Vals Kilmer (like "attorneys general"?)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Tue Mar 28 22:45:13 UTC 2006

>         Historical reasons aside, there does seem to be a
> pattern:  a lieutenant outranks a sergeant major, a
> lieutenant colonel outranks a major, and a lieutenant general
> outranks a major general.
This isn't so much a pattern as it is a series of coincidences.

A Sergeant Major is a very senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO, or
"non-com"), while a lieutenant is a fairly junior commisioned officer.
At some level, every officer outranks every NCO (although foolish indeed
is the lieutenant who pulls rank on his sergeants -- they do the work of
the Army, and have years of experience in not only leading but
motivating the troops, while the LT is just learning the ropes).

A Colonel outranks a Major, and a LtCol is just a junior Colonel, so
it's not surprising that he'd still outrank a Major.  (A Colonel is a
"full-bird" Colonel, because his rank insignia is an eagle -- LtCol
insignia is a silver oak leaf, that doesn't look like any oak I've ever
seen.  But it's still appropriate to address a LtCol as "Colonel Smith"
in informal speech and writing.  Likewise, even though Brigadier
Generals, Major Generals and Lt Generals have not yet reached the rank
of "General", it is okay to refer to them as "General Doe".)

And the whole BG < MG < LtG < Gen is just odd, especially since a
Brigadier > a Major > a Lieutenant.

And another thing.  When an officer in the Army is to be promoted, first
he must make "the list" -- the list of those eligible to be promoted.
He must have sufficient time in grade, made good enough evaluations,
etc.  Then Congress passes a law which promotes them, and they attain
the rank.  But during the interim (the time between when they make the
list and when they actually get "frocked"), they are referred to as
"Major Promotable" (if they are going to be a LtCol), and they often
carry the responsibilities and duties of a LtCol, and may occupy a job
which is typically filled by a LtCol.

But when an Air Force (which is derived from the Army Air Corps, and has
more or less the same rank structure and insignias) officer is in the
same interim situation, he is referred to as "Lieutenant Colonel
Designate".  In other words, he goes ahead and takes the rank, even
though it isn't his yet.  This is one of several reasons that many
green-suiters (Army) think that blue-suiters (Air Force) are full of

I'm a civilian employee of the Army, and learned the above by osmosis.
I'd love for someone who has been in the service (Wilson?) to double
check me, and make sure I'm not full of it.

The American Dialect Society -

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