In most non-naval military or paramilitary organizations, a Sergeant is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranking above Privates and Corporals, and below Warrant Officers and Commissioned Officers. There are usually several ranks of Sergeant, each corresponding to greater experience and responsibility for the daily lives of the soldiers of larger units.
The responsibilities of a Sergeant differ from army to army. In the British and most other Commonwealth armies a Sergeant is second-in-command (2IC) of a platoon (30-50 soldiers) or troop (the commander of a platoon typically being a 2nd Lieutenant or Lieutenant). In the US Army a Sergeant and Staff Sergeant are both ranks corresponding to command of a squad (9-11 soldiers), with a Sergeant First Class equating to a British or Commonwealth Staff Sergeant.
In some armies, particularly the German army with its system of mission-based tactics, sergeants have much greater responsibility and use of initiative than in other armies.
Sergeants Major are senior NCO appointments of a company, squadron, battalion, or regiment. In the US army company or troop, the senior NCO rank is Master Sergeant or First Sergeant; in British and most Commonwealth forces, sergeant major is an appointment e.g. company sergeant major (CSM) or Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), whereas the rank is Warrant Officer Class 2 or 1. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have a single Warrant Officer grade. Although even the most senior sergeant major (or equivalent) is lower in rank than any officers, the position of Sergeant Major is in many ways more prestigious than junior officer ranks.
However, the RAAF rank of Flight Sergeant (FSGT) outranks the Army rank of Staff Sergeant (SSGT). There is no Navy or RAAF equivalent of SSGT, however the Navy rank of Chief Petty Officer (CPO) and Army rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) are equivalent to a Flight Sergeant.
In the Australian army the rank of Sergeant is above Corporal but below Warrant Officer Class 2. Although Staff Sergeant is technically between the two ranks, this rank is currently being phased out of the Australian Army. The insignia of a Sergeant in the Australian Army is three chevrons vertically adjacent to each other. Sergeants are non commissioned officers and are usually the seconds-in-command of infantry platoons or armoured sections.
There are generally two sergeant ranks:
Some state police forces have slightly different variations of the sergeant structure.
New South Wales Police Force, for example, have the additional rank of Incremental Sergeant (SGT) (three chevrons and a crown). This is an incremental progression, following appointment as a Sergeant for 7 years. This rank is less senior than that of a senior sergeant.
South Australia Police have the additional rank of Brevet Sergeant (two chevrons below an inverted arrow head) which is an authorization for an officer to temporarily hold a higher rank. A brevet sergeant is less senior than a sergeant.
Upon appointment as a Sergeant or Senior Sergeant within the New South Wales Police Force, the Sergeant is given a Warrant of Appointment under the Commissioners hand and seal. In addition, the Sergeant is given a Navy Blue backing (which replaces a light blue backing to the officers police badge), a navy blue name plate (which replaces a light blue nameplate), and a silver chin strap positioned above his peaked cap on his headdress, replacing a black chinstrap. These are symbols of the officers authority and standing.
All three sergeant ranks are informally referred to as "Sergeant", "Boss", or "Sarge". However at the New South Wales Police College, recruits must address all ranks of Sergeants as "Sergeant" and this is rigidly enforced by members of the NSW Protocol Unit, namely a Sergeant in the position of Supervisor Protocol Officer and the manager of the unit, a Senior Sergeant in the position of Senior Protocol Officer.
Sergeants are usually Team Leaders in charge of an entire team of Constables to Senior Constables at large stations, to being in charge of sectors involving several police stations. In country areas, sergeants are often in charge of an entire station and its constabulary. Senior Sergeants are usually in specialist areas and are in charge of Sergeants and thus act as middle management.
In army units, Sergeants usually serve as section commanders; they may often be called to fill positions normally held by Warrant Officers, such as Platoon or Troop Warrant, Company Quartermaster Sergeant, Chief Clerk, etc.
