If I know, I'll answer. If I don't, I'll try to find you the answer. If I can't, I'll tell you why.
(WARNING: this is a barrage of ignorant, badly worded and probably really stupid questions)
- What are the different ranks within the military and in what order? What's the difference between them and how many members of each rank would you have in an average army?
- (wow okay this is super basic but I've been using the terms "military" and "army" basically interchangeably. What's the difference between the two?)
- How does the military interact with other branches of law enforcement/defense/armed forces? For example, how would army personnel interact with naval personnel? Is any one branch above the rest, or do they have a common leader? How would the military interact with the police or an independent militia?
- Is it true that there's a lot of odd rituals/traditions/rites of passage that aren't official but everyone has to go through them?
- Say a person up high on the food chain gave a really stupid command, or ordered a coup - how likely would it be for that command to go through?
- What sort of departments does the military have jurisdiction over, and what employees outside of actual soldiers would there be?
- (this is just in case you also know about any historic/non-American militaries (wow that word looks so wrong, I know nothing about this): how does tribalism influence the armed forces? Where did the first idea of the military come from and what's the most basic set-up?)
So feel free not to answer any of these questions if they don't make sense. Thank you so much!!
So I am going to answer your questions in a weird order that I think will be more comprehensive in the end, bare with me.
- Military refers to all of the armed forces - so Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard all fall within the word military. It's like a square (Army) is always a rectangle, but a rectangle (Military) is not always a square. Also, Army is boots on the ground marching though woods and desert, parachuting into places, Navy is on boats, Air Force drops bombs and does surveillance and gets Army troops across long distances, Marines are based with Navy but they go on land and do stuff with the Army. Coast Guard stay near American shore and bring back stupid people who decide its a good idea to go sailing in a hurricane or smugglers trying to come by sea, National Guard helps borders on land and forest fires, I think? We kind of forget about National Guard.
- For your first question I am just going to go through the Army's ranks bc those are the ones I know best but a quick google search of "enlisted ranks" and "officer ranks" army will give you a great answer. For officers it starts off as 2nd Lieutenant (2LT), 1st Lieutenant (1LT), Captain (CPT), Major (MAJ), Lieutenant Colonel (LTC), Colonel (COL), Brigadier General (BG), Major General (MG), Lieutenant General (LTG), General (GEN), then there is General of the Army but that is only used in times of war (as we are not currently in an actual war, there is no General of the Army). Then for enlisted it goes Private, Private Second Class, Private First Class, Specialist, Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Sergeant First Class, Master Sergeant, First Sergeant, Sergeant Major, Command Sergeant Major, and Sergeant Major of the Army. The difference between the two is that an officer is the one who give the order (usually gets them from higher ranking officers) and then enlisted ranks implement them, once someone reaches Sergeant rank they become a "Non-Commissioned officer" (NCO) and have larger amount of leadership responsibilities and act like a second officer to a unit. How many officers would you have in an Army is a HUGE question. Alot. Let me put it this way, you star out with thousands of Lieutenants and as you go up the ranks you start to loose some. If they want to have benefits for life, most people retire at 20 years of service (For both commissioned and NCOs) for specific know that there can be at most 231 maximum generals at any one time in the US Army
- So we would work alot with other branches if we would need support in some fashion, for instance like I said before, if soldiers needed to go to Afghanistan, most likely they would get on a C-130 (Air Force plane) and then go that way. The Army only has one type of plane and that is just for surveillance - we use primarily helicopters to move troops and supplies within theater (close to where the action is happening). So while we are all brothers and sisters in arms, there is a bit of a rivalry between Army and Navy (as an Army person, I think Navy is a bunch of weirdos who spend 6 months on a big boat or in a sub) but they have some massive guns on their ships that can do alot of damage, example when we sent 59 tomahawk missiles on Syria after their Leader gassed a bunch of his own people - that was the Navy that did that. Then the storming of the beach in Normandy, those were Navy ships that carried Army soldiers to the beach. But other wise the branches pretty much do their own thing. Each branch has their own top ranking officer. But the secretary of the Department of Defense (Sec Def) is in charge of ever branch (except for Coast Guard which is under homeland security for some reason) and he answers directly to the Commander in Chief aka. the President. We don't really associate with police forces or militias unless the President orders some kind of joint task force, but that is SUPER rare. And as far as I know militias are in a grey area between being legal and illegal, but at their core they are made on the idea that they could oppose a tyrannical government so the military would never support them within the United States - another country's militia… now that is another story that is much too complicated
- As for traditions - most of them include massive amounts of alcohol or getting alcohol. Nothing is a HAVE to, we're not Nazis, no raising and then killing of dogs here. So for instance there are things call challenge coins, in one of the Great Wars (I can't remember which one) they needed a way for allies, or plainclothes Americans to know each other - so they all carried special coins that let others know that they could be trusted. Now they're given out at special occasions and by high ranking officers. And the bigger the occasion/ more important the person, the bigger they are. If you go to a bar with your buddies and someone puts down a challenge coin then the guy who has the smallest coin or forgot theirs has to buy everyone drinks - but if the guy who put theirs down has the smallest coin then he/she has to buy all the drinks. We like to drink - the other traditions…. I'm going to leave it at that.
- For the giving of a stupid order, usually someone under them would gently tell them why such an idea is probably not the best course of action. But in the oaths that officers take it says "I will support and defend the CONSTITUTION" so if the order does violate the constitution or is unlawful then they can rightfully refuse to do it. If there is an order that they just don't personally agree with, then they are within their rights to resign their post in protest. If it could get people killed, they could refuse to do it and then let the JAGs (Army Judges) decide later on what was the correct decision but that could lead to the guy who said no ending up in a military prison. And depending on the country… I guess a coup could happen? But in the US Army? No way, even if one lunatic tried to, too many officers joined the Army with the idea of serving a country that is run for the people by the people that they would stop it in its tracks. Also the military prides itself inbeing an a-political (not political) entity. A branch cannot in anyway endorse a political candiadate. Someone who is actually in the military is not allowed to be at a political rally while in Uniform are in a place where they can be recognized as a spokesperson for a military branch.
- So the Army works with alot of Civilians (who are hired by department of defense) who offer support such as mail services, educators, advisers and the like and also some contractors who are from private security firms when troops are deployed and we might work with NGOs (non governmental organizations) for aid relief. But we have control over only the people that we directly hire - the rest we work with.
- Okay, wow - you are asking deep questions about the very formations of societies themselves. There is this idea (Hobbes and Locke if you are further interested) that in the beginning there was absolute anarchy/freedom depending on how you looked at it. You see something, pick it up its yours now - that's okay. Some dude sees what you have, wants it, then kills you and takes it from you. That is also okay. You get my drift? So then there is this idea that follows by Paul Collier that in the beginning there where two types of people, weak producers (think feudal farmers) and unproductive strong (think guards/ knights). They could all just fend for themselves but then the WP would just get their things stolen from them all the time and then the US would have to steal everything and if they wiped out everyone then they would have to go around looking form more WP - which gets tiring after awhile. So then they fall into a social contract. WP says hey how about you protect me from other US then I will pay you for your protection in food. The US thinks this is a pretty good idea and says yes - this is the formation of the first societies/ tribes. Communities evolve, then generally the strongest/smartest usually becomes lord or king or pharaoh and all those lesser US follow him, the WP still stay in this contract even though they get less benefit because it is still better than being left out there on your to just for yourself against the entire world. But the guys usually just swear their allegiance to those that they know, which doesn't work very well for people in large places like China or Gaul (when it was becoming France) where there is know way that the gen population knows what the guy looks like, much less whether he is worth following. So then the Kings/Emperors whatever decide that the best way to get people to have allegiance to the leader is to educate them both in tactics and in their "history" (read nationalism - aka why we are wonderful and the English are dirty heathens (in the case of France)). This way all the soldiers, if they die, are replaceable by someone who has the same amount/type of knowledge that they had. Plus there is a common sense of unity and feeling of camaraderie against those that are other (people who are not French ) and a willingness to fight for your countrymen, even if you have never even heard of the village he is from and 10 centuries ago you would have gladly burned down his hut if it meant you could steal all of his livestock. Okay, I hope that kind of answers your question. As for the usual set up, for modern US style armies - it is fire team, Squad, platoon, company, battalion, regiment, brigade, division, corps. Here is a good break down: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/u-s-army-military-organization-from-squad-to-corps-4053660 and honestly most of your numbers specific questions can be answered on this website.
Phew! I hope that helps… I'm going to go take a nap now, my brain hurts.
[subtly copy/pastes this into my notes for future reference]
THANK YOU SO MUCH!
this is excellent!!
@ninja_violinist My pleasure!
What's the policy with medical retirement, for mental issues?
