Sergeant (abbreviated to Sgt and capitalised when used as a named person's title) is a rank in many uniformed organizations, principally military and policing forces. Its origin is the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term sergent.
- Modern usage
- Defence force
- Canadian armed forces
- Army and air force
- Police Force
- Air Force
- Defense forces
- New Zealand
- Armed forces
- Paramilitary force
- South Korea
- Royal Marines and British Army
- Royal Air Force
- American Civil War
- Marine Corps
- Police departments and prisons
- Types of sergeant
The term "sergeant" refers to a non-commissioned officer placed above the rank of a corporal and a police officer immediately below a lieutenant. In most armies the rank of sergeant corresponds to command of a squad (or section). In Commonwealth armies, it is a more senior rank, corresponding roughly to a platoon second-in-command. In the United States Army, sergeant is a more junior rank corresponding to a four-soldier fireteam leader.
Many countries use sergeant rank, whether in English or using a cognate with the same origin in another language. The equivalent rank in Arab armies is raqeeb, meaning "overseer" or "watcher".
In medieval European usage, a sergeant was simply any attendant or officer with a protective duty. Any medieval knight or military order of knighthood might have "sergeants-at-arms", meaning servants able to fight if needed. The etymology of the term is from Anglo-French sergant, serjant "servant, valet, court official, soldier", from Middle Latin servientem "servant, vassal, soldier".
Later, a "soldier sergeant" was a man of what would now be thought of as the "middle class", fulfilling a slightly junior role to the knight in the medieval hierarchy. Sergeants could fight either as heavy to light cavalry, or as well trained professional infantry, either spearmen or crossbowmen. Most notable medieval mercenaries fell into the "sergeant" class, such as Flemish crossbowmen and spearmen, who were seen as reliable quality troops. The sergeant class was deemed to be 'worth half of a knight' in military value.
A specific kind of military sergeant was the serjeant-at-arms, one of a body of armed men retained by English lords and monarchs. The title is now given to an officer in modern legislative bodies who is charged with keeping order during meetings and, if necessary, forcibly removing disruptive members.
The term had also civilian applications quite distinct and different from the military sergeant, though sharing the etymological origin - for example the serjeant-at-law, historically an important and prestigious order of English lawyers.
In most non-naval military or paramilitary organizations, the various grades of sergeant are non-commissioned officers (NCOs) ranking above privates and corporals, and below warrant officers and commissioned officers. The responsibilities of a sergeant differ from army to army. There are usually several ranks of sergeant, each corresponding to greater experience and responsibility for the daily lives of the soldiers of larger units.
Although the rank insignia of the RAAF rank of flight sergeant (Flt Sgt) and the Australian Army rank of staff sergeant (SSgt) are identical, flight sergeant in fact outranks the rank of staff sergeant in the classification of rank equivalencies. The Australian Army rank of staff sergeant is now redundant and is no longer awarded, due to being outside the rank equivalencies and the next promotional rank is warrant officer class two. Chief petty officers and flight sergeants are not required to call a warrant officer class two "sir" in accordance with Australian Defence Force Regulations 1952 (Regulation 8).
There are generally two sergeant ranks that are classed as non-commissioned officers:
Some state police forces have slightly different variations of the sergeant structure.
Within the NSWPF, sergeant is a team leader or supervisory rank, whilst the rank of senior sergeant is a middle management rank with coordination responsibilities over human and physical resources.
All three sergeant ranks are informally referred to as "sergeant", "boss", or "sarge". However at the New South Wales Police Academy, recruits must address all ranks of sergeants as "sergeant", and senior sergeant as "senior sergeant".
Sergeants are usually team leaders in charge of an entire team of constables to senior constables at large stations, to being in charge of sectors involving several police stations. In country areas, sergeants are often in charge of an entire station and its constabulary. Senior sergeants are usually in specialist areas and are in charge of sergeants and thus act as middle management.
Canadian armed forces
Sergeant (Sgt) (French: sergent or sgt) is an Army or Air Force non-commissioned officer rank of the Canadian Armed Forces. Its naval equivalent is petty officer 2nd class (French: maître de 2e classe). It is senior to the appointment of master corporal and its equivalent naval appointment, master seaman, and junior to warrant officer and its naval equivalent, petty officer 1st class. Sergeants and petty officers 2nd class are the only senior non-commissioned officers in the Canadian Armed Forces, as WOs, MWOs and CWOs are warrant officers, not senior NCOs in accordance with the Queens Regulations and Orders. Volume 1, Article 102 "Definitions".
In army units, sergeants usually serve as section commanders; they may often be called to fill positions normally held by warrant officers, such as platoon or troop warrant, company quartermaster sergeant, chief clerk, etc.
The rank insignia of a sergeant is a three-bar chevron, worn point down, surmounted by a maple leaf. Embroidered rank badges are worn in "CF gold" thread on rifle green melton, stitched to the upper sleeves of the service dress jacket; as miniature gold metal and rifle-green enamel badges on the collars of the army dress shirt and army outerwear jackets; in "old-gold" thread on air force blue slip-ons on air force shirts, sweaters, and coats; and in tan thread on CADPAT slip-ons (army) or dark blue thread on olive-drab slip-ons (air force) on the operational dress uniform.
Colour sergeant in the Canadian Armed Forces is not a rank of sergeant, but a warrant officer in one of the two Foot Guards regiments (the Governor General's Foot Guards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards). Likewise, a sergeant-major (including regimental sergeant-major) is not a sergeant rank, but an appointment held by a master warrant officer or chief warrant officer.
Sergeants generally mess and billet with warrant officers, master warrant officers, and chief warrant officers, and their naval counterparts, chief petty officers and petty officers. Their mess on military bases or installations is generally named the warrant officers' and sergeants' mess.
Historically, the rank of sergeant was severely downgraded after unification of the three services in 1968. An army sergeant before unification was generally employed in supervisory positions, such as the second in command of a platoon-sized unit (i.e. an infantry platoon sergeant, or troop sergeant in an armoured unit). After unification, sergeants were downgraded in status to section commander, a job previously held by corporals, and the former "platoon/troop sergeants" were replaced by "platoon/troop warrant officers."
Police forces across Canada also use the rank of sergeant and staff sergeant for senior non-commissioned officers above the rank of constable or corporal. Except in the province of Quebec and in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the insignia for a police sergeant is a three chevrons, worn point down. Staff sergeants rank above sergeants and are responsible for a unit or team within a station or division. The insignia for a staff sergeant is three chevrons, worn point down surmounted by a royal crown. In the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the insignia for a sergeant is three chevrons, worn point down surmounted by a royal crown (which is the insignia of a staff sergeant in other Canadian police forces). The insignia of a staff sergeant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is four chevrons worn point up.
Kersantti is in Finnish Defence Forces the second and highest non-commissioned officer rank that a conscript can possibly reach before entering the reserve. The beginning and most common non-commissioned officer rank is alikersantti (lit. "lower sergeant"); see corporal.
Only a few non-commissioned officers in each conscript company reach the higher rank of full three-chevron kersantti. There's no difference between the 4-month squad leader training and service time of alikersantti and kersantti; all start their squad leader tour with the lower rank and the optional promotion is based on superior's assessment of individual performance and intended duties in the wartime organization; special roles such as that of platoon sergeant or company first sergeant are typically reserved for kersantti and upwards.
A corporal can also obtain the rank of sergeant (and possibly above, the next rank being four-chevron ylikersantti, which is comparable to staff sergeant) by taking some military refresher courses while in reserve, or by enlisting to (short-term) professional service in the military.
French sergeant ranks are used by the air force, engineers, infantry, Foreign Legion, Troupes de marine, communications, administrative service, and Gendarmerie mobile. Other branches of the army and gendarmerie use the equivalent ranks of maréchal des logis ("marshal of lodgings" in English) instead of sergeant ranks.
There were three sergeant ranks in France, although the most junior, contract sergeant, has been superseded by student sub-officer now that conscription has been suspended. When the army contained a large proportion of conscripts, contract sergeant was very common as a rank for conscripts considered to have leadership potential. In general the term sergeant was used for both contract sergeant and career sergeant. Contract sergeant was classified as the lowest sub-officer rank, the rank below being chief corporal.
"Contract sergeant" was a rank used for junior sergeants, either conscripts or reservists. The rank insignia is used nowadays for students. After a certain amount of time, a student sub-officer is entitled to be addressed "sergeant".
Normal sergeant rank, though normally directly recruited from civilian life into the sub-officer ranks, so the rank implies less experience and higher academic requirements than for a commonwealth sergeant. As a typical rank for the command of a squad (typically eight soldiers), this rank is roughly equivalent to a commonwealth corporal or a US staff sergeant.
With long service, a sergeant's promotion to chief sergeant is automatic. Typically being a platoon second-in-command, the holder of this rank is therefore equivalent to a commonwealth sergeant or a US "sergeant first class". The next rank up is adjutant.
