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United States Army Officer rank insignia in use today. US DoD Pay Grade, O-1, O -2, O-3, O-4 1 History. Silver versus gold; General of the Army / Armies. 2 Former rank The structure of United States military ranks had its roots in British military The second lieutenant had no grade insignia, but the presence of an.
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The head of the eagle faces towards the olive branch, rather than the arrows, advocating peace rather than war. As a result, the head of the eagle always faces towards the viewer's left.


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In the United States Army and United States Air Force, the eagle is always worn with "the head of the eagle to the wearer's right," with the olive branch clutched in the eagle's right hand talons see Department of the Army Pamphlet , paragraph a 1. Since respective service's officer insignia is worn on the left side and the rank insignia is worn on the right hand side of the Marine, Navy, Coast Guard and NOAA garrison caps, the eagle is facing to the eagle's left with the olive branch clutched in the eagle's left hand talons, which is a mirror opposite to the wear of the single eagle for Army and Air Force officers.

The United States rank of colonel is a direct successor to the same rank in the British Army. The first colonels in the U. Upon the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War , colonial legislatures would grant commissions to men to raise a regiment and serve as its colonel.

Thus, the first U. With the post-war reduction of the U. Army, the rank of colonel disappeared, and was not re-introduced until The first insignia for the rank of colonel consisted of gold epaulettes worn on the blue uniform of the Continental Army. The first recorded use of the eagle insignia was in as this insignia was made official in uniform regulations by The rank of colonel was relatively rare in the early 19th century, partly because the U.

Army was very small, and the rank was usually obtained only after long years of service. During the War of the Army grew rapidly and many colonels were appointed, but most of these colonels were discharged when their regiments were disbanded at the war's conclusion.


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A number of other colonels were appointed by brevet - an honorary promotion usually for distinguished service in combat. The American Civil War saw a large influx of colonels as the rank was commonly held in both the Confederate army and Union Army by those who commanded a regiment. Since most regiments were state formations and were quickly raised, the colonels in command of the regiments were known by the title "Colonel of Volunteers," in contrast to Regular Army colonels who held permanent commissions. During the Civil War, the Confederate Army maintained a unique insignia for colonel, three stars worn on the collar of a uniform.

Lee wore this insignia due to his former rank in the United States Army and refused to wear the insignia of a Confederate general , stating that he would only accept permanent promotion when the South had achieved independence. After the Civil War, the rank of colonel again became rare as the forces of the United States Army became extremely small.

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However, many colonels were appointed in the volunteers during the Spanish—American War , prominent among them Theodore Roosevelt and David Grant Colson. This was mostly due to the temporary ranks of the National Army and the Army of the United States , where those who would normally hold the rank of Captain in the peacetime Regular Army were thrust into the rank of colonel during these two wars.

The Military Promotion System was revised and standardized for all the services in as a result of passage of the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act. An Army colonel typically commands brigade-sized units 4, to 6, soldiers , with another colonel or a lieutenant colonel as deputy commander, a major as executive officer , and a command sergeant major as a senior non-commissioned officer NCO advisor.

Some USAF colonels are commanders of groups , which are the four major components of wings. Colonels are also found as the chief of staff at divisional level- Army or Numbered Air Force -level staff agencies.

British Army officer rank insignia

In the modern armed forces, the colonel's eagle is worn facing forward with head and beak pointing towards the wearer's front. The need for an insignia for the second lieutenant became urgent. Among the proposals was one to authorize for that grade a single bar, the first lieutenant two bars, and the captain three bars. In terms of heraldic tradition, these changes created the curious situation of silver outranking gold. One anecdotal explanation suggested by some NCOs is that the more-malleable gold suggests that the bearer is being "molded" for his or her responsibilities—as a junior company grade officer while a second lieutenant or a junior field grade officer while a major.

Another rationale, perhaps originally devised as a tool for recruits to sort out the confusion, proposed that the symbolism was expressed as proximity to the heavens. Gold metal is denser, thus deeper in the ground, than silver, followed by leaves on a tree above the metals, with eagles flying above the trees, and finally the stars in the firmament. In actuality, the precedence of silver outranking gold was a consequence of the decision in to select silver over gold as a matter of economy. While not currently in use today, special insignia were authorized by Congress for ten general officers who were promoted to the highest ranks in the United States Army: Eight generals were promoted to the rank and title General of the Army Ulysses S.

Eisenhower , Henry H. Congress created the rank of general of the armies specifically for Washington, although while living he never officially accepted the honor.

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Pershing received the rank in and was allowed to choose his own insignia; he chose to use four gold stars. While a conjectural design for the rank of general of the armies was proposed using six silver stars when the promotion of Douglas MacArthur to the rank was considered in , no design was ever officially authorized.

The promotion was effective on July 4, , the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. Although Pershing accepted the rank in and technically had a date of rank that preceded Washington's, the new law specified that no other officer of the United States Army should ever outrank Washington, including Pershing. Hence, effective date of rank notwithstanding, Washington was permanently made superior to all other officers of the United States Armed Forces, past or present. While no living officer holds either of these ranks today, the General of the Army title and five-star insignia designed in are still authorized for use in wartime.

Congress may promote generals to this rank for successful wartime campaigns, or to give the officer parity in rank to foreign counterparts in joint coalitions, specifically with respect to field marshals.

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