Infantry Org, Positions & Roles Reference Essay

Posted on: November 9th, 2013 by Will Rodriguez 29 Comments

As part of the effort to make GRUNTSandCo the premiere Infantry site on the web I’ve created the “GRUNTS” section.  It serves as the repository for references, history, culture and tradition items.  One of the Infantry’s weaknesses (especially the Army’s) is a failure to celebrate and commemorate its accomplishments.  That weakness is understandable because of a culture of single minded focus on mission accomplishment.  Unfortunately a byproduct is the Infantryman and the American public is often unaware of the Infantry’s unique role and history.  This fault explains why among the pantheon of America’s finest the Infantry often remains unmentioned especially in comparison to his more celebrated peers.

The latest addition to the “GRUNTS” section is “Infantry Organization, Positions & Roles (Indiv – Co)”.  Sourced from the current Infantry Squad, Platoon and Company manuals, it lays out the organization and compositions of those units as well as duty positions, descriptions and responsibilities from the individual rifleman to the company commander. 

One of the first tasks to understanding any organization is knowing how it’s organized and what the different parts of that organization do.  Without that basic information much of the nuances and even fundamental lessons one can obtain from reading, listening or studying the Infantry are liable to be lost.  This serves as a refresher for older infantrymen and a basic fundamental reference for those interested in understanding small unit infantry actions.    It applies to most US Army and Marine Infantry formations.

Looking forward to questions, comments and suggestions…

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • LauraKinCA

    This is helpful. I haven’t really delved into the fine details like you have laid out and sometimes it would make some of the reading I do clearer. Great reference section. Look forward to more. Couple quick questions. There were ranks associated with the enlisted positions, but not for the officers. I assume the Platoon Leader is a LT as well as the Company XO, and the Company Commander is typically a CPT. Is that correct?

  • LauraKinCA Yes, that’s right.
    There’s a general rule though that applies across the board.  Troops should be able to fill positions two above and one below their current rank.  That’s what units and leaders should train for…

  • 5000area375

    Great work I think this will help the civilian and non infantry understand the different formations, how they are used, and why they are set up the way they are. Like the fire team wedge and how it allows you to get max fire power on an enemy contact from any directions fast and the ability to get on line and mass that fire power.
    My old PLT Sgt. Did a demonstration of the amount of material that needed to be known by the Infantry. The old SQT manuals. He took three infantry SQT books level 1-3 and placed them beside the three skill levels for several other MOSs. It was surprising that for the dumb grunts we were expected to learn a whole lot more and continue to learn through out our careers.

  • 5000area375

    I may have to partially revoke the dumb grunt 🙂 for myself of course. I missed the link with all the position descriptions the first time. Really great link.
    It is sad the Marines need three teams to accomplish what two infantry teams do:) jk. Happy Birthday again Marines.
    I do wish that the Army Infantry would recognize more of its battle history. In every theatre and war the Infantry both Army and Marines have faced and defeated our enemies.
    I wish each division, regiment, brigade, and on down would list and educate there men on the battles they have fought and the proud history of the units when men sign in.

  • clluelo

    Major thank-you very much for this! It will e a big help  in understanding  some of the books I am reading and not having to Google open all the time is great !

  • 5000area375
    “My old PLT Sgt. Did a demonstration of the amount of material that
    needed to be known by the Infantry. The old SQT manuals. He took three
    infantry SQT books level 1-3 and placed them beside the three skill
    levels for several other MOSs. It was surprising that for the dumb
    grunts we were expected to learn a whole lot more and continue to learn
    through out our careers.” 
    I’d LOVE to have a picture of that!  Too many think being a grunt is easy or below them.  It’s actually closer to watching a “routine” double play in baseball.  Looks easy until you consider the practice, physical strength, personal skills and teamwork that make the “very hard” look “very easy”.