In modern-day usage within the German Bundeswehr the rank of sergeant is known as Unteroffizier, historically it was the German army rank of corporal. The rank has existed since the 18th century, with usage as a title dating back to the Middle Ages. The ranks of the Unteroffiziere (NCOs) are divided into two categories, the Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee making up the cadre of junior non-commissioned officers and the Unteroffiziere mit Portepee making up the cadre of senior non-commissioned officers. The duties of a sergeant Unteroffizier can vary greatly with its rank: In a typical Bundeswehr company, the Unteroffizier ohne Portepee (OR-5) are only leading one Zugtrupp (squad) whereas the position of Zugführer (platoon leader) are held by a higher ranked NCOs (typically Hauptfeldwebel OR-7) with according training. The platoon's "second in command", is usually held by a "Feldwebel / Oberfeldwebel" (OR-6).
The German Army rank order is: Unteroffizier OR-5, Fahnenjunker OR-5, Stabsunteroffizier OR-5, Feldwebel OR-6, Fähnrich OR-6, Oberfeldwebel OR-6, Hauptfeldwebel OR-7, Oberfähnrich OR-7, Stabsfeldwebel OR-8 and Oberstabsfeldwebel OR-9.
Maat is a naval rank of the German navy equivalent to the army rank of Unteroffizier. A Maat is considered the equivalent of a junior petty officer in the navies of many other nations.
The term is derived from the low German māt (comrade). Via the Dutch language, the word became a nautical term and described the assistant to a deck officer. Since the second half of the 17th century Maate were the lowest class of non-commissioned officers aboard a warship.
The German Navy rank order is: Maat OR-5, Seekadett OR-5, Obermaat OR-5, Bootsmann OR-6, Fähnrich OR-6, Oberbootsmann OR-6, Hauptbootsmann OR-7, Oberfähnrich OR-7, Stabsbootsmann OR-8 and Oberstabsbootsmann OR-9.
The rank of sergeant in the Hellenic armed forces corresponds to NATO grade OR-6 according to STANAG 2116, and it is called the following in the three branches: lochías (Greek: Λοχίας) in the land army, sminías (Greek: Σμηνίας) in the air force and kelefstís (Greek: Κελευστής) in the navy. There are differentiations depending on permanence and studies of the personnel. In the land army, the insignia are colored differently depending on the command in which the personnel belongs, e.g., red-orange for infantry and green-blue for armoured cavalry.
Army and air force
The rank was held by local enlisted men with the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) and Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Regimental Police.
Hong Kong Police Force sergeants are in charge of a section or command a vehicle on patrol. Their rank is symbolized by three chevrons and worn on their arm and/or lapel. The rank is also used by the Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force (station sergeant (auxiliary) and sergeant (auxiliary)). There also sergeants in the Hong Kong Police Force Pipe Band, who carry their rank from their regular policing duties.
Two other non-military organizations use the ranks of sergeant:
In the Indonesian military, the rank "sergeant" is known as sersan. There are four levels, which are: second sergeant (sersan dua), first sergeant (sersan satu), master sergeant (sersan kepala), and sergeant major (sersan mayor).
In the ranking system of the Indonesian police force, this rank is known as brigadir or "brigadier" which is roughly equivalent to the police constable ranks.
In many metropolitan police forces in both India and Pakistan, a sergeant (called armed sub-inspectors in some states) is equivalent to a police sub-inspector. They are subordinate to police inspectors in rank but are senior to assistant sub-inspectors, head constables, naiks (corporals) and police constables in Indian police forces. In British-India days, the practice began of transferring British Army NCOs to Indian constabularies to teach them foot and rifle drill and weapons handling (called "musketry") and to maintain disciplinary standards. This is the historical origin of the rank of sergeant in the forces of today’s Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata (their equivalents in state forces are called armed sub-inspectors). Sergeants have always served in the non-investigative branches of the 'protective police' [e.g., armed and mounted branches; port, river and traffic police, reserve forces, etc.] and one per police station. Their use is focused more upon security and public order situations than investigating routine domestic, commercial and street crime which is the purview of the investigative branches of the 'detective police' where their counterparts are called sub-inspectors. Head constables (not to be confused with sergeants) wear three chevrons (rank insignia) point-down on their sleeve or three bars on their epaulettes.
In the Indian Air Force and the Pakistan Air Force, the rank of sergeant is above a corporal and below of junior warrant officer. The rank insignia is a three pointed-down chevron. The rank of flight sergeant is now obsolete with the renomination given as junior warrant officer.
The rank of a sergeant is designated as a senior non-commissioned officer.
Sergeant (Sgt) (sáirsint in Gaelach) is the second rank of non-commissioned officer within the Irish Army. The Naval equivalent is petty officer.
