Military questions

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by Cooper, May 4, 2012.

  1. Cooper

    Cooper

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    I have been reading a fair bit of military history lately and I have questions that are so basic I'm kind of embarrassed to asked them.

    1. What is a division? I understand that it's a group of smaller groups, but don't understand why the division seems cross national lines. For example, in the Battle of the Bulge, we had X number of divisions to Germany's Y number of divisions. Are divisions always the same size, even in other countries' armies?

    2. Multiple armies. Example: The 3rd Army, the 6th Army. Isn't it all just the Army?

    3. NCOs vs. commissioned officers. Is it just a matter of rank? Do you have to be commissioned to be promoted past sergeant, or can you obtain a higher rank and still be an NCO?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Restless28

    Restless28

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    Good questions. You'll get some good answers I imagine.
     

  3. robin303

    robin303 Helicopter Nut

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  4. Cooper

    Cooper

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    Very helpful, thank you. I still don't understand if all other armies' divisions are the same as ours.
     
  5. Batesmotel

    Batesmotel

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    Good info from Robin303. Divisions are not the same from nation to nation. Also company, battalion, regiment and division are not even the same between the Army and Marines. Close but not identical.
     
  6. Jon_R

    Jon_R

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    A Division is a step on the organization of the Army. Good site on the basics of it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_organization A division is usually 2-4 brigades and 10-15K soldiers. Put two or more divisions together and you form a corps.

    The Armies such as 3rd Army are also explained at the site. They are collection of Corps I believe.

    NCOs and Commissioned Officers are apples and oranges basically. A commissioned officer (Lieutenant - General) can be in command of a military unit and is responsible for leading the unit. The NCOs (Sergeants) are responsible for making it happen. You can remain an NCO your entire career and rise to a very prestigious rank and responsibility. Sergeant or NCO is many ranks with the highest being a Command Sergeant Major in the Army E-9. That is a very high rank and would have more prestige and responsibility then a Officer of the rank Major or LT Colonel but the E-9 will still never be officially in command of a unit but a 2nd LT lowest Army Officer can be in command of a Platoon of soldiers because he is a commissioned officer.

    It is two different tracks. Sometimes NCOs switch track to become commissioned officers but don't think of it as one track with officer being the higher track.
     
  7. Jon_R

    Jon_R

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    No but most "western" armed forces are structured similar so you can compare them somewhat.

    Even inside the US Army the 101st Infantry Division is not going to be the same as the 10th Mountain Division. Different capabilities different structure but still probably close to the same number of boots. Compare the 10th mountain to the 1st Armored division. Very different.
     
  8. Cooper

    Cooper

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    I see. I'm currently reading The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman, about the outbreak of WWI. It's really confusing when she starts talking about the German 3rd Army vs. six Belgian divisions.

    Another confusing experience was watching Band of Brothers and then reading it. Watching the series makes you think E Company is maybe a dozen guys and some extras running around in the background. The book is much more clear about just how many served in E Company.
     
  9. Jon_R

    Jon_R

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    A company should be 150-200 people organized into platoons of ~30-40 ish guys and a small headquarter platoon. Probably at times for Easy Company (Company E) after a battle would shuffle around what platoons people where in to overcome losses taking into account rank and specialties such as mortar, machine gunners, etc.. Gets bad enough you scrap a couple platoons consolidate and keep on going.

    A company is the smallest official organization in the army. Also everyone in the Army is in a company. The top general in the Army is on the books as a member of some army company.
     
  10. G29Reload

    G29Reload Tread Lightly

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    I was always under the impression a Division was 10,000 men.

    I have since been given to understand that varies dependent on type of division.

    A sergeant is enlisted, not an officer.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2012
  11. Ragnar

    Ragnar

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    1. Divisions came into general use around the time of the French Revolution, although de Saxe had thought of using them earlier. The big deal about the divisional unit is that it is the smallest unit that combines all arms (e.g. artillery, infantry, cavalry) in one unit under the command of one general. As for sizes, it depends on the country and era. In WW1 US divisions were huge, about 26,000 men. A German division of the same war was about 10,000 but usually less due to reorganizations and losses.