@Which_Path??, it depends on the type of mental issue. Some issues like minor depression are treatable and therefore do not disqualify someone from duty/service. The paper work that a commanding officer would get would ask the following questions: Can the individual live in an austere environment? Carry a weapon? Evade direct and indirect fire? If the answer to any of these questions is no then it is likely that the individual will be discharged. Here is a good resource on the actual, legal ways they can disqualify: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/military-disability-medical-separations-and-retirements-3356969 . There is also https://www.thebalancecareers.com/military-medical-standards-for-enlistment-and-commission-3354046 which will tell you the exact mental illnesses that will be a disqualifier and there seems to be alot, but they all make sense (like sleepwalking) because would you want anyone with these mental disabilities with ready access to a loaded weapon?
Thank you for the info!
How does boot camp work? what's the environment like there? I kinda have this idea in my mind where people are just stripped of their individuality in order to become more efficient soldiers ( and that's how i plan(ned) to write my story) but my common sense tells me that that's not the case in real life?
@amayon's-missing-soul, It's really late here so I promise I will get to this as soon as possible - but take everything I say with a grain of salt. I am on my way to becoming an officer in a very strange way, so my "boot camp" experience is different from most and definitely different from the enlisted side of things. Then some things I can't go into because training practices of the Army should not be readily available to anyone (foreign or domestic). I'll try and get an answer up by tomorrow
@amayon's-missing-soul For bootcamp I would watch some war movies like Full Metal Jacket, that is going to give you the a better view than I ever could. But yes the common consensus is that it the policy is to break you down to build you up. For my experience you had to have head and eyes forward at all times that you were not in the field (the woods/ shooting range) could not talk outside, had to wake up at like 5:30 every morning (which now that I'm used to it, isn't that bad). Drill SGTs do yell in your face. You have to eat square meals, and basically not be a regular human for a few weeks. But I really don't know what real basic training (what it's called) is like. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-survive-military-basic-training-3353989 here is a good site that will tell you more than I can… its the same base site as the other ones that I have listed, huh, funny. Anyways, hope this helps!
thank you :)
@amayon's-missing-soul Lol, I wish…. but the constant running… yeah thats a thing
@LittleBear I read the article you linked. It was really really helpful.
I'll take your advice and watch watch some war movies, taking notes as I do.
CATFA will be one of them lol
In conclusion: thanks
Stupid question probably, but how many ranks are there between General and Captain? And is Commander exactly one step up from Captain?
@@jynandor Its not stupid, it can get pretty confusing!
(I'm just going to do all of the officers ) In the Army it goes:
- 2nd Lieutenant
- 1st Lieutenant (but no one ever bothers to say the numbers)
- Lieutenant Colonel
- Colonel (Slang is "Full-Bird Colonel" or "Full Bird" bc people usually just call LT Colonels by "Colonel")
- Brigadier General
- Major General
- Lieutenant General
- General of the Army
Commander is actually a Navy rank, so like in Star Wars its Commander Cody because all they are on "Star Ships". In the Army we have Commanding Officers, but that just refers to any officer that is above you in the rank structure. So for instance if I was a Captain and I got into trouble, someone could come up to me and say "Who is your Commanding Officer!?" I could say "It's Major Blah"
I feel sacrilegious and gross but I also looked up Navy Ranks
- Lieutenant Junior Grade
- Lieutenant Commander
- Rear Admiral (lower half)
- Rear Admiral (upper half)
- Vice Admiral
- Fleet Admiral
Oh okay! Thanks!
Hi @LittleBear ! So, this question isn't specifically about the existing army, but about armies in fiction (and fantasy in particular): when giving titles to different ranks of officers in a fictional army, is there anything you would recommend? For a story I wrote in my early teens I looked up ranks (they were either British or American) as best as I could in the dictionary (we didn't have internet access where we lived) and since there were, for example, 10 options and I wanted only 5, I picked the ones I liked and used them in the ranked order, leaving out the others - but I don't want to take that piecemeal approach with the world I'm building now.
EDIT: Really any advice you have on worldbuilding an army would be appreciated!
Hey @Riorlyne For naming officers… I think that it kind of depends on who your audience is. Like if most of your readers are going to be US military then sticking to a rank like the Army's would be a good idea, but even looking above the structures differ within the same country's militaries. I think as long as you subtly point out who is higher than who, (like maybe who bows to who or when someone stands up from the strategy table, do all the others stand as well?) then ranks doesn't matter all that much. Like someone who doesn't have any affiliation with the army isn't going to know that a captain is below a major. But what helps me in stuff like that is looking at the meanings/latin roots of the words, like lieutenant means a high ranking assistant or right hand man in daily life so it makes sense that a Lieutenant Colonel is below a Colonel. So then the definition kind of changes to mean lower than and then its not a far leap that the lowest ranking officers are Lieutenant. I hope this helps.
