get a small village up and running that spent a year in language school and learning another culture, and then spent two years with a NGO in Africa figuring out how to kick start a local microeconomy? Even if that officer then needs to spend three months in a crash course on Arabic before going to Iraq (or Pashto/Urdu/Farsi before going to Afghanistan), he/she will be cognizant that they will be living in another culture, and thus will be sensitized to that and the benefits they can reap by overtly and honestly adapting to the local culture.

    Quote Originally Posted by dave angel
    Shek, you are one of the most interesting (and interested) US Army officers its been my privilige to 'meet', i think you particularly would get an awful lot out of an exchange tour with a BA infantry unit, especially one in Afghanistan.

    (thats not a sly dig at the US Army, a kind of 'we'll show you how its done', but demonstrating an operational/intellectual model that you seem to be interested in. it would give you an opportunity to see if you think it actually works in practice)
    I appreciate the kind words. An exchange would be fun and a great learning experience, although there are far too few of these opportunities.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  6. #6
    Military Professional
    Join Date
    05 Nov 04
    Location
    Glasgow
    Posts
    801
    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post

    Personally, I'd like to see the US Army more closely align company command with the timeline seen in the British Army. COIN and small wars, something that we will continue to do, requires folks that are thinkers just as much as fighting, and age provides experience and maturity that results more often than not in more thinking, which in this environment, means less fighting.

    I'd like to see senior Captains commanding in the US Army. Invest in the human capital of our junior Captains by sending them to language schools, grad schools, internships with NGOs, IGOs, USGOs, etc., or other alternative assignments that will broaden their horizons and give them new perspectives to use when they are leading their companies. Who better to get a small village up and running that spent a year in language school and learning another culture, and then spent two years with a NGO in Africa figuring out how to kick start a local microeconomy? Even if that officer then needs to spend three months in a crash course on Arabic before going to Iraq (or Pashto/Urdu/Farsi before going to Afghanistan), he/she will be cognizant that they will be living in another culture, and thus will be sensitized to that and the benefits they can reap by overtly and honestly adapting to the local culture.
    difficult to think of someone more suited to winning - rather than just blowing **** up on tv for the folks back home - the long-term COIN engagements than someone with that kind of experience.

    perhaps its even more neccesary given the west point experience (assuming i've got the right end of the stick), being exposed at such a young age to four years huddled together where everyone talks the same, dresses the same, thinks the same and does the same doesn't seem particularly conducive to the kind of soldiering you are describing - especially if there's lots of "fcuk! America, yeah!" going on.

    not sure if you can get hold of it, but Mjr Gen Tony Jeapes wrote a book about the 22SAS campaign in Oman from the early seventies, its called 'SAS Operation Oman' (obviously someone spents lots of time on the catchy title...) ISBN 978-0898390544, it goes into detail about the aid/security mix and describes a product not a million miles from that which you think could be most effective in future coin ops.

    of course the intelligence and political spin off of having lots of US personnel and financial investment in various dirt poor countries making a serious impact on the lives of those most at risk of falling under the spell of AQ-esque ideologies shouldn't be discounted either...

    win win.
    before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.................... then when you do criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  7. #7
    Military Professional
    Join Date
    15 Sep 06
    Posts
    6,755
    A fascinating exchange gentlemen but when I was serving exchange postings were quite common. Each 'side' benefitted from the knowledge realised. I think the British are more used to working in 'penny packets' whereas the Americans (seem to) prefer working en-masse. I also think our strengths lie in the Regimental system for infantry and armour. The other arms and services in the British army cannot work that system, of course, and neither can the Royal Navy nor the Royal Air Force. They however have their 'branches' for retaining specialisation within the service. Naturally everything works so much better in the uniformed world when the government is not ceaselessly interfering!
    Semper in excretum. Solum profunda variat.

  8. #8
    Military Professional wabpilot's Avatar
    Join Date
    05 Dec 03
    Location
    Commuting between Dresden and Ft. Worth
    Posts
    620
    Quote Originally Posted by glyn View Post
    A fascinating exchange gentlemen .... Naturally everything works so much better in the uniformed world when the government is not ceaselessly interfering!
    Yes a very fascinating exchange. Glyn, I think government has a role to play, oversight, funding and providing the political will and support for the mission. I cannot overemphasize how badly our government handled the Viet Nam war in just those very terms.

  9. #9
    Military Professional
    Join Date
    15 Sep 06
    Posts
    6,755
    Quote Originally Posted by wabpilot View Post
    Yes a very fascinating exchange. Glyn, I think government has a role to play, oversight, funding and providing the political will and support for the mission. I cannot overemphasize how badly our government handled the Viet Nam war in just those very terms.
    Quite so. Our present government cannot stop micro-managing everything. They are control freaks totally without military experience. The end of the cold war was considered to provide a 'peace dividend' which manifested itself by wholesale cutbacks in the armed services. Units with a history measured in cenuries were disbanded overnight. The RAF and the Navy reduced to a shadow of their former selves. As we know all too well, the peace dividend was mostly illusory and the US and the UK are more fully engaged than ever. The knock-on effects this will have seem to be of no concern to HM government. I am not sanguine about what the future could hold in store for us all.
    Semper in excretum. Solum profunda variat.

