How does millitary ranks actually work?

No, I won’t talk about those boring things like ”First, you are private, if you are promoted then …” I don’t know about you, but I can reach those info for about 8 seconds of researching. Instead, I’ll talk about the chain of command and why do they exist.

Great power comes with great responsibilites

Let’s just say you are a lieutenant general in Soviet Army and they told you to defend the city A and this is all they gave you:

  • Two infrantry division
  • One disorganized tank division
  • 1 month of preperation time

What will happen? Surely, you won’t give every single command but instead, you will just divide the city in 2, 3 or 4 and you will brief your subordinate commanders on topics such as where, how and when to defend. Let’s say you divide the city in half and you want a counter attack in 26 September but a stubborn defense in south. Then, you will brief and even teach some things about counter attacking to the major-general who is responsible for north and make sure he/she understands what is important and what is not such as current logistics, men morale and so on. And the major-general who is responsible for north will do the same thing to his subordinate commanders but be careful: Every ruler is taught that as the chain of command expands, your perfect plan will change and get worse. Don’t believe me? Watch this video: Chinese whispers

So, in every war book that you will read, author will talk say that simpler the strategy, the succesful it is but this side topic is getting long so let’s get back to the main topic. As I said earlier, you will brief your commanders but when the battle is on, you shouldn’t and won’t just take a good nap, no. Not every plan is perfect and chaos, unceartinity and confusion are in the nature of war. Let’s say the Germans made an suprise move and they are attacking only the north side and you will decide whetever to send in reinforcements to north or change the strategy entirely and flank them with an attack from the south, but your subordinate commanders aren’t babies and interfering their doctrine, tactics etc. too much will cause some relation problems. You will brief, support and teach them, but you shouln’t be disrespectful like Adolf Hitler or commanders will resignate.

This is why in pretty much every organization, we see a pyramid shape for the chain of command. While the marshal is responsible for the whole army, a private just needs to be accurate with his rifle.

During chaos?

I am sure you saw a scene where two commanders argue about their action for the encircled men. While in theory, every commander is fully responsible and has a lot of power for his fighting group, this is not always the case. If a company is reduced down to 34 men, what are they gonna do in battle? Wait for new a commander and reinforcements to come while these 34 men wanders around like homeless people? No, but instead exceptions tend to happen and I am sure you saw a scene like this:

-Where is the rest of your company private?

-There isn’t any, we are the only survivors.

-Alright, you are in my command right now until we come back to base. Now move!

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