Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority.
In its broadest sense, the term "officer" refers to commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, and warrant officers. However, when used without further detail, the term almost always refers to only commissioned officers, the more senior portion of a force who derive their authority from a commission from the head of state.
The proportion of officers varies greatly. Commissioned officers typically make up between an eighth and a fifth of modern armed forces personnel. In 2013, officers were the senior 17% of the British armed forces, and the senior 13.7% of the French armed forces. In 2012, officers made up about 18% of the German armed forces, and about 17.2% of the United States armed forces.
Historically, however, armed forces have generally had much lower proportions of officers. During the First World War, fewer than 5% of British soldiers were officers. In the early twentieth century, the Spanish army had the highest proportion of officers of any European army, at 12.5%, which was at that time considered unreasonably high by many Spanish and foreign observers.
Within a nation's armed forces, armies tend to have a lower proportion of officers, but a higher total number of officers, while navies and air forces have higher proportions of officers, especially since military aircraft are flown by officers and naval ships and submarines are commanded by officers. For example, 13.9% of British Army personnel and 22.2% of the RAF personnel were officers in 2013, but the British Army had a larger total number of officers.
Commissioned officers generally receive training as leadership and management generalists, in addition to training relating to their specific military occupational specialty or function in the military.
Many advanced militaries such as the United States typically require university degrees as a prerequisite for commissioning, even when accessed from the enlisted ranks.
Others, including the Australian Defence Force, the British Armed Forces, Nepal Army, the Pakistani Armed Forces, the Swiss Armed Forces, the Singapore Armed Forces, the Israel Defense Forces, the Swedish Armed Forces, and the New Zealand Defence Force, are different in not requiring a university degree for commissioning, although a significant number of officers in these countries are graduates. In the Israel Defense Forces, a university degree is a requirement for an officer to advance to the rank of lieutenant colonel and beyond. The IDF often sponsors the studies for its officers in the rank major, while aircrew and naval officers obtain academic degrees as a part of their training programmes.
officer training academy Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth
In the United Kingdom, there are three routes of entry for British Armed Forces officers. The first, and primary route are those who receive their commission directly into the officer grades following completion at their relevant military academy. In the second method, an individual may gain their commission after first enlisting and serving in the junior ranks, and typically reaching one of the senior non-commissioned officer ranks, as what are known as direct entry or DE officers. The third route is similar to the second, in that they convert from an enlisted to a commission; but these are only taken from the highest ranks of SNCOs, and are known as 'late entry' or LE officers. LE officers, whilst holding the same Queen's commission, generally work in different roles from the DE officers. In the infantry, a number of warrant officer class 1s are commissioned as LE officers.
In the British Army, commissioning for DE officers occurs after a 44-week course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for regular officers or the Army Reserve Commissioning Course, which consists of four two-week modules for Army Reserve officers. The first two modules may be undertaken over a year for each module at an Officers' Training Corps, the last two must be undertaken at Sandhurst. For Royal Navy and Royal Air Force officer candidates, a 30-week period at Britannia Royal Naval College or a 24-week period at RAF College Cranwell, respectively. Royal Marines officers receive their training in the Command Wing of the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines during a gruelling 15-month course. The courses consist of not only tactical and combat training, but also leadership, management, etiquette, and international affairs training.
Until the Cardwell Reforms of 1871, commissions in the British Army were purchased by officers. The Royal Navy, however, operated on a more meritocratic, or at least socially mobile, basis.
Commissioned officers are considered commanding officers under presidential authority. A superior officer is an officer with a higher rank than another officer, who is a subordinate officer relative to the superior.
Non-commissioned officers, to include U.S. Navy and Coast Guard petty officers and chief petty officers, in positions of authority can be said to have control or charge rather than command per se. These enlisted naval personnel with authority are officially referred to as officers-in-charge rather than commanding officers.
Commissioned officers in the Armed Forces of the United States come from a variety of accessions sources: