US Rifle Company question

I’ve been learning the rules to a board game that allows the player to be the CO of a Rifle company. The designer takes it for granted that the reader has some experience in the military so I’ve had to do some foot work learning about it.


As I understand it the command hierarchy is:
FSO (??)
PL LT’s (in order of seniority)
1st SG
PL SGs (in order of seniority)

Ok, what I don’t understand is the combat role of 1st SG. He is attached to the CO and is considered to be on his personal staff yet he is below the rank of the lieutenants commanding the platoons. He can’t personally command them to do anything. If hes simply transmitting the CO’s orders why have him at all? A runner could do that.

He attends to admin and organisation, and keeps an eye on discipline. The platoon commanders had better listen to his opinions and advice, especially they lack experience, which is frequently the case.

In Anglo-American military organization, you often (but not always) have a senior enlisted guy (a non-commissioned officer) assigned to the officer in charge at every major organizational level.

This NCO, like you said, does not outrank the junior officers under his boss, and his job is not to give them orders. Rather, his job is to oversee all the enlisted people attached to the officer’s HQ, and to represent their interests and concerns to the officer, and advise newbie officers on when appropriate.

This pattern goes all the way to the top; for example, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy is a lone E-9 who advises the Chief of Naval Operations (a four-star admiral) and the Secretary of the Navy on enlisted matters.

Non-commissioned officers are the backbone of the US military. The First Sergeant is the conduit between the officers and the enlisted men, making sure that the officers’ orders get carried out and that the enlisted men’s concerns are brought to the officers’ attentions. He’s going to have daily responsibility over the men and manage them day to day. Also, he’s likely going to have the most experience of pretty much anybody there (you need at least 8 years experience to become an E-8 and pretty much nobody becomes an E-8 with only 8 years. Contrast that with those Lieutenants, who are probably just out of West Point), so if the CO and Lieutenants have any sense, they’re going to listen to what he has to say.

You probably want to read this handbook:

The Infantry Rifle Company

From there:

Fire support officer, maybe?

Thanks Captain Amazing, I just got the Fm 7-10 and am in the middle. But even that is written for an audience that’s in the military and familiar with the other manuals.

I guess I understand his advisory role to the platoon commanders, but as a member of the CO’s staff he is certainly more likely to be aware of the CO’s current wishes is a combat situation.

How can that knowledge and responsibility without the power to affect it not lead to conflict?

:slight_smile: Yep, I just wasn’t sure if he outranks the Platoon leaders.

I don’t know about the US Army. I know something about the British Army, though I’ve never been a proper member of it (I was in the UK version of ROTC, but failed the commissioning board).

In British practice, the key thing in a combat situation is not so much official rank as who is in the right place to take command and has the background knowledge to do so effectively. When a Coy has a Forward Observation Officer attached (a Royal Artillery captain trained to call in indirect fire, which may or may not be the same thing as a FSO) they would frequently be nominated to take command if the CO is wounded because they are intimately familiar with the CO’s plan and are deployed with the CO, so can immediately take over the appropriate radios. Once the engagement was over, though, you would expect the FOO to go back to doing fire support and one of the infantry officers to take over command of the company.

I could imagine a similar logic operating with the 1st Sgt/Company Sergeant Major, but I haven’t heard of that specifically.

The Platoon commanders should be aware of the CO’s current wishes too. It shouldn’t lead to conflict because a good officer should listen to his NCOs and take the NCO’s suggestions very seriously when making his decisions.