The rank insignia of a Sergeant is a 3-bar chevron, worn point down, surmounted by a maple leaf. Embroidered rank badges are worn in "CF gold" thread on rifle green melton, stitched to the upper sleeves of the Service Dress jacket; as miniature gold metal and rifle-green enamel badges on the collars of the Army dress shirt and Army outerwear jackets; in "old-gold" thread on air force blue slip-ons on Air Force shirts, sweaters, and coats; and in tan thread on CADPAT slip-ons (Army) or dark blue thread on olive-drab slip-ons (Air Force) on the Operational Dress uniform. Sergeants are generally initially addressed as "Sergeant Bloggins" and thereafter as "Sergeant".
Colour Sergeant in the Canadian Forces is not a rank of Sergeant, but a Warrant Officer in one of the two Foot Guards regiments (the Governor General's Foot Guards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards). Likewise, a Sergeant-Major (including Regimental Sergeant-Major) is not a Sergeant rank, but an appointment held by a Master Warrant Officer or Chief Warrant Officer.
Sergeants generally mess and billet with Warrant Officers, Master Warrant Officers, and Chief Warrant Officers, and their naval counterparts, Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers. Their mess on military bases or installations is generally named the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess.
Historically, the rank of sergeant was severely downgraded after Unification of the three services in 1968. An Army Sergeant before unification was generally employed in supervisory positions, such as the second in command of a platoon sized unit (ie an infantry Platoon Sergeant, or Troop Sergeant in an armoured unit). After unification he was downgraded in status to section commander, a job previously held by Corporals, and the former "Platoon/Troop Sergeant"s were replaced by "Platoon/Troop Warrant Officers."
Kersantti is in Finnish Defence Forces the second and highest NCO rank that a conscript can possibly reach before entering the reserve. The beginning and most common NCO rank is alikersantti (lit. sub-sergeant); see Corporal.
Only a few NCO's in each conscript company reach the higher rank of full three-chevron kersantti. There's no difference between the 4-month group leader training and service time of alikersantti and kersantti; all start their group leader tour with the lower rank and the optional promotion is based on superior's assessment of individual performance and intended duties in the war-time organization; special roles such as that of Platoon Deputy Leader or Company First Sergeant are typically reserved for kersantti and upwards.
A Corporal can also obtain the rank of Sergeant (and possibly above - the next rank being four-chevron ylikersantti, which is comparable to Staff Sergeant) by participating some military refresher courses while in reserve, or by enlisting to (short-term) professional service in the military.
There are three sergeant ranks in France, although the most junior, contract sergeant, is rare now that conscription has been suspended. In general, the term sergent is used indifferently for both contract sergeant and career sergeant. Contract sergeant is classified as the lowest NCO rank, the rank below being chief corporal.
French sergeant ranks are used by the entire Air Force, by the Engineers, the Infantry, the Foreign Legion, the Troupes de marine, the Communications, the Administration, all part of the French Army, and the Gendarmerie mobile, part of the Gendarmerie Nationale. Other corps in the Army and the Gendarmerie use three equivalent ranks of maréchal des logis ("marshal of lodgings" in English) instead.
In the German language, the rank of Sergeant is known as Feldwebel. The rank has existed since the 18th century, with usage as a title dating to the Middle Ages. One important difference between Sergeants and Feldwebel exists: in a typical Bundeswehr company, only one Zug (platoon) is under the command of an officer, while the other Zugführer (platoon leader) positions are held by Feldwebel-ranked NCOs (typically Hauptfeldwebel and above). In the German Navy the rank is called Bootsmann.
In the modern German Army, Feldwebel and Oberfeldwebel have a NATO rank code of OR-6, with Unteroffizier (historically considered generically equivalent to Corporal) and Stabsunteroffizier having a rank code of OR-5.
The rank order is: Feldwebel, Oberfeldwebel, Hauptfeldwebel, Stabsfeldwebel and Oberstabsfeldwebel.
