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A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–250 soldiers and usually commanded by a captain or a major. Most companies are formed of three to six platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure. Several companies are grouped to form a battalion or regiment, the latter of which is sometimes formed by several battalions.
Certain units were raised as independent companies that reported to no higher formation.
Rifle companies consist of three platoons and a company headquarters.
Company-sized organizations in units with a horse-mounted heritage, such as Household Cavalry, Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals, Army Air Corps, Special Air Service, Honourable Artillery Company and Royal Logistic Corps, use the term squadron instead of company, and in the Royal Artillery they are called batteries. Until after the Second World War the Royal Engineers and Royal Signals had both squadrons and companies depending on whether the units were supporting mounted or foot formations.
The British Army infantry normally identifies its rifle companies by letter (usually, but not always, A, B and C) within a battalion, usually with the addition of a headquarters company and a support/heavy weapons company. Some units name their companies after regimental battle honours; this is commonly the case for composite units, for example the London Regiment with its Somme, Messines and Cambrai companies. The foot guards regiments use traditional names for some of their companies, for example Queen's Company, Left Flank, Prince of Wales's Company etc.
Royal Marines companies are designated by a letter that is unique across the corps, not just within their command. The Intelligence Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Military Police and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers all have companies uniquely numbered across their corps.
British companies are usually commanded by a major, the officer commanding (OC), with a captain or senior lieutenant as second-in-command (2i/c). The company headquarters also includes a company sergeant major (CSM) normally holding the rank of WO2 and a company quartermaster sergeant (CQMS) of colour sergeant rank, the two most senior soldiers in the company.
Canadian Army organisation is modelled after the British. However, a Canadian infantry battalion consists of three or four rifle companies identified by letter (A Company, B Company, etc.), a Combat Support Company, and an Administration Support Company. A notable exception is The Royal Canadian Regiment, which names its companies sequentially throughout the regiment from the Duke of Edinburgh's Company (instead of A Company) in the 1st Battalion to T Company in the 4th Battalion. Many regiments name their companies after battle honours or former units which make up the current regiment, for example:
The combat support company administratively contains the specialized infantry platoons such as reconnaissance platoon, pioneer platoon, headquarters and signals platoon, anti-armour platoon, and mortar platoon. The administration support company contains the support tradesmen which a battalion requires, such as cooks, vehicle technicians, supply, medics, etc.
As in the British Army, company sized units with a mounted heritage use the term squadron, and in the artillery they are called batteries.
A Soviet motorised rifle company could be mounted in either BTR armoured personnel carriers or BMP infantry fighting vehicles, with the former being more numerous into the late 1980s. A BTR rifle company consisted of a company headquarters, three motorised rifle platoons and a machine gun/antitank platoon equipped with two PK machine guns and two AT-7 Saxhorn launchers for a total of 110 personnel and 12 BTRs. A BMP rifle company had the same number of personnel and carriers and also consisted of a company headquarters and three motorised rifle platoons but instead included a machine gun platoon equipped with six RPK-74s. While seemingly containing less firepower, US commanders were advised to include the BMP's heavier weaponry in their calculations.
Prior to the late 1980s a Soviet tank company consisted of a company headquarters and three tank platoons with T-64, T-72 or T-80 tanks for a total of 39 personnel and 13 tanks; companies using the older T-54, T-55 or T-62s tanks had 10 or 13 additional enlisted personnel. However forces in Eastern Europe began to standardize tank companies at 10 tanks, with three tanks in each platoon instead of four.
In the United States Army, infantry companies are usually made up of three rifle platoons and a heavy weapons platoon; mechanized infantry companies are usually made up of three rifle platoons and a command element; tank companies are usually made up of three tank platoons and a command element; support companies are typically divided into platoons of specialization that may contain additional special sections. A company is usually commanded by an Army captain, although in rare cases they may be commanded by a first lieutenant or a major. Unlike its components, platoons, a company typically has additional positions of supporting staff such as an executive officer (XO), a readiness/training NCO, and other positions (e.g. supply sergeant). By tradition, the corresponding unit of artillery is always called a battery. Similarly, the term troop is used for cavalry units, including both the horse-mounted units of history as well as modern armored cavalry and air cavalry units.
Companies which are not separate from their parent battalion are identified by letter—for example, "A Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment." This would commonly be abbreviated as "A/1-15 INF" in writing, but not in speaking. When the regimental headquarters exists as a separate echelon of command (e.g., the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the 1st Marine Regiment), as virtually all US Army regiments did until after the Korean War, a slash separates the battalion/squadron number from the regimental number (i.e., B/2/75 Ranger, C/3/11 ACR, E/2/1 Marines). The letters are usually pronounced using the NATO phonetic alphabet or, before that, the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet, resulting in names such as "Bravo Company" and "Echo Company" (formerly "Baker" and "Easy" Companies, respectively). Companies with a separate table of organization and equipment are identified by a number, and are able to operate completely independently from any other unit's support. Company-sized units which are organized under a table of distribution and allowance are identified with a name or number.
Company-sized units usually consist of four to six platoons (each led by a lieutenant), although there are examples of combat service and combat service support companies that have seven or more platoons. For example, a transportation terminal service company normally has two ship platoons, two shore platoons, one documentation platoon, one maintenance platoon, and the headquarters platoon. These platoons are led by first lieutenants, while the company is commanded by a major.
While companies are typically commanded by captains, some special units are commanded by majors, and have platoons commanded by captains. Examples of this arrangement include aviation platoons and many special forces units. This is not a dishonor to the officers so appointed, but rather an acknowledgement that such platoons usually have some special operational capacity that requires them to be commanded by an officer with greater command authority and more experience than that usually possessed by a lieutenant. A captain reports to his commander, usually the battalion commander (a lieutenant colonel). However, there are some administrative and other duties at battalion level and larger (brigade or division) which are also handled by captains, for example the S-1 through S-4 officers of a battalion, or some staff positions in the G shops at division.
The senior non-commissioned officer of a company is called a first sergeant. Any sergeant holding this position is referred to as "first sergeant" regardless of actual rank and pay grade, though the non-commissioned officer assigned ordinarily has the rank of first sergeant and a grade of E-8. A master sergeant (E-8) assigned to this position will be "laterally promoted" to the rank of first sergeant, unless the appointment is temporary. In some instances, a sergeant first class (E-7) will be appointed to the job in lieu of a qualified first sergeant or master sergeant. Again, in such situations, the NCO holds the duty position and title of "First Sergeant", while retaining the rank of sergeant first class, at a grade of E-7.
A weapons company has in place of the three rifle platoons, an 81 mm mortar platoon, an anti-armor platoon, and a heavy machine gun platoon.
Some companies were well enough known that they have been identified with their company letter. Examples include:
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