  • 5000area375I know you were just tweaking our Marine brethren, “It is sad the Marines need three teams to accomplish what two Army infantry teams do:) jk” but you raise a very important point I’ll eventually write an article about.
    I played a peripheral role in the development of Furture Combat Systems and the Infantry carrier for that force.  Much of the discussion revolved around thse size of the Infantry squad.  I found it personally fascinating!  It’s come to the forefront again over the GCV, potential replacement for the Bradley. 
    The bottom line is ideal Infantry squads should have around 12 and more is better when it comes to the Infantry fight.  None-the-less your point of doing “more with less” is interesting considering that’s a Marine mantra.
    Look forward to writing that article about the history of the Infantry squad and size.

  • 5000area375

    majrod 5000area375  It was mind blowing the contrast between the dumb grunts SQT manuals and the others. Even though the others were for more technical MOSs.  Not even taking into account all the vehicles, weapons, equipment, and devices we were expected to know how to use and repair that were  not covered in the SQT. I think the infantry manuals were three or four inches higher than the next closest. 
    Something over looked is the infantry’s ability to take men from all walks of life and back grounds and  make them into brothers, who really love, and admire each other, and would die for each other with out a seconds hesitation.  No place other than the infantry and special operations has that ability.

  • steelhorse

    Very interesting stuff Maj can’t wait to read more about this subject and gain a better understanding of how it all works and why it creates the greatest military on the planet. maybe explain things like real time battlefield desions who make them who cariers them out ect.. what units do what things this would gives a better understanding of how it all works.

  • drummergirl

    Thank you majrod.  I agree that this kind of thing is super helpful.  I must confess, I’ve actually looked to see if anyone has written a military for dummies book….haha.  being a civilian and growing up totally ignorant of the military, I’m pretty clueless as to how the whole thing works…which I know it is a complex machine…heck, the military and all the departments in gov. that are related to it is like its own country….

  • YankeePapa

    drummergirl,
    .

    …It is not just for dummies.  I went on active duty (U.S. Forces)  in June of 1968.  It is now 2013… The gap is exactly the same as between the Spanish American War in 1898 and Tarawa in 1943.  
    .
    …I read some articles and sometimes I see a long jumble of letters… some, (“SMEAC”) I recognize… others I don’t… sometimes Google can locate the military meaning… sometimes not.  I have a military terms dictionary issued by the office of the Joint Chiefs… but it goes back to the 1980s.  
    …I was in the field long before most of today’s soldiers were even born.  But sometimes I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.  Just shrug it off as I head out into a blizzard on the Northern Plains with my Trapdoor Springfield and a buffalo robe…
    YP

  • Jake75

    How are positions given when a squad is over or under-manned?

  • clluelo

    Buffalo robe 🙂

  • Jake75 The rule is key leadership positions and then key weapons which at the squad level is the SAW and then the M203..

  • LauraKinCA

    majrod Jake75  I found that issue one of the more interesting when reading Outlaw Platoon….  the selecting a replacement TL for a Sgt who froze in combat or another who was significantly wounded … not only was that new man proficient in the weapon system but would that man be one that the other men would respond to and follow.

  • BSchroe

    Spec rank . Is that a NCO rank equal to corporal ? As the grenadier and or SAW gunner is promoted do they advance to sergeant or Spec 5 ?
    Staff Sgt squad leader.  To me they would probably have more experience and extra training which would benefit the squad.

  • BSchroe SPC is the Army rank between BFC & SGT.  The rank is a holdover from the previetnam years when the army wanted to create a rank that rewarded soldiers with a unique skill as a “specialist”.  The intent was to have specialist and NCO ranks kind of like mimicing warrant grades at the enlisted level.  Not a good idea divorcing leadership responsibilities from increased levels of skill or a specific competence.
    SPC is the last vestige.  There is no SPC 5 anymore.  Hasn’t existed for decades.
    I was always a fan of making soldiers corporals between the ranks of PFC and SGT.  There was a fear if you reported soldiers as corporals especially when serving in team leader positions you were less likely to get replacements so units tend not to use the rank corporal.  Silly tail wagging the dog phenomena.  For pay purposes SPC and CPL are the same though a corporal typically has leadership responsibilities and exercises seniority among other SPC to a degree (in the unit).
    SSGs typically serve as squad leaders.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod BSchroe 
    …I had hoped that the Army would have corrected that.  Always odd to see a “Specialist” with a Silver Star and a Purple Heart…
    YP