    2. In the US Army in WW2, it went Div, Corps, Army, Army Group. Generally, you had 2 Divs in a Corps, 2 Corps in an Army, etc. Sometimes a little more or a little less. Armies and Army Groups tended to be shifted around a bit. Army was basically just another echelon of command.

    3. In the US military, NCOs generally start at E-4 (E-5 in the USAF) and when you get to E-7 you become a Senior NCO (SNCO), which runs to E-9. There are also Warrant Officers, but lets not start that.
     
  12. 427

    427

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    The US military has changed it's structure through out the years.

    New units are made,
    some are assigned to other units - some for a very short time, some permanent
    some are deactivated some for good,
    some get reactivated later - some get deactivated again

    There were 12 million in the US military at its peak in WW2. The 101st, for example, in WW1 is vastly different than the 101st of WW2 in terms of organization and structure. It can get confusing.

    BTW, to make things more confusing, in WW2, especially toward the end of the war, some German divisions weren't really divisions. They were divisions on paper but, in reality were understrength. In some cases they were regiment sized. The war on the Eastern front chewed up a lot german units all but destroying some, only to be reformed someplace else. A good example of this is the 1st SS Leibstandarte Division.
     
  13. The Fist Of Goodness

    The Fist Of Goodness

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    I read somewhere that by the Battle of the Bulge, German divisions had been so chewed up that they were on par with an American Regiment or Brigade.

    OP: If you want a quick and dirty way of keeping track (at least with regard to American units in WWII) use the rule of three: three squads in a platoon, three platoons in a company, three companies in a battalion, three battalions in a regiment, three regiment in a division (of course, their are probably many exceptions to this configuration).
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2012
  14. jason10mm

    jason10mm NRA-GOA-TSRA

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    Hopefully any good military history book will have a unit breakdown for you. Specific units could be very different depending on the timeframe in question.

    A quick and dirty distinction between officers and NCOs is that the officers deal in the overall planning (we need to take that hill) and the NCOs deal with the soldiers (ok, use SGT Thompson, his squad is the most rested). Just scale it for the unit. Officers typically get all the credit while NCOs do all the work :)
     
  15. AK_Stick

    AK_Stick AAAMAD

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    Unit size depends greatly upon mission.


    My aviation flight company is roughly 45-50 soldiers.
     
  16. Eric

    Eric Big Giant Head CLM

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    It gets even more complicated. For instance, you have the 3rd Infantry Division and the 3rd US Infantry Regiment. These units have nothing to do with each other and the 3rd Infantry Regiment is not attached to an Infantry division. It is under the command of the Military District of Washington.

    The 3rd US Infantry Regiment is made up of a Reserve battalion, a National Guard battalion and an active duty Infantry battalion, which alone is known as the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard.

    The info above was accurate when I was in, but may have changed. Military unit structure is very complicated and fluid. There are also levels of units above divisions, some have been formed and used during wartime. The last US five-star general, General Omar Bradley, died in 1981. We haven't had unit structures since WWII, or maybe Korea, that needed a five-star general.


    Most of the unit structures built for WWII were later unneeded and dissolved. Others were repurposed. The 101st Airborne division, was changed over to the 101st Airmobile division, in 1968, with the proliferation of helicopters on the battlefield.

    I am tired and rambling, but this is an interesting topic. The convoluted path of unit structure has evolved for more than two centuries. We were first an English colony, so our unit structures and ranks started out modeled after their methods and standards. There are no doubt still many similarities, but we have built a uniquely American force structure. It is a cool topic of study. Eric
     
  17. Cooper

    Cooper

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    It's a fascinating topic. I like studying the etymology of military words as well.

    Infantry: "From Middle French infanterie, from older Italian, possibly from Spanish infantería "foot soldiers, force composed of those too inexperienced or low in rank for cavalry," from infante "foot soldier," originally "a youth", either way from Latin infans '(child) who doesn't speak (yet)' (from in- 'non-' + fari 'to speak')"
     
  18. Bill Keith

    Bill Keith

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    Kudos for reading Barbara Tuchman, she is a great writer:cool:
     
  19. Cooper

    Cooper

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    Thanks. My history reading is limited, but I want to expand. I've read John Toland, Edvard Radzinsky, and Stephen Ambrose. So far I'm most impressed with Tuchman and Toland. Ambrose was a little kitchy for my taste.