Where is the split between non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers at commanding units?

Hi Indy and Team,

I have been following you since you were still filming the Great War, but I have a question regarding the ranks of the armies, navies and air forces of the major nations. I understand that when you enlist in the army (but the same applies for the air force or navy) you start as a private (or airman or seaman, respectively). But then you can climb up the military ladder so (after many years) you can end up as a Field marshal (or Marshal of the air force or Admiral of the fleet, respectively).

If I would make a hierarchy of an army, I’d start with the marshal commanding the entire theater. He would have multiple army generals each commanding an army group. The army generals would have multiple lieutenant generals each commanding an army. This process would be repeated until you are at the individual fireteam, squad or crew. But you end up with (mostly) the privates, who are enlisted. Where would the command change from commissioned officer to non commissioned officer and enlisted?

My main question is how is the relationship of command between the non-commissioned officers and the commissioned officers while you are climbing the ranks of your respective military branch? (please elaborate with simple and explained schema’s)

Kind regards and greetings from the Netherlands


The ranks are different for each country (surprise) so I’m just focusing on the British Commonwealth since I’m Canadian. (Also trying my best to remember Canadian ranks Pre-Unification since they changed a bit after 1968). Generally:
•Recruit to Lance-Corporal were Enlisted, the grunts with little experience who did the heavy lifting and usually had 0-3 years of service.
•Corporal/Sergeant are Junior NCMs, now having about 4-10 years of service. They have more leadership positions now and less grunt work to do but still have active positions in the field. Will also command a squad.
•Staff Sergeant- Warrant Officer 1st Class are Senior NCMs. Now looking at 12 years+ of service. They are largely administrative and focus on discipline, training and maintains morale as well as being aids to officers. In the field they will command a section.
Officers are a different class of their own, leadership and specialized trades. If Enlisted and NCO are the body, officers are the head.
•2nd Lieutenant-Captain are Junior Officers who are just learning their craft and command smaller units in the army from platoon to company level.
•Major to Colonel are Senior Officers who are more experienced and capable of commanding larger formations from Battalion sized to Regiments.
•Brigadier-Field Marshal are called Staff or General Officers. They have decades of experience and command the largest of formations from Brigade to full Theatres.

Please keep in mind these are very general and basic descriptions with much flow and ebb but this is the general layout for what the structure for the Army of the British Commonwealth would have looked like. (It’s too much to do the Air Force and Navy. Haha)


Thank you very much Tylerstepharnoff


Van Velden have a very good answer. I would add that it is similar to a factory. The workers are the privates and corporals, the sgt’s and warrant officers are lead hands or supervisors. The officers are management. It is also a bit rare to cross over from enlisted personnel to officer. It does happen but it is unorthodox. Officers usually start as 2nd Alt’s by virtue of education.