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A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–250 soldiers and usually commanded by a captain or a major. Most companies are formed of three to six platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure. Several companies are grouped to form a battalion or regiment, the latter of which is sometimes formed by several battalions.
Rifle companies consist of three platoons and a company headquarters. The artillery equivalent of a company is a battery and within armoured and engineering units, the cavalry equivalent is known as a squadron.
The British Army infantry normally identifies its rifle companies by letter (usually, but not always, A, B and C) within a battalion, usually with the addition of a headquarters company and a support/heavy weapons company. Some units name their companies after regimental battle honours; this is commonly the case for composite units, for example the London Regiment with its Somme, Messines and Cambrai companies. The foot guards regiments use traditional names for some of their companies, for example Queen’s Company, Left Flank, Prince of Wales’s Company etc.
Royal Marines companies are designated by a letter that is unique across the corps, not just within their command. The Intelligence Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Military Police and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers all have companies uniquely numbered across their corps.
The Household Cavalry, Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals, Army Air Corps, Special Air Service, Honourable Artillery Company and Royal Logistic Corps use the term squadron instead of company (although the Royal Engineers and Royal Signals had companies until after the Second World War, except in armoured divisions). The Royal Artillery use the term battery.
The defunct Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Pioneer Corps and Royal Army Ordnance Corps had companies; the Royal Corps of Transport had squadrons.
British companies are usually commanded by a major, the officer commanding (OC), with a captain or senior lieutenant as second-in-command (2i/c). The company headquarters also includes a company sergeant major (CSM) normally holding the rank of WO2 and a company quartermaster sergeant (CQMS) of colour sergeant rank, the two most senior soldiers in the company.
The Honourable Artillery Company is in fact a regiment, not a company in terms of organisation and size.
Canadian Army organisation is modelled after the British. However, a Canadian infantry battalion consists of three or four rifle companies identified by letter (A Company, B Company, etc.), a Combat Support Company, and an Administration Support Company. A notable exception is The Royal Canadian Regiment, which names its companies sequentially throughout the regiment from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Company (instead of A Company) in the 1st Battalion to T Company in the 4th Battalion. Many regiments name their companies after battle honours or former units which make up the current regiment, for example:
The combat support company administratively contains the specialized infantry platoons such as reconnaissance platoon, pioneer platoon, headquarters and signals platoon, anti-armour platoon, and mortar platoon. The administration support company contains the support tradesmen which a battalion requires, such as cooks, vehicle technicians, supply, medics, etc.
Soviet armed forces
Motorised rifle company
A Soviet motorised rifle company could be mounted in either BTR armoured personnel carriers or BMP infantry fighting vehicles, with the former being more numerous by the late 1980s. A BTR rifle company consisted of a company headquarters, three motorised rifle platoons and a machine gun/antitank platoon with two PK machine guns and two AT-7 Saxhorn launchers for a total of 110 personnel and 12 BTRs. A BMP rifle company had the same number of personnel and carriers and also consisted of a company headquarters and three motorised rifle platoons but instead included a machine gun platoon with six RPK-74s. While seemingly containing less firepower, US commanders were advised to include the BMP’s heavier weaponry in their calculations.
Prior to the late 1980s a Soviet tank company consisted of a company headquarters and three tank platoons with T-64, T-72 or T-80 tanks for a total of 35 personnel and 13 tanks; companies using the older T-54, T-55 or T-62s tanks had 10 or 13 additional enlisted personnel. However forces in Eastern Europe began to standardize tank companies at 10 tanks, with three tanks in each platoon instead of four.
In the United States Army, infantry companies are usually made up of three rifle platoons and a heavy weapons platoon; mechanized infantry companies are usually made up of three rifle platoons and a command element; tank companies are usually made up of three tank platoons and a command element; support companies are typically divided into platoons of specialization that may contain additional special sections. A company is usually commanded by an Army captain, although in rare cases they may be commanded by a 1st lieutenant or a major. Unlike its components, platoons, a company typically has additional positions of supporting staff such as an executive officer (XO), a readiness/training NCO, and other positions (i.e. supply sergeant). By tradition, the corresponding unit of artillery is always called a “battery”. Similarly, the term “troop” is used for cavalry units, including both the horse-mounted units of history as well as modern armored cavalry and air cavalry units.
Companies which are not separate from their parent battalion are identified by letter—for example, “A Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment.” This would commonly be abbreviated as “A/1-15 INF” in writing, but not in speaking. The letters are usually pronounced using the NATO phonetic alphabet or, before that, the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet, resulting in names such as “Bravo Company” and “Echo Company” (formerly “Baker” and “Easy” Companies, respectively). Companies with a separate Table of Organization and Equipment are identified by a number, and are able to operate completely independently from any other unit’s support. Company-sized units which are organized under a Table of Distribution and Allowance are identified with a name or number.