  10. #10
    New Member
    Join Date
    02 Jul 07
    Posts
    20
    I think it has something to do with tradition. After Cromwell, the established British army had officers who bought their rank through outright money purchase or a combination of that and all that aristocrastic ponce stuff. The upper class were the officers, and a gentleman who commanded 100 men "should at least be a major". The Brits were and seem to still be enamoured by the classics and I believe they see company command as a role for a centurion (in Brit eyes a major).

    I see an earlier comment about the Prussians and the US Army - maybe something to do with Von Clauswitz. I think the US rank system comes straight from the British army during the revolution and has nothing to do with American admiration for the Prussian rank system. The US army seems to have maintained the logical way to go about this. 2nd LT - platoon leader, 1st LT company XO, next rank is captain for company actual.

  11. #11
    Military Professional
    Join Date
    05 Nov 04
    Location
    Glasgow
    Posts
    801
    Quote Originally Posted by jaehkimx View Post

    I see an earlier comment about the Prussians and the US Army - maybe something to do with Von Clauswitz. I think the US rank system comes straight from the British army during the revolution and has nothing to do with American admiration for the Prussian rank system. The US army seems to have maintained the logical way to go about this. 2nd LT - platoon leader, 1st LT company XO, next rank is captain for company actual.
    i've always wondered why people were so enamoured of Von Clauswitz, after all he's a a German, so WTF would he know about winning wars!

    the 'Prussian' system is a form of discipline type, a very rigid rank-bound system, lots of standing to attention and shouting 'sir' whenever anyone with one more camping badge than you walks into the room. having six different ranks of Sergeant (excluding the Three Seargent Major ranks) indicates an organisation obsessed with rank.

    your analysis of what rank should perform what task depends almost entirely on whether you believe that a 2nd Lt should be in charge of wiping his own arrse, it also utterly fails to grasp the relevence of operational history, but jumps onto historical irrelevence
    before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.................... then when you do criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  12. #12
    Officer of Engineers
    Guest
    They did beat Napoleon.

  13. #13
    Military Professional
    Join Date
    05 Nov 04
    Location
    Glasgow
    Posts
    801
    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    They did beat Napoleon.
    true, but a) its not as if they had no help, and b) their record since hasn't been particularly inspiring...

    (you do know that i'm kind of taking the pp1ss here...)
    before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.................... then when you do criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  14. #14
    New Member
    Join Date
    02 Jul 07
    Posts
    20
    Quote Originally Posted by dave angel View Post
    your analysis of what rank should perform what task depends almost entirely on whether you believe that a 2nd Lt should be in charge of wiping his own arrse, it also utterly fails to grasp the relevence of operational history, but jumps onto historical irrelevence
    Hey lighten up man. All that anger bottled up inside, you're going to die of a heart attack or hypertension real soon (I hope). And the German army has fielded the finest troops for the last 3 hundred years. And wipe your arse with that.......... You sound like a lifer NCO, strutting his life upon a stage, full of sound and fury, signyfing nothing

  15. #15
    Military Professional
    Join Date
    08 Sep 05
    Posts
    272
    Quote Originally Posted by jaehkimx View Post
    Hey lighten up man. All that anger bottled up inside, you're going to die of a heart attack or hypertension real soon (I hope). And the German army has fielded the finest troops for the last 3 hundred years. And wipe your arse with that.......... You sound like a lifer NCO, strutting his life upon a stage, full of sound and fury, signyfing nothing
    300 years I dont think so, as 'the' finest, again no..... Napolean wiped the floor of the austio-german army on a number of ocassions, due to the fact of there rigid formations and mentality in military affairs. [Dave has brought up a valid point] Read up on history before you shoot your drivle.

    oh by the way, you sound like an ignorant philistine, with a mental capacity of a two year old, that is inept of understing ones demeanor on these posts,
    and are incapable of responding with a sound and informative responsce.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 9 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 9 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Random Thoughts on the Mighty Hog - Part 2
    By Shipwreck in forum Military Aviation
    Replies: 219
    Last Post: 11 Dec 17,, 23:10
  2. Articles and links for the Military Professional
    By Officer of Engineers in forum The Staff College
    Replies: 115
    Last Post: 20 Nov 06,, 15:28
  3. Replies: 2
    Last Post: 05 Nov 06,, 14:42
  4. Bangladesh plays the China card
    By Ray in forum East Asia and the Pacific
    Replies: 136
    Last Post: 17 Oct 05,, 15:14

Share this thread with friends:

Share this thread with friends:

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •