Brigadier general (United States)

Last updated
Brigadier General
US-O7 insignia.svg
One-star insignia of the rank of Brigadier General. Style and method of wear may vary between different uniforms and different service branches.
US Army O7 (Army greens).svg US Marine O7 shoulderboard vertical.svg
Army and marine insignia
US Air Force O7 shoulderboard.svg US Space-force O7 (interim).svg
Air force and space force insignia
CountryFlag of the United States.svg United States
Service branch
  • BG (Army)
  • BGen (Marine Corps)
  • Brig Gen (Air Force, Space Force)
Rank One-star
NATO rank code OF-6
Non-NATO rank O-7
Next higher rank Major General
Next lower rank Colonel
Equivalent ranks

In the United States Armed Forces, a brigadier general is a one-star general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force.


A brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below a major general. The pay grade of brigadier general is O-7. It is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral (lower half) in the other United States uniformed services which use naval ranks. It is abbreviated as BG in the Army, BGen in the Marine Corps, and Brig Gen in the Air Force and Space Force.


U.S. brigadier general insignias
Flag of a United States Army brigadier general.svg
Rank flag of a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. The background is maroon on an Army Medical Dept. brigadier general's flag and purple on a chaplain brigadier general's.
Flag of a United States Marine Corps brigadier general.svg
Flag of a United States Marine Corps brigadier general.
Flag of a United States Air Force brigadier general.svg
Flag of a United States Air Force brigadier general.
Flag of a United States Space Force brigadier general.svg
Flag of a United States Space Force brigadier general.

The rank of brigadier general has existed in the U.S. military since the inception of the Continental Army in June 1775. To prevent mistakes in recognizing officers, a general order was issued on July 14, 1775, establishing that brigadier generals would wear a ribbon, worn across the breast, between coat and waistcoat, pink in color. [1] Later, on June 18, 1780, it was prescribed that brigadier generals would instead wear a single silver star on each epaulette. [1] At first, brigadier generals were infantry officers who commanded a brigade; however, over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the responsibilities of the rank expanded significantly.

During the period from March 16, 1802, to January 11, 1812, the rank of major general was abolished and brigadier general became the highest rank in the U.S. Army. Foreseeing the need for an expanded general staff in case of war, which seemed imminent, Congress restored the rank of major general in January 1812. [2] [3]

The first brigadier general in the U.S. Marine Corps was Commandant Archibald Henderson, brevetted to the rank of brigadier general in the 1830s for his service in the Second Seminole War.[ citation needed ] The first non-brevet brigadier general in the Marines was Commandant Jacob Zeilin who was promoted to the rank in 1874, but when he retired in 1876, colonel once again became the highest rank in the Marines until March 1899 when Commandant Charles Heywood was promoted. Ever since then, the office of Commandant has been held by a general officer, with the permanent rank of the commandant raised to major general in 1908, and then to lieutenant general and subsequently to general during World War II, which rank it has held ever since.[ citation needed ]

The insignia for a brigadier general is one silver star worn on the shoulder or collar, and has not changed since the creation of the rank two centuries ago. Since the Mexican–American War, however, the lower rank of colonel has been the normal rank appointed to command a brigade that is organic to a division (e.g., the 1st Brigade of the 94th Infantry Division, vice the 187th Infantry Brigade). While separate brigades (e.g. the 187th, commanded by then-BG William Westmoreland in Korea) were traditionally commanded by brigadier generals, this practice has ceased in recent history.

Today, an Army or Marine Corps "BG" or "BGen," respectively, typically serves as deputy commander to the commanding general of a division or division-sized units and assists in overseeing the planning and coordination of a mission. A Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), as the medium capability (and sized) scalable Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) with up to 20,000 Marines, is normally commanded by a Marine BGen. [4] An Air Force brigadier general typically commands a large wing or serves as the deputy commander for a NAF. Additionally, one-star officers of all services may serve as high-level staff officers in large military organizations.

Statutory limits

U.S. law explicitly limits the total number of general officers who may be on active duty. [5] The total number of active duty general officers is capped at 231 for the Army, 62 for the Marine Corps, and 198 for the Air Force. The President or Secretary of Defense may increase the number of slots for one branch, so long as they subtract an equal number from another. [6] Some of these slots are reserved by statute.

Promotion, appointment and tour length

For promotion to the permanent grade of brigadier general, eligible officers are screened by a promotion board consisting of general officers from their branch of service. [7] This promotion board then generates a list of officers it recommends for promotion to general rank. [8] This list is then sent to the service secretary and the Joint Chiefs for review before it can be sent to the President, through the Secretary of Defense, for consideration. [9] The President nominates officers to be promoted from this list with the advice of the Secretary of Defense, the service secretary, and if applicable, the service's chief of staff or commandant. [10] The President may nominate any eligible officer who is not on the recommended list if it serves in the interest of the nation, but this is uncommon. [11] The Senate must then confirm the nominee before the officer can be promoted. Once the nominee is confirmed, they are promoted to that rank once they assume or hold an office that requires or allows an officer of that rank. For positions of office reserved by statute, the President nominates an officer for appointment to fill that position. For all three uniformed services, because the grade of brigadier general is a permanent rank, the nominee may still be screened by an in-service promotion board. The rank does not expire when the officer vacates a one-star position. Tour length varies depending on the position, by statute, or when the officer receives a new assignment. The average tour length of a one-star billet is two to four years.


