A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads and containing about 30 to 50 soldiers. Platoons are organised into a company, which typically consists of three, four or five platoons. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer — the platoon leader or platoon commander, usually a lieutenant. He is usually assisted by a senior non-commissioned officer — the platoon sergeant.

In some armies, platoon is used throughout the branches of the army. In others, such as the British Army, most platoons are infantry platoons, while some carry other designations such as tank, mortar, or heavy weapons platoons. In a few armies, such as the French Army, a platoon is specifically a cavalry unit, and the infantry use "section" as the equivalent unit.

The word is derived from the 17th-century French peloton, meaning a small ball or small detachment of men, which came from pelote, (originally from Latin 'pillula', meaning 'little ball').

Australian organisation

In the Australian Army, a platoon is commanded by a Lieutenant, assisted by a Platoon Sergeant (who holds the rank of Sergeant). A doctrinal platoon from an infantry company consists of three sections of nine men plus a platoon signalman, giving the platoon a strength of 30 men. Each section is commanded by a Corporal, a Lance Corporal is section second-in-command, the remaining seven men being privates. Each section is divided into an Assault Squad (3 men), Gun Squad (3 men) and Scouts (2 men) plus the signalman and Corporal. These teams are employed in fire and move tactics.

British organisation

In the British Army, a platoon is commanded by either a Second Lieutenant or Lieutenant, assisted by a platoon Sergeant (holding the rank of Sergeant). A Rifle platoon from an infantry company consists of three sections of eight men, plus a signaller (operating the radio), Plt Sergeant, Plt Commdr and a Mortar Man operating a Light Mortar, this means the platoon has 27 men and one Officer. Each Section is commanded by a Corporal, with a Lance Corporal as second-in-command and 6 Privates divided into two fireteams. Other types of platoons (such as Mortar or Anti-tank) are generally smaller and are commanded by a Lieutenant or Captain.

Canadian organisation

In the Canadian Forces, the infantry Platoon Commander is a Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant, assisted by a Platoon Warrant (who usually actually holds the rank of Warrant Officer). It is usually divided into three eight-to-ten-person sections and a heavy weapons detachment which will deploy either a GPMG, Carl Gustav, or 60 mm mortar depending on mission requirements. Specialist platoons may be led by a Captain, assisted by a Warrant Officer. Some very large specialist platoons will actually have a Lieutenant as the second-in-command. In many corps, platoon-sized units are called troops instead.

Colombian organisation

Within the Colombian Army a platoon (in Spanish peloton) can be led by a higher rank soldier known as "Dragoneante", which is usually a soldier that excels in discipline or skills. However a Dragoneante is still a soldier and can be removed from his position if a commander sees it fit. Dragoneantes will usually lead platoons in companies of training. For combatant platoons (platoons that would usually combat guerrilla rebels) a Private or Sergeant would be the most likely commander.

Singapore organisation

In the Singapore Army, a platoon is a Lieutenant billet. In practice, usually a Second Lieutenant is appointed the platoon commander, and will eventually be promoted to this rank. A typical infantry platoon consists of three seven-man sections of riflemen and a machine gun team, both commanded by Third Sergeants, a platoon sergeant and a medical orderly for a total of 27 soldiers.

Thai organisation

In the Royal Thai Army, a platoon is commanded by a Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant assisted by a Platoon Sergeant, usually of the rank of sergeant major. In infantry units, rifle platoons are generally made up of fifty man squads (three rifle squads, one machine gun squad and command squad).

United States organization

In the United States Army, a platoon is commanded by a platoon leader, usually a Second Lieutenant or First Lieutenant, assisted by a platoon sergeant, usually of the rank of Sergeant First Class. Tank platoons consist of four tanks. In infantry units, rifle platoons are generally made up of four nine-man squads (three rifle squads and one weapons squad).

In the United States Marine Corps, rifle platoons are commanded by a Platoon Commander, usually a Second or First Lieutenant. The billet of Platoon Sergeant is a position intended for a Staff Sergeant, but it can be held by a Marine ranking from Corporal to Gunnery Sergeant. In a Marine regiment, rifle platoons usually consist of three rifle squads of 13 men each, usually led by a Sergeant, with a Navy corpsman, a Platoon Commander, and a Platoon Sergeant. Each squad is further divided into 3 fireteams. A weapons platoon replaces the 3 squads with a 60mm mortar section, an assault section, and a medium machine gun section. The assault section consists of dual-purpose rockets such as the FGM-172 SRAW.

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