And as for the world building an army, I kind of touched on this earlier so I'm going to copy and paste with a few adjustments. You have to look at the very formations of your society. There is this idea (Hobbes and Locke if you are further interested) that in the beginning there was absolute anarchy/freedom depending on how you looked at it. You see something, pick it up its yours now - that's okay. Some dude sees what you have, wants it, then kills you and takes it from you. That is also okay. You get my drift? So then there is this idea that follows by Paul Collier that in the beginning there where two types of people, weak producers (think feudal farmers) and unproductive strong (think guards/ knights). They could all just fend for themselves but then the WP would just get their things stolen from them all the time and then the US would have to steal everything and if they wiped out everyone then they would have to go around looking form more WP - which gets tiring after awhile. So then they fall into a social contract. WP says hey how about you protect me from other US then I will pay you for your protection in food. The US thinks this is a pretty good idea and says yes - this is the formation of the first societies/ tribes. Communities evolve, then generally the strongest/smartest usually becomes lord or king or pharaoh and all those lesser US follow him, the WP still stay in this contract even though they get less benefit because it is still better than being left out there on your to just for yourself against the entire world. But the guys usually just swear their allegiance to those that they know, which doesn't work very well for people in large places like China or Gaul (when it was becoming France) where there is know way that the gen population knows what the guy looks like, much less whether he is worth following. So then the Kings/Emperors whatever decide that the best way to get people to have allegiance to the leader is to educate them both in tactics and in their "history" (read nationalism - aka why we are wonderful and the English are dirty heathens (in the case of France)). This way all the soldiers, if they die, are replaceable by someone who has the same amount/type of knowledge that they had. Plus there is a common sense of unity and feeling of camaraderie against those that are other (people who are not French ) and a willingness to fight for your countrymen, even if you have never even heard of the village he is from and 10 centuries ago you would have gladly burned down his hut if it meant you could steal all of his livestock.
And there should always be at least two levels - officers (those giving orders) and enlisted (those executing orders), unless it a very bare bones group of mercenaries just following one leader.
So then you have to tackle the why someone is serving, it has to be an incentive or coercion.
- Is this guy volunteering to go kill people because he likes it and wants to do it legally (usually not the case, most militaries that aren't tribalistic don't like killing without reason)
- does he really love his homeland and feels that it needs protecting from an outside threat?
- does he think that the king is worth dying for? (King Arthur)
- does his society force him into a military lifestyle from birth? (Sparta, which comes with slaves as the WP),
- does he get more wealth, honor, land if he does serve? (Romans)
- does he have an overlord that he has to swear allegiance to? (feudal Japan/ Shoguns)
- will he or his family be killed if he doesn't serve?
Because this all goes into the culture of your military and how receptive they are to orders and to killing other men.
Also make sure you are consistent with the types of weapons used. If you don't have guns/gun powder, you won't have cannons. And if you have guns/ cannons you probably won't be using a cross bow anymore.
Hope this helps!
@LittleBear - Thank you so much for such an in-depth answer! I like your advice regarding finding the meanings of the words - I'm already obsessed with etymology so it won't be too difficult to apply that to ranks as well.
You've given me lots to think about as I work on my fictional military. :) For an additional question, if I have a portion of the military that's permanent (i.e., not the ones drafted in when there's a war) what should they/could they be doing during peacetime so that (a) it's worth using tax money to keep them and (b) they don't forget all their training over a long period of peace?
At the moment I'm using inspiration from both medieval-type armies and Roman ones.
For the permanent military, most militaries have starnding armies even if there is no threat of war because (this gets into Realist theory) we live in a world where there is no body that governs countries and tells them what they can and cannot do, so even if there is no present threat, there is always an uncertainty that there could be a looming threat and any good country would not want to be caught unawares. Also if you have a strong military, other countries are less likely to try and steal your stuff because they don't want to suffer the consequences. So basically needing an army to be defensive rather than offensive is a pretty good sell. As for keeping their training up they could do anything from helping with law enforcement, guards for nobility/ royal family, or war games like jousting and mock battles.
For Rome specifically, they were always looking to expand and trying to conquer, so for that they would constantly have a military because their main strategy was offensive.
Hope this helps :}
I just came across this again and thought it might help some others if people are interested, so here is a bump to the top of the page!