Other than voluntary retirement, statute sets a number of mandates for retirement. All brigadier generals must retire after five years in grade or 30 years of service, whichever is later, unless selected or appointed for promotion, or reappointed to grade to serve longer. [12] Otherwise, all general and flag officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday. [13] However, the Secretary of Defense can defer a general or flag officer's retirement until the officer's 66th birthday and the President can defer it until the officer's 68th birthday. Because there are a finite number of General officer positions, one officer must retire before another can be promoted. As a result, General and flag officers typically retire well in advance of the statutory age and service limits, so as not to impede the upward career mobility of their juniors. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, and marines or naval infantry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military rank</span> Element of hierarchy in armed forces

Military ranks are a system of hierarchical relationships, within armed forces, police, intelligence agencies or other institutions organized along military lines. The military rank system defines dominance, authority, and responsibility in a military hierarchy. It incorporates the principles of exercising power and authority into the military chain of command—the succession of commanders superior to subordinates through which command is exercised. The military chain of command constructs an important component for organized collective action.

Brigadier is a military rank, the seniority of which depends on the country. In some countries, it is a senior rank above colonel, equivalent to a brigadier general or commodore, typically commanding a brigade of several thousand soldiers. In other countries, it is a non-commissioned rank.

Brigadier general or Brigade general is a military rank used in many countries. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries. The rank is usually above a colonel, and below a major general or divisional general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000 troops.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flags of the United States Armed Forces</span> Banners which represent branches of US military forces

The several branches of the United States Armed Forces are represented by flags. Within the U.S. military, various flags fly on various occasions, and on various ships, bases, camps, and military academies.

In the United States Navy, officers have various ranks. Equivalency between services is by pay grade. United States Navy commissioned officer ranks have two distinct sets of rank insignia: On dress uniform a series of stripes similar to Commonwealth naval ranks are worn; on service khaki, working uniforms, and special uniform situations, the rank insignia are identical to the equivalent rank in the US Marine Corps.

A flag officer is a commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which the officer exercises command.

Admiral is a four-star commissioned officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps with the pay grade of O-10. Admiral ranks above vice admiral and below fleet admiral in the Navy; the Coast Guard and the Public Health Service do not have an established grade above admiral. Admiral is equivalent to the rank of general in the other uniformed services. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps has never had an officer hold the grade of admiral. However, 37 U.S.C. § 201 of the U.S. Code established the grade for the NOAA Corps, in case a position is created that merits the four-star grade.

In the United States military, a general is the most senior general-grade officer; it is the highest achievable commissioned officer rank that may be attained in the United States Armed Forces, with exception of the Navy and Coast Guard, which have the equivalent rank of admiral instead. The official and formal insignia of "general" is defined by its four stars.

Commodore was an early title and later a rank in the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard and the Confederate States Navy, and also has been a rank in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps and its ancestor organizations. For over two centuries, the designation has been given varying levels of authority and formality.

In the United States Armed Forces, a lieutenant general is a three-star general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force.

In the United States Armed Forces, a major general is a two-star general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force.

A tombstone promotion is an advance in rank awarded at retirement. It often does not include any corresponding increase in retired pay, in which case it is an honorary promotion whose only benefit is the right to be addressed by the higher rank and to carve it on one's tombstone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rear admiral (United States)</span> Officer rank of the United States Navy and Coast Guard

A rear admiral in the uniformed services of the United States is either of two different ranks of commissioned officers: one-star flag officers and two-star flag officers. By contrast, in most other countries, the term "rear admiral" refers only to an officer of two-star rank.

A general officer is an officer of high military rank; in the uniformed services of the United States, general officers are commissioned officers above the field officer ranks, the highest of which is colonel in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force and captain, in the Navy, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (NOAACC).


  1. 1 2 "Officer Insignia of Rank – Origin". The Institute of Heraldry. Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. Archived from the original on 2012-07-15. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  3. Act of January 11, 1812, ch. 14, 2 Stat. 671
  4. "Types of MAGTFs". U.S. Marine Corps. 2013-12-11. Archived from the original on 2018-03-16. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  5. James Clark (May 16, 2016) Does The US Military Have Too Many Generals?: 411 one stars, 299 two stars, 139 three stars, and 37 four-stars across DoD
  6. 10 U.S.C. § 526. Authorized strength: general and flag officers on active duty
  7., 10 U.S.C. 611. Convening of selection boards
  8., 10 U.S.C. 616. Recommendations for promotion by selection boards
  9., 10 U.S.C. 618. Action on reports of selection boards
  10., 10 U.S.C. 624. Promotions: how made.
  11., 10 U.S.C. 5149. Office of the Judge Advocate General: Deputy Judge Advocate General; Assistant Judge Advocates General
  12., 10 U.S.C. 635. Retirement for years of service: regular brigadier generals and rear admirals (lower half).
  13. Archived 2015-11-01 at the Wayback Machine , 10 U.S.C. 1253. Age 64: regular commissioned officers in general and flag officer grades; exception.
  14., DoD News Briefing on Thursday, June 6, 1996. Retirement of Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr.