|Comparative military ranks|
Colonel (abbreviated as Col., Col or COL) is a senior military officer rank used in many countries. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations.
In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, a colonel was typically in charge of a regiment in an army. Modern usage varies greatly, and in some cases, the term is used as an honorific title that may have no direct relationship to military service. The rank of colonel is typically above the rank of lieutenant colonel. The rank above colonel is typically called brigadier, brigade general or brigadier general. In some smaller military forces, such as those of Monaco or the Vatican, colonel is the highest rank.
Equivalent naval ranks may be called captain or ship-of-the-line captain. In the Commonwealth's air force ranking system, the equivalent rank is group captain.
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“Colonel” came into the English language from the mid-16th-century French word "coronel", meaning commander of a regiment, or column, of soldiers. By the mid-17th century, the spelling and French pronunciation had changed to "colonel". The English spelling also changed, and the pronunciation was shortened to two syllables. By the early 19th century, the current pronunciation and spelling became standard in English. Colonel is linked to the word column (from Latin: columna; Italian: colonna; French: colonne) in a similar way that brigadier is linked to brigade, although in English this relationship is not immediately obvious. By the end of the late medieval period, a group of "companies" was referred to as a "column" of an army.
The first use of "colonel" as a rank in a national army was in the French National Legions (Légions nationales) created by King Francis I by his decree of 1534. Building on the military reforms of Louis XII's decree of 1509, he modernized the organization of the French royal army. Each colonel commanded a legion with a theoretical strength of six thousand men.
With the shift from primarily mercenary to primarily national armies in the course of the 17th century, a colonel (normally a member of the aristocracy) became a holder (German Inhaber) or proprietor of a military contract with a sovereign. The colonel purchased the regimental contract—the right to hold the regiment—from the previous holder of that right or directly from the sovereign when a new regiment was formed or an incumbent was killed.[ citation needed ]
The Spanish equivalent rank of coronel was used by the Spanish tercios in the 16th and 17th centuries. Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, nicknamed "the Great Captain", divided his armies in coronelías or colonelcies, each led by a coronel (colonel).However, the Spanish word probably derives from a different origin, in that it appears to designate an officer of the crown (corona, thus the rank coronel), rather than an officer of the column (columna, which would give the word columnal). This makes the Spanish word coronel probably cognate with the English word coroner .
As the office of colonel became an established practice, the colonel became the senior captain in a group of companies that were all sworn to observe his personal authority—to be ruled or regimented by him. This regiment, or governance, was to some extent embodied in a contract and set of written rules, also referred to as the colonel's regiment or standing regulation(s). By extension, the group of companies subject to a colonel's regiment (in the foregoing sense) came to be referred to as his regiment (in the modern sense) as well.
In French usage of this period, the senior colonel in the army or, in a field force, the senior military contractor, was the colonel general and, in the absence of the sovereign or his designate, the colonel general might serve as the commander of a force. The position, however, was primarily contractual and it became progressively more of a functionless sinecure. (The head of a single regiment or demi-brigade would be called a 'mestre de camp' or, after the Revolution, a 'chef de brigade'.)
By the late 19th century, colonel was a professional military rank though still held typically by an officer in command of a regiment or equivalent unit. Along with other ranks, it has become progressively more a matter of ranked duties, qualifications and experience and of corresponding titles and pay scale than of functional office in a particular organization.
As European military influence expanded throughout the world, the rank of colonel became adopted by nearly every nation (albeit under a variety of names).
With the rise of communism, some of the large communist militaries saw fit to expand the colonel rank into several grades, resulting in the unique senior colonel rank, which was found and is still used in such nations as China and North Korea.
In many modern armies, the regiment has more importance as a ceremonial unit or a focus of members' loyalty than as an actual battle formation. Troops tend to be deployed in battalions (commanded by a lieutenant colonel) as a more convenient size of military unit and, as such, colonels have tended to have a higher profile in specialist and command roles than as actual commanders of regiments. However, in Commonwealth armies, the position of the colonel as the figurehead of a regiment is maintained in the honorary role of "colonel-in-chief", usually held by a member of the royal family,the nobility, or a retired senior military officer. The colonel-in-chief wears a colonel's uniform and encourages the members of the regiment, but takes no active part in the actual command structure or in any operational duties.
The title Colonel of the Regiment (to distinguish it from the military rank of colonel) continues to be used in the modern British Army. The ceremonial position is often conferred on retired general officers, brigadiers or colonels who have a close link to a particular regiment. Non-military personnel, usually for positions within the Army Reserve may also be appointed to the ceremonial position. When attending functions as "Colonel of the Regiment", the titleholder wears the regimental uniform with rank insignia of (full) colonel, regardless of their official rank. A member of the Royal Family is known as a Royal Colonel. A Colonel of the Regiment is expected to work closely with a regiment and its Regimental Association.
Some military forces have a colonel as their highest-ranking officer, with no 'general' ranks, and no superior authority (except, perhaps, the head of state as a titular commander-in-chief) other than the respective national government. Examples include the following (arranged alphabetically by country name):
|Rank insignia for a colonel in several nations which have no higher military rank|
|Colonel CCP||Colonel CSP |
The term colonel is also used as a title for auctioneers in the United States; there are a variety of theories or folk etymologies to explain the use of the term.One of these is the claim that during the American Civil War goods seized by armies were sold at auction by the colonel of the division.