  • BSchroe

    Thanks Major Rod. Always sounded to me like the specialist deserved pro pay , which is alright . ts The Army had a tech grade in World War II I think . I suppose the specialist rank was an update . Not sure but specialist 4 and 5 introduced about 1960 , USMC introduced Lance Corporal ( E-3) then.
    Were Staff Sergeants squad leaders in World War II and Korea ?

  • YankeePapa

    BSchroe,
    …In the Marine Corps Corporals are fire team leaders… Sgts are squad leaders.  Marine squads = three fire teams of four men plus squad leader.  At one point after the M-79 grenade launcher first came out the Marines dabbled with having him as the 14th man, but quickly went back to 13.
    YP

  • BSchroe Ref SSG’s, in the Army yes and in the Marines no as YankeePapa correctly informs us. 🙂

  • BSchroe

    YP,
      Way back in the mid to late sixties.Went  to the “Nam with 14 man squads  April of 66. Did’nt last long Squad leaders carried the M-79 for awhile gradually absorbed into one of the fire teams.

  • YankeePapa

    BSchroe,
    …Long gone when I got to RVN in ’69… On the other hand, rare to actually have 13 men in a squad at any time when I was there… Even if you had them on paper…
    YP

  • clluelo

    really enjoyed the new heraldry and awards section major. Thank-you for informing us in such an interesting way

  • YankeePapa

    LauraKinCA  
    …Second Lt. for platoon leader.  Sometimes the Marine Corps has used Warrant officers for weapons platoon leader.  First Lt. for company XO… Captain for Company Commander.  Major for Bn. XO and Lt. Col. for Bn Commander.  
    .
    …Of course circumstances (especially long combat deployments and/or casualties can result in a Sgt. running a platoon… 
    YP

  • YankeePapa   In the Army, platoon leaders often start out as 2LT but with two years until 1LT almost all are promoted during their first duty assignment because they spend a significant time early in their career conducting their basic training.
    Army and Marine 2LTs typically spend 2yrs in grade (6 mo – 1 yr in “basic).  
    Interesting trivia I have never seen a table of organization that has 2LT’s in a duty position.  They are all coded for 1LTs but the rule of thumb is that one can serve at two positions above and one below your grade. 
    LauraKinCA  Typical practice in the Army is that 2LT-1LT are platoon leaders.  XO’s and specialty platoons (scout, mortar, anti armor platoons in an IN BN) are typically filled by LT’s that have successfully completed a tour as a PL (typically two years).  Junior staff positions at the BN level round out the first four years.
    Company command is awarded after proving oneself in an IN BN in a staff position for 12-18 mo.  CO command runs about two years and then back to a staff job at BN or even BDE.  A select few commanders are given second commands those typically being Headquarters companies.  Time as a CPT is typically 5-6 years.

  • HM1 (FMF) Ret.

    I always loved the seniority in the army, with Marines a fire team is ran by a Cpl usually, squad leader is a Sgt, and a Plt Sgt is a Ssgt. Different but still effective.

  • YankeePapa

    HM1 (FMF) Ret.,
    …Number of reasons for that.  Out of 75 recruits graduating in a platoon… normally only five make PFC out of recruit training (some exceptions including prior cadet service, etc.)  E-2 is not an automatic promotion in the Marine Corps.  Part of it is that the Marine Corps has three fire teams per squad instead of two.  
    .
    …Within the Marine rifle platoon there is a Staff Sgt. and a Gunnery Sgt.  Normally (barring too many casualties) a 2nd Lt. is in command of the platoon.  
    YP

  • HM1 (FMF) Ret.

    YankeePapa HM1 (FMF) Ret. Yep, That is what I saw, but like I said I still love the seniority in a Army platoon.