The Army rank insignia consists of three winged chevrons (or "stripes"). The Service Dress Insignia consists of three wavy red chevrons 9 cm wide bordered in yellow. The main infantry role of a Sergeant is as Second in Command of a platoon or commander of a Fire Support Section of a weapons platoon, such as an anti-tank or mortar platoon. Another role is that of Company Clerk and Instructor. There are higher ranks of Company Sergeant and Company Quartermaster Sergeant. Artillery Sergeants are usually assigned as Detachment and Section Commanders, as well as in administrative roles. The difference in roles of Sergeant and Corporal in the Artillery Corps is not as clearly defined as in the Infantry Corps.
Sergeant is also the second rank of NCO in the Irish Air Corps. Before 1994, the Air Corps was considered part of the Army and wore Army uniforms with distinct Corps Badges, but the same rank insignia. With the introduction of a unique Air Corps blue uniform in 1994, the same rank markings in a white colour were worn, before the introduction of a new three-chevron with wing rank marking. There are higher ranks of Flight Sergeant and Flight Quartermaster Sergeant.
Finally, sergeant is the second rank in an Garda Síochána.
In the Israel Defense Forces, soldiers are promoted from Corporal to Sergeant (Samál) after approximately 20 months of service, if they performed their duties appropriately during this time. Soldiers who take a commander's course may become Sergeants earlier. Sergeants get a symbolic pay raise of 1.80 NIS.
In the Mexican Army the "Cabo" (Corporal) is upgraded to "Sargento segundo" (2nd Sergeant) and then to "Sargento primero" (1st Sergeant).
In the Polish Army rank insignia system there are two grades of sergeant: Sierżant (OR-6 in NATO code) and Starszy Sierżant (OR-7). The rank first appeared in Henryk Dąbrowski's Polish Legions in Italy in the late 18th century. Both ranks are used in the infantry, armoured forces, air force and cavalry. In the artillery the equivalent is Ogniomistrz (literally Firemaster). In the Polish Navy, the equivalent is Bosman (literally Boatswain).
Soldiers must complete their Specialist course at School of Infantry Specialists (SISPEC) or other training institutes before being promoted to Third Sergeant. While active duty National Servicemen may be promoted to Second Sergeant, most personnel holding ranks above that are career soldiers.
Promotion from 3SG to SSG takes an average of 6 years, although there are many factors which may cause a soldier's promotion to cease. These factors include failure to pass an annual physical fitness proficiency test, poor performance in their appointments or getting charged for offences.
3SGs are usually section commanders. They may also hold certain logistics or administrative posts such as Company Quartermaster Sergeant. 2SGs usually serve as platoon sergeants. 1SGs, SSGs, and MSGs usually serve as Company Sergeant Major or administrative Specialists at company level or higher.
British sergeants are usually addressed as "Sergeant". The shortening "Sarge" is sometimes used by subordinates, although many sergeants object to this term. In the British Army and Royal Marines, however, the abbreviated "S'arnt" or "S'ant" is commonly heard.
A Sergeant (Sgt) in the British Army wears three point-down chevrons on their sleeve and usually serves as a platoon or troop sergeant, or in a specialist position. Staff Sergeant or Colour Sergeant (in the Royal Marines and the Infantry), is the next most senior rank, above which come Warrant Officers. The Household Cavalry use the rank of Corporal of Horse instead, the only regiments to preserve the old cavalry tradition of having corporals but not sergeants.
A Lance-Sergeant (LSgt) was formerly a Corporal acting in the capacity of a Sergeant. The appointment now survives chiefly in the Guards, where it is awarded to all Corporals. A Lance-Sergeant in the Guards and Honourable Artillery Company wears three chevrons, belongs to the Sergeants' Mess, and is considered senior to "normal" Corporals; however, for practical purposes he remains a Corporal rather than an acting Sergeant (e.g., he will typically command a section). In the Household Cavalry, the equivalent appointment is Lance-Corporal of Horse.
The Royal Air Force also has the rank of Sergeant, wearing the same three chevrons. The rank lies between Corporal and Flight Sergeant (or Chief Technician for technicians and musicians). Between 1950 and 1964 sergeants in technical trades were known as Senior Technicians and wore their chevrons point up.