Kentucky colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Commissions for Kentucky colonels are given by the Governor and the Secretary of State to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to a community, state or the nation. The sitting governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky bestows the honor of a colonel's Commission, by issuance of letters patent. Perhaps the best known Kentucky colonel is Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.
The rank of colonel is also used by some police forces and paramilitary organizations.
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.
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that typically comprises three to six battalions plus supporting elements. It is roughly equivalent to an enlarged or reinforced regiment. Two or more brigades may constitute a division.
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 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. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000 troops.
Modern Russian military ranks trace their roots to the Table of Ranks established by Peter the Great. Most of the rank names were borrowed from existing German/Prussian, French, English, Dutch, and Polish ranks upon the formation of the Russian regular army in the late 17th century.
Commandant is a title often given to the officer in charge of a military training establishment or academy. This usage is common in English-speaking nations. In some countries it may be a military or police rank. It is also often used to refer to the commander of a military prison or prison camp.
A field officer, field-grade officer, or senior officer is an Army, Marine, or Air Force commissioned officer senior in rank to a company officer but junior to a general officer. In most armies this corresponds to the ranks of major, lieutenant colonel and colonel, or their equivalents. Some countries also include brigadier in the definition.
Polkovnik is a military rank used mostly in Slavic-speaking countries which corresponds to a colonel in English-speaking states and oberst in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries. The term originates from an ancient Slavic word for a group of soldiers and folk. However, in Cossack Hetmanate and Sloboda Ukraine, polkovnyk was an administrative rank similar to a governor. Usually this word is translated as colonel, however the transliteration is also in common usage, for the sake of the historical and social context. Polkovnik began as a commander of a distinct group of troops (polk), arranged for battle.
In many of the world's military establishments, a brevet was a warrant giving a commissioned officer a higher rank title as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct but may not confer the authority, precedence, or pay of real rank. An officer so promoted was referred to as being brevetted. The promotion would be noted in the officer's title.
Oberst is a senior field officer rank in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, equivalent to colonel. It is currently used by both the ground and air forces of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway. The Swedish rank överste is a direct translation, as are the Finnish rank eversti and the Icelandic rank ofursti.
Senior colonel is an officer rank usually placed between a regular colonel and a British or American brigadier general.
Colonel is a Canadian Forces rank used by commissioned officers in the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force. Captain(N) is the equivalent rank in the Royal Canadian Navy. A colonel is senior to the army and air force rank of lieutenant-colonel or the naval rank of commander, and junior to the army and air force rank of brigadier-general or the naval rank of commodore.
In the United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force, colonel is the most senior field-grade military officer rank, immediately above the rank of lieutenant colonel and just below the rank of brigadier general. It is equivalent to the naval rank of captain in the other uniformed services. By law, an officer previously required at least 22 years of cumulative service and a minimum of three years as a lieutenant colonel before being promoted to colonel. With the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, military services now have the authorization to directly commission new officers up to the rank of colonel. The pay grade for colonel is O-6.
Colonel (Col) is a rank of the British Army and Royal Marines, ranking below brigadier, and above lieutenant colonel. British colonels are not usually field commanders; typically they serve as staff officers between field commands at battalion and brigade level. The insignia is two diamond-shaped pips below a crown. The crown has varied in the past with different monarchs; Elizabeth II's reign used St Edward's Crown. The rank is equivalent to captain in the Royal Navy and group captain in the Royal Air Force.
The Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) uses a simplified ranking system for the three branches of Indonesian Army, Indonesian Navy and Indonesian Air Force. Most of the ranks are similar with differences for the rank titles of the high-ranking officers. Exception exists, however, in the ranks of the service members of the Indonesian Marine Corps. While Indonesian Marine Corps is a branch of the Navy, the rank titles of the Marine Corps are the same as those of the Army, but it still uses the Navy's style insignia.
Brigadier (Brig) is a senior rank in the British Army and the Royal Marines. Brigadier is the superior rank to colonel, and subordinate to major-general. It corresponds to the rank of brigadier general in many other nations.
Colonel (Col) is the most senior field grade military officer rank in the Swedish Army and the Swedish Air Force, immediately above the rank of lieutenant colonel and just below the rank of brigadier general. It is equivalent to the naval rank of captain in the Swedish Navy.
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies, most marine forces and some air forces of the world, above a major and below a colonel. Several police forces in the United States use the rank of lieutenant colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence. Sometimes, the term 'half-colonel' is used in casual conversation in the British Army. In the United States Air Force, the term 'light bird' or 'light bird colonel' is an acceptable casual reference to the rank but is never used directly towards the rank holder. A lieutenant colonel is typically in charge of a battalion or regiment in the army.
Colonel general is a three- or four-star military rank used in some armies. It is associated above all with Germany, where historically general officer ranks were one grade lower than in Commonwealth and the United States, and Generaloberst was a rank above full General, but below Generalfeldmarschall. The rank of colonel general also exists in the armed forces organized along the lines of the Soviet model, where it is comparable to that of a lieutenant general in many NATO armed forces. The rank of colonel general that exists within the Arab model corresponds to a full general.
Ranks of the Grande Armée describes the military ranks and the rank insignia used in Napoleon's Grande Armée. Officers and the most senior non-commissioned rank had rank insignia in the form of epaulettes, sergeants and corporals in the form of stripes or chevrons on the sleeves.