Company-sized units usually consist of four to six platoons (each led by a lieutenant), although there are examples of combat service and combat service support companies that have seven or more platoons. For example, a transportation terminal service company normally has two ship platoons, two shore platoons, one documentation platoon, one maintenance platoon, and the headquarters platoon. These platoons are led by first lieutenants, while the company is commanded by a major.
While companies are typically commanded by captains, some special units are commanded by majors, and have platoons commanded by captains. Examples of this arrangement include aviation platoons and many special forces units. This is not a punishment but an honor, as such platoons usually have some special operational capacity that requires them to be commanded by an officer with more experience than a lieutenant. A captain reports to his commander, usually the battalion commander (a lieutenant colonel). However, there are some administrative and other duties at battalion level and larger (brigade or division) which are also handled by captains, for example the S-1 through S-4 officers of a battalion, or some staff positions in the G shops at division.
The senior non-commissioned officer of a company is called a first sergeant. Any sergeant holding this position is referred to as “first sergeant” regardless of actual rank and pay grade, though the non-commissioned officer assigned ordinarily has the rank of first sergeant and a grade of E-8. A master sergeant (E-8) assigned to this position will be “laterally promoted” to the rank of first sergeant, unless the appointment is temporary. In some instances, a sergeant first class (E-7) will be appointed to the job in lieu of a qualified first sergeant or master sergeant. Again, in such situations, the NCO holds the duty position and title of “First Sergeant”, while retaining the rank of sergeant first class, at a grade of E-7.
- Rifle Company
- Company Headquarters
- Company Commander (Commanding Officer/CO) – Captain (O-3)
- Executive Officer (XO) – usually a First Lieutenant (O-2)
- First Sergeant (1stSgt, E-8)
- Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt, E-7)
- Property NCO (Sgt, E-5)
- Messenger/Driver (Pvt-LCpl, E-1/3)
- Rifle Platoons (3)
- Platoon Headquarters
- RIfle Squads (3)
- Weapons Platoon
- Platoon Headquarters
- Machine Gun Section (6 – M240G 7.62mm general-purpose machine guns)
- LWCMS Mortar Section (3 – M224 60mm Light Weight Company Mortar Systems)
- Assault Section (6 – Mk153 SMAW Shoulder launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon launchers)
- Attachments (notional, dependent upon mission and availability)
- Company Medical Team from Medical Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, Infantry Battalion
- Forward Observer from Fire Direction Center, 81mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, Infantry battalion
- Forward Air Control Party from S-3 Section and Communications Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, Infantry Battalion
- Forward Observer Team from the Battalion’s Direct Support 155mm Howitzer Battery, Artillery Battalion
- Dining Facility Team from Dining Facility Section, Service Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, Infantry Battalion
- Heavy Machine Gun Squad/Section (M2HB .50 cal.BMG and/or Mk 19 40mm AGL) from Heavy Machine Gun Platoon, Weapons Company, Infantry Battalion
- Javelin Squad (4 – FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile launchers) from Javelin Section, Antiarmor Platoon, Weapons Company, Infantry Battalion
- Antitank (TOW) Squad (2 – BGM-71 Tube launched, Optically tracked, Wire command link guided missile launchers) from Antitank (TOW) Section, Antiarmor Platoon, Weapons Company, Infantry Battalion
- Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) Platoon (12 – AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles) from the Battalion’s Direct Support AAV Company/Battalion
- Tank Section/Platoon (2-4 M1A2 Main Battle Tanks) from the Battalion’s Direct Support Tank Company/Battalion
- Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Platoon (LAV-25 Light Armored Reconnaissance Vehicles) from the Battalion’s Direct Support LAR Company/Battalion
- Other Ground Combat Element assets as required (e.g., Scout Sniper, Reconnaissance, Combat Engineer, etc.)
- Weapons company
A weapons company has in place of the three rifle platoons, an 81 mm mortar platoon, an anti-armor platoon, and a heavy machine gun platoon.
- Headquarters Platoon consists of Marines from S-1, S-2, S-3, the Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Defense section, and the Chaplain section (one Navy chaplain and an enlisted religious program specialist).
- Communications Platoon, consisting of Radiomen, Wiremen, Techs, Data Marines, and the associated staff.
- Service Platoon, consisting of S-4, Motor Transportation, Food Service, armorers, and Supply.
- Scout Sniper Platoon.
- Medical Platoon, which includes all of the Navy medical personnel for the rifle companies and the Battalion Aid Station (BAS). The allowance of 65 hospital corpsmen and two Medical Corps officers (doctors) is usually not completely staffed. As such, the BAS usually fields one doctor and 10–12 hospital corpsmen. The remaining personnel are assigned to the rifle companies, usually five hospital corpsmen per company.
Some companies were well enough known that they have been identified with their company letter. Examples include:
- Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division which became the focus of the BBC/
miniseries Band of Brothers.
US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organization and Equipment, 4-26
US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organization and Equipment, Paragraph 4-15
US Army, FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army: Troops, Organization and Equipment, Paragraph 4-108