The army rank insignia consists of three winged chevrons (or "stripes"). The service dress insignia consists of three wavy red chevrons 9 cm wide bordered in yellow. The main infantry role of a sergeant is as second-in-command of a platoon or commander of a fire support section of a weapons platoon, such as an anti-tank or mortar platoon. Another role is that of company clerk and instructor. There are higher ranks of company sergeant and company quartermaster sergeant. Artillery sergeants are usually assigned as detachment and section commanders, as well as in administrative roles. The difference in roles of sergeant and corporal in the artillery corps is not as clearly defined as in the infantry corps.
Sergeant is also the second rank of non-commissioned officer in the Irish Air Corps. Before 1994, the Air Corps was considered part of the army and wore army uniforms with distinct corps badges, but the same rank insignia. With the introduction of a unique Air Corps blue uniform in 1994, the same rank markings in a white colour were worn, before the introduction of a new three-chevron with wing rank marking. There are higher ranks of flight sergeant and flight quartermaster sergeant.
Sergeant is the second rank in the Garda Síochána.
Defense forcesFor further information, see Israel Defense Forces ranks.
In the Israel Defense Forces, soldiers are promoted from corporal to sergeant (, originally the Hebrew abbreviation for non-commissioned officer) after approximately 18 months of service, if they performed their duties appropriately during this time, and did not have disciplinary problems. Soldiers who take a commander's course may become sergeants earlier. Sergeants get a symbolic pay raise of 1.80 NIS. The Hebrew name for the rank is samál originated as an acronym for סגן מחוץ למנין segen mi-khutz la-minyan ("supernumerary lieutenant") (inspired by the abbreviation "NCO"). Nowadays is no longer treated as an acronym or an abbreviation (Hebrew).
In the Italian Army the rank of sergente, ("sergeant"), is the first rank of the warrant officers sergeant role, equivalent to NATO OR-5 grade. The two next senior ranks are sergente maggiore (literally "major sergeant") and sergente maggiore capo (literally "chief major sergeant"). For paratroopers, the ranks of sergente and sergente maggiore are bordered in blue.
In the Mexican Army the (corporal) is junior to sargento segundo (second sergeant) and sargento primero (first sergeant).
NetherlandsSee Military ranks of the Dutch armed forces
The Royal Netherlands Army, Royal Netherlands Navy and Royal Netherlands Air Force all use the rank of sergeant. Within the cavalry, artillery and in the Royal Marechaussee a sergeant is called a "wachtmeester". Within the air force and navy a sergeant is identified by three chevrons. In the army a sergeant has one gold chevron (or silver if a wachtmeester).
Only the Royal New Zealand Air Force and New Zealand Army use sergeant as a rank, identifiable by the three chevrons. The Royal New Zealand Navy has the equivalent rank of petty officer. Promotion to sergeant in the New Zealand Defence Force is usually around nine to ten years service and commands considerable responsibility and an increase in pay.
The ranks of sergeant, staff sergeant, master sergeant and chief master sergeant are today used in the Philippine Army, Philippine Marine Corps and Philippine Air Force. Rank insignia is very similar to that used in the United States. First chief master sergeant is an appointment rather than a rank and is somewhat equivalent to a sergeant major in the United States.
In the Polish Army rank insignia system there are two grades of sergeant: sierżant (OR-6 in NATO code) and starszy sierżant (OR-7). The rank first appeared in Henryk Dąbrowski's Polish Legions in Italy in the late 18th century. Both ranks are used in the infantry, armoured forces, air force. In the cavalry the equivalent is wachmistrz (literally wachtmeister). In the artillery the equivalent is ogniomistrz (literally firemaster). In the Polish Navy, the equivalent is bosman (literally boatswain).
There are three ranks in the Russian Armed Forces which are explicitly sergeant ranks: junior sergeant (младший сержант, mladshy serzhant), sergeant (сержант, serzhant) and senior sergeant (старший сержант, starshy serzhant). There is also a rank called "starshina" (старшина), which is often translated as "master sergeant". These ranks are inherited from the army of the Soviet Union.
In the Soviet army, most sergeants (with the exception of the aforementioned starshina) were not career non-commissioned officers but specially trained conscripts; the rank of starshina was reserved for career non-commissioned officers. In the modern Russian army, there are attempts to change this system and make most or all sergeants career non-commissioned officers; they are met with limited success.
Unlike most police forces of the world, in the Russian police sergeant is a starting, entry-level rank. Ranks of "policeman" or "senior policeman" are not used in Russia (the rank of "private of police" technically exists but is rare, and most recruits become sergeants right away). It is divided into three grades the same way as the army sergeant rank.
In the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), there are five different grades of sergeant: third sergeant (3SG), second sergeant (2SG), first sergeant (1SG), staff sergeant (SSG), and master sergeant (MSG). Sergeants are considered specialists in the SAF. They are equivalent to the non-commissioned officers of other militaries.
Soldiers must complete their specialist course at the Specialist Cadet School, formerly known as the School of Infantry Specialists (SISPEC) or other training institutes before being promoted to third sergeant. While active duty national servicemen may be promoted to second sergeant, most personnel holding ranks above that are career soldiers.
Promotion from third sergeant to staff sergeant takes an average of 6 years, although there are many factors which may cause a soldier's promotion to cease. These factors include failure to pass an annual physical fitness proficiency test, poor performance, or being charged for offences.
Third sergeants are usually section commanders. They may also hold certain logistics or administrative posts such as company quartermaster sergeant. Second sergeants usually serve as platoon sergeants. First sergeants, staff sergeants and master sergeants usually serve as company sergeant majors or administrative specialists at company level or higher.
In the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Prison Service and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, the rank of sergeant lies between corporal and staff sergeant. Unlike most police forces in the world, the rank of sergeant has been changed since the late 1990s to an entry-level rank for Diploma/GCE "A" Level holders rather than a supervisory one.
Sergeant is used as a rank in the Sri Lanka Army. It is senior to corporal and junior to staff sergeant. It is denoted by three chevrons.
Sergeant is also used as a rank in the Sri Lanka Air Force. It is senior to corporal and junior to flight sergeant. It is denoted by three chevrons.
The rank of sergeant exists in the Sri Lanka Police Service. It is senior to constable but junior to sub-inspector.
In the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, byeong-jang (Korean: 병장) is the highest enlisted rank below non-commissioned officers. It is typically attained after 21-24 months of service as an enlisted personnel. The rank insignia for 'byung-jang is four horizontal bars.
In addition, there are four non-commissioned officer ranks above byeong-jang: ha-sa (Korean: 하사), jung-sa (Korean: 중사), sang-sa (Korean: 상사), and won-sa (Korean: 원사). Ha-sa is equivalent to U.S. Army's rank of staff sergeant and its rank is one chevron. Jung-sa is equivalent to the U.S. Army's sergeant first class and its rank is denoted by two chevrons. Sang-sa is equivalent to the U.S. Army master sergeant and its rank is denoted by three chevrons. Won-sa, the most senior non-commissioned officer rank, is denoted by three chevrons and a star above the chevrons and is equivalent to the U.S. Army sergeant major rank.
Sergeant (Chinese: 上士; pinyin: Shàng Shi) of the R.O.C Armed Forces in Taiwan ranks above Staff Sergeant and below Master Sergeant Third Class, making it different from the armed forces of other countries where sergeant ranks lower than staff sergeant. The rank of Sergeant exists in the Army, Air Force and the Marine Corps, and is equivalent to the Petty officer 1st Class in the Navy.
In Sweden, sergeant is a military rank above korpral ("corporal") and below förste sergeant ("first sergeant"). The insignia of rank was changed in 2009 to resemble American and British sergeants.
In Turkey, the rank of Çavuş (Sergeant) is above the rank of Onbaşı (Corporal).
Royal Marines and British Army
A sergeant in the Royal Marines and British Army wears three point-down chevrons on their sleeve and usually serves as a platoon or troop sergeant, or in a specialist position. Staff sergeant (in technical units) or colour sergeant (In the Royal Marines and the infantry), is the next most senior rank, above which come warrant officers. The Household Cavalry use the rank of corporal of horse instead, the only regiments to preserve the old cavalry tradition of having corporals but not sergeants.
A lance-sergeant (LSgt) was formerly a corporal acting in the capacity of a sergeant. The appointment now survives only in the Foot Guards and Honourable Artillery Company, where it is awarded to all corporals. A lance-sergeant wears three chevrons and belongs to the sergeants' mess, however, functionally he remains a corporal rather than an acting sergeant (e.g., he will typically command a section). In the Household Cavalry, the equivalent appointment is lance-corporal of horse.
A sergeant in infantry regiments usually holds the appointment of "platoon sergeant" and is second in command of a platoon. Until 1953, the official spelling was "serjeant", although "sergeant" was already commonly in use by the First World War and the official spelling was rarely used outside official documents. The Rifles, however, still always use the spelling "serjeant", as did The Light Infantry before them.
Royal Air Force
Between 1950 and 1964 in technical trades there was a rank of senior technician which was the equivalent of a sergeant. Senior technicians wore their chevrons point up.
On 1 July 1946, aircrew sergeants were re-designated as aircrew IV, III or II, replacing the chevrons with one, two or three six-pointed stars within a wreath and surmounted by an eagle. This was unpopular and in 1950 they returned to the old rank, but have worn an eagle above their chevrons ever since.
Sergeants of the Royal Flying Corps wore a four-bladed propeller above their chevrons.
The spelling "serjeant" was never used in the Royal Air Force.
Within the British police, sergeant is the first supervisory rank. Sergeant is senior to the rank of constable, and junior to inspector. The rank is mostly operational, meaning that sergeants are directly concerned with day-to-day policing. Uniformed sergeants are often responsible for supervising a shift of constables and allocating duties to them. Prisoner-handling stations will also have one or more separate custody sergeants who are responsible for authorising and supervising the detention of arrested persons in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, along with the daily management and effective running of the custody suite.
Detective sergeants are equal in rank to their uniformed counterparts; only the prefix 'detective' identifies them as having completed at least one of the various detective training courses authorising them to conduct and/or manage investigations into serious and/or complex crime. In British police services, not all officers deployed in plain clothes are detectives, and not all detectives are deployed within the CID. Thus, it is not unusual for detectives to supervise uniformed officers and vice versa.
Uniformed sergeants' epaulettes feature three down-pointed chevrons, below a personal identification number. Sergeants (and constables) in service with in the Metropolitan Police – responsible for law enforcement in Greater London, have a "shoulder number", analogous to the collar number of regional forces, which is distinct from the warrant number on their warrant card. This is a simply a management device to help order what is by far the largest police service in the UK. In the case of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, sergeants' chevrons point upwards. This is derived from the practices of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who were a mounted police force and followed a tradition of upward-pointing ranks.
Until the abolition of first-class detective sergeants in 1973, Metropolitan Police detective sergeants when initially promoted were officially known as second-class detective sergeants.
Unlike the military and allowing for regional variations, addressing a police sergeant as "sarge" is not always seen as incorrect. Additionally in some forces (especially the Metropolitan Police) sergeants are referred to as "skippers" and again allowing for regional variations, context and expectations it is not necessarily wrong for a constable to address his/her sergeant as "skip" or "skipper".
In the United States Army, although there are several ranks of sergeant, the lowest carries the title of sergeant. Sergeant is the enlisted rank in the U.S. Army above specialist and corporal and below staff sergeant, and is the second-lowest grade of non-commissioned officer. The rank was often nicknamed "buck sergeant" to distinguish it from other senior grades of sergeants. Sergeants in the infantry, for example, lead fire teams of four men. There are two fire teams in a 9-man rifle squad, which is led by a staff sergeant. Sergeants are normally section and team leaders and are a critical link in the NCO channel. These non-commissioned officers live and work with their soldiers everyday and are responsible for their health, welfare and safety. These section and team leaders ensure that their soldiers meet standards in personal appearance and teach them to maintain and account for their individual and unit equipment and property. The NCO enforces standards and develops and trains soldiers daily in their military occupational specialty and unit mission.
In the United States Army, sergeants, staff sergeants, sergeants first class, and master sergeants are typically referred to in short form by their subordinates as "sergeant", except in some training environments, or "first sergeant" in the case of first sergeants and "sergeant major" in the case of sergeants major, command sergeants major and the Sergeant Major of the Army. However, it is considered good manners to address master sergeants by their full rank title, time allowing, or always when they request it.
Drill sergeants are typically addressed as "drill sergeant" regardless of rank, though this term is used depending on post policy. When serving a tour as drill sergeant this is indicated by the traditional campaign hat, commonly referred to as the "brown round" or "smokey bear". In late 1971, Headquarters, Continental Army Command (CONARC) received approval from the Chief of Staff of the Army for permission to include women in the Drill Sergeant Program. In February 1972, six Woman Army Corps (WAC) noncommissioned officers from Fort McClellan, Alabama, were enrolled in the Drill Sergeant Program, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina(ArmyStudyGuide.com, n.d.). Upon graduation, the women were authorized to wear the female drill sergeant campaign hat. Today, women drill sergeants are also referred to as "Drill Sergeant", regardless of their rank. Both men and women drill sergeants will always wear the drill sergeant badge indicating they completed the required training program at an authorized drill sergeant academy. The army drill sergeant badge appears on the right breast pocket(ArmyStudyGuide.com, n.d.).
The rank of sergeant was “inherited” from its use in the British Army and American colonial regulars and militia of the several colonies. The sergeant has historically been the senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) rank immediately subordinate to an officer and superior to corporal. Commonly, in the British Army and American colonial forces there was one sergeant for each officer with the sergeants serving as the senior NCO of a section/squad (the two terms were often used interchangeably), or platoon/company (the platoon, in the British and American colonial single-platoon system simply being the company formed for battle, much as the battalion was the regiment deployed in battle formation).