On 1 July 1946, aircrew sergeants were re-designated as Aircrew IV, III or II, replacing the chevrons with one, two or three six-pointed stars within a wreath and surmounted by an eagle. This was unpopular and in 1950 they returned to the old rank, but have worn an eagle above their chevrons ever since. Sergeants of the Royal Flying Corps wore a four-bladed propeller above their chevrons.
A Sergeant in the police force is more senior than a Police Constable but less senior than an Inspector in the UK police ranks. A Police Sergeant's chevrons are normally white print or silver-coloured metal pin badge insignia. For High Visibility Uniform, they are often yellow with printed silver insignia. As with Police Constable epaulettes, the Sergeants' collar numbers (and Division Call Sign if from the London Metropolitan Police Service) are also displayed.
A Sergeant in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is known as a Detective Sergeant (DS). Until the abolition of 1st Class Detective Sergeants in 1973, Metropolitan Police Detective Sergeants were officially known as 2nd Class Detective Sergeants.
Unlike the military, addressing a Sergeant as "Sarge" is not seen as incorrect. Constables in some forces (including the Metropolitan Police) refer to their Sergeants as "Skipper".
In the United States Army, although there are several ranks of sergeant, the lowest carries the title of Sergeant (SGT), Newly promoted Sergeants are known as "buck sergeants" (a new sergeant). Sergeant is the enlisted rank in the U.S. Army above Specialist and Corporal and below Staff Sergeant, and is the second-lowest grade of non-commissioned officer. Sergeants in the infantry for example lead fire teams of four men. There are two fire teams in a 9-man rifle squad, which is lead by a Staff Sergeant.
In the United States Army, Sergeants, Staff Sergeants, Sergeants First Class, and Master Sergeants are all referred in short form by their subordinates as "Sergeant", except in some training environments, and an exception to sergeants in certain specialized Army corps such as Airborne. Another exception is for Staff Sergeants or Sergeants First Class serving in the position of the First Sergeant, regardless of rank, will be referred to as First Sergeant.
Drill Sergeants are always addressed as "Drill Sergeant", regardless of rank (when serving an instruction tour indicated by the traditional World War I campaign hat, commonly referred to as the "Brown Round" or "Smokey Bear".) The Drill Sergeant will always wear the Drill Sergeant badge indicating he completed the school. The Army Drill Sergeant badge appears on the right upper shirt pocket.
Similarly, the United States Marine Corps has several ranks which carry the title of Sergeant, the lowest of which is Sergeant (Sgt). Marine Sergeants are the fifth enlisted rank in the U.S. Marine Corps, just above Corporal and below Staff Sergeant.
In the Marine Corps, enlisted ranks above Sergeant are referred to as Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (Staff NCOs or SNCOs). These ranks, Staff Sergeant through Sergeant Major, are always referred to by their full rank and never merely as "Sergeant". Gunnery Sergeants are commonly addressed as simply "Gunny" informally.
Master Sergeants are addressed as "Master Sergeant" or "Top" at the preference of the Marine wearing the rank and dependent on the MOS community. This privilege is usually extended to NCOs or SNCOs and above, and even Marines that are the same rank or higher. Master Gunnery Sergeants follow the same protocol but are commonly referred to as "Master Guns" or "Master Gunny." First Sergeants and Sergeants Major are never referred to as "top".
The U.S. Air Force rank of Sergeant (E-4) was phased out in the 1990s. Previously, Senior Airmen were promoted to Sergeant and granted NCO status after 12 months time in grade; this lateral promotion is no longer conferred and Senior Airmen compete directly for promotion to Staff Sergeant. The old rank of Sergeant was commonly referred to in the Air Force as "Buck" Sergeant. In today's Air Force, the term Sergeant refers to all Air Force NCOs up to Senior Master Sergeant. An airman who has achieved the rank of Chief Master Sergeant is referred to as Chief.
The rank was used by both the Union Army and the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. The same rank insignia was used by both armies. Both armies varied the color of the stripes by assigning red for artillery, yellow for cavalry, and blue for infantry. Some Confederate militia units varied these colors even further and had other colors including black stripes for various units. The rank was just below First Sergeant and just above Corporal.