In British and American colonial forces, infantry companies usually had three officers and three sergeants, with the sergeants’ primary role in combat being to protect the officers. In battle formation, the company was marched into formation as a single platoon of three ranks consisting of the “rank and file” (i.e., the corporals and privates), also referred to as the “bayonet strength”, in order to present volley fire by rank or massed bayonets for assault or defense. Therefore, the sergeants played little direct leadership role in combat as the massed company/platoon was under the direct control of the officers.
Beginning in 1775, the American Continental Army began to organize under the Continental European (i.e., Prussian-French) model, which in addition to organizing infantry companies into two platoons and forming each platoon into two ranks by section/squad, vice the three ranks of the British model, gave a more direct leadership role to sergeants by assigning two sergeants to each platoon as section/squad leaders. Sergeants began to transition from serving as battlefield “body-guards” of aristocratic officers into being combat leaders integral to the tactical situation. In 1781, a fifth sergeant was authorized in each company to serve as company first sergeant, although a separate grade of rank was not established until 1831. However, from 1775, each regiment/battalion (these two terms were also used interchangeable during this time period as mentioned above) was authorized a sergeant major and a quartermaster sergeant.
While the number of sergeants (including the first sergeant) authorized in an infantry company fluctuated from three to five during various periods of history, by the American Civil War it was relatively fixed at four sergeants, a first sergeant, and a company quartermaster sergeant (added in 1861). In 1898 the infantry company was expanded to three platoons, increasing the number of sergeants in each company to six, along with a first sergeant and a company quartermaster sergeant. In 1905 the company quartermaster sergeant was renamed as company supply sergeant and a mess sergeant was added to the company.
In 1917, the Army reorganized under the “square division” plan. The size of units from company up increased significantly and there were now four rifle platoons and 12 sergeants per company, along with three “staff” NCOs (first sergeant, supply sergeant, and mess sergeant). While there were still two sergeants assigned as section leaders in each platoon, a new position of “assistant to platoon commander” was filled by the senior ranking sergeant of the three assigned to assist the lieutenant in leading the unit.
The 1939 “triangular division” reorganization eliminated sections in rifle platoons and in 1940, rifle squad leaders, who had been corporals, became sergeants (with two staff sergeants – a platoon leader, the lieutenant was still titled platoon commander, and a platoon guide in the platoon headquarters), with three squads/sergeants per rifle platoon. In 1942, sergeants became assistant squad leaders with staff sergeants as squad leaders (and a technical sergeant and a staff sergeant, as platoon leader and platoon guide, respectively, in the platoon headquarters).
In 1943 platoon leaders (technical sergeants) were re-designated as platoon sergeants and platoon commanders (officers - usually second or first lieutenants) became platoon leaders, with only company and higher level commanding officers known as a "commander". (Of note, while the U.S. Marine Corps followed the Army's lead in re-designating the senior NCO in a platoon from "assistant to platoon commander" to platoon leader and then as the platoon sergeant, the Marine Corps continues to style an officer commanding a platoon as "platoon commander". In 1948, squad leaders again became sergeants (with corporals as assistant squad leaders) and finally, in 1958, sergeants became fire team leaders under a staff sergeant as squad leader.
American Civil War
The rank was used by both the Union Army and the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. The same rank insignia was used similarly by both armies. Both varied the color of the stripes by assigning red for artillery, yellow for cavalry, blue for infantry and later in the war, green for sharpshooters. Some militia units varied these colors even further and had other colors including black and red with gold piping for various units. The rank was just below first sergeant and just above corporal. They usually commanded a section of twenty men with two corporals under him. As the war progressed these men were often in command of platoons and even companies as the units were depleted of officers during combat.
The United States Marine Corps has several ranks that include the title of "sergeant", the lowest of which is sergeant (E-5). Marine sergeants are the fifth enlisted rank in the U.S. Marine Corps, ranking above corporal and below staff sergeant, and are often referred to as the backbone of the Marine Corps.
Infantry sergeants typically serve as squad leaders in either a rifle or weapons platoon or as the platoon guide (i.e., assistant platoon sergeant) in a rifle platoon.
Once a Marine attains the rank of sergeant, promotions no longer derive from a composite and cutting score-based system; instead, they receive a Fitness Report, or FITREP (i.e., a formal written evaluation, grading attributes from appearance and bearing to leadership and technical proficiency).
In the Marine Corps, enlisted ranks above sergeant are referred to as staff non-commissioned officers, or SNCOs. These ranks, staff sergeant through sergeant major, are always referred to by their full rank and never merely as "sergeant".
Staff sergeant is usually the lowest enlisted rank that reports directly to an officer. In the infantry this would typically be as a rifle platoon sergeant or as a section leader in a weapons platoon (i.e., machine guns, mortars, anti-tank/assault weapons).
Infantry gunnery sergeants usually serve as platoon sergeants for weapons platoons before moving up to a company gunnery sergeant billet. This position is filled by an experienced gunnery sergeant who is typically in charge of coordinating operations, logistics, and individual training for a company-sized group of Marines (approximately 180 personnel). Owing to their involvement in the management of unit supply/re-supply the "Company Gunny" is colloquially known to be in charge of the "3 Bs": beans, bullets, and band-aids. Gunnery sergeants are commonly addressed as "Gunny", but never officially. Use of this informality by subordinates is permitted solely at the rank holder's discretion.
Infantry master sergeants typically serve as the operations chief of a weapons company (in lieu of the Company Gunnery Sergeant located in the rifle companies) or as the assistant operations chief in the headquarters of an infantry regiment. Master sergeants are addressed as either "Master Sergeant" or "Top" at the preference of the incumbent and dependent upon the commonly accepted practice within the MOS community. For example, in Intelligence (the 02 MOS field), use of "Top" is common; in the Infantry (the 03 MOS field) its use is nearly unheard of and aggressively discouraged.
First sergeants serve as the senior enlisted advisor (SEA) to a company or battery commander and are always addressed by their full rank title as "First Sergeant".
Infantry master gunnery sergeants serve as the operations chief in the headquarters of an infantry battalion or higher level organization (viz., Marine Expeditionary Unit, regiment, Marine Expeditionary Brigade, division, Marine Expeditionary Force) and follow the same verbal address protocol as master sergeants but are commonly referred to as "Master Guns", or "Master Gunny".
Sergeants major serve as the SEA to a battalion or squadron, or higher level, commander, and are always addressed by their full rank title as "sergeant major".
The history of the rank of sergeant in the USMC roughly parallels that of the USA until 1942. From 1775 until WWII the Marine Corps used essentially the same rank and organizational structure as its common British and colonial forbearers with the Army, as well as the later Continental and U.S. Armies. In 1942, as the Army modified its triangular division infantry organization to best fight in the European/North African/Middle eastern theatre the Marine Corps began modifying the triangular division plan to best employ its amphibious warfare doctrine in the Pacific Theatre. This meant that for the Corps, squad leaders would remain as sergeants and that the rifle squad would be sub-divided into three four-man fire teams each led by a corporal.
The U.S. Air Force rank of sergeant (E-4) was phased out in the 1990s. Previously, senior airmen were promoted to sergeant and granted non-commissioned officer status after 12 months time in grade; this lateral promotion is no longer conferred and senior airmen compete directly for promotion to staff sergeant. The old rank of sergeant was commonly referred to as "buck sergeant". The current senior airman rank insignia is the same as the former sergeant rank insignia; formerly (from 1976 - 1995) senior airman rank insignia had a subdued central star (light blue vice silver for sergeant and above), as did airman first class and airman. In today's Air Force, the term sergeant refers to all Air Force non-commissioned officers up to senior master sergeant (E-8). An airman who has achieved the rank of chief master sergeant (E-9) is referred to as "Chief". Those in the grade of staff sergeant (E-5) and technical sergeant (E-6) are referred to as non-commissioned officers, while those in the grade of master sergeant (E-7) through chief master sergeant (E-9) are referred to as senior non-commissioned officers.
Police departments and prisons
Sergeant is also a commonly used rank within United States police departments. It ranks above "officer" and "corporal", and it represents the first level of management within the organization. Most major departments, including the Atlanta Police Department, Baltimore Police Department, Chicago Police Department, Dallas Police Department, Houston Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Maryland State Police, Miami-Dade Police Department, New Jersey State Police, New Orleans Police Department, New York State Police, New York Police Department, Philadelphia Police Department, San Diego Police Department, Seattle Police Department and the Virginia State Police have the rank of sergeant.
The rank of sergeant is also often used in American prisons. It is a supervisory rank above the rank-and-file prison officer.
In Vietnam People's Army, sergeant (trung sĩ) is the second highest rank of non-commissioned officer. Sergeant is below master sergeant and above corporal.
Types of sergeant
"Sergeant" is generally the lowest rank of sergeant, with individual military entities choosing some additional words to signify higher ranking individuals. What terms are used, and what seniority they signify, is to a great extent dependent on the individual armed service. The term "sergeant" is also used in many appointment titles.