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Basic Training Chain of Command

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Basic Training Chain of Command

Everyone in the military has a chain of command. The chain of command is used to issue orders (downward) and to ask for clarification and resolve problems (upward).

The military chain of command is such an integral part of military life that you’ll be required to memorize your basic training chain of command within the first week or two of arrival. In fact, your instructors will often ask you questions about the chain of command, and this topic will probably be your first written test during basic training.

Unfortunately, you can’t memorize the entire basic training chain of command in advance because you won’t know before your arrival exactly which basic training squadron or unit you’ll be assigned to. And even if you did know your assignment, key personnel might change before you get there.

How the chain of command works

If the President of the United States, as the commander-in-chief, decides that he wants your basic training barracks painted purple, he wouldn’t call you directly, even though you’re the one who will actually do the work. Instead, he would call the secretary of defense, who would then call the secretary of the Army, who would contact the Army Chief of Staff, and so on until the directive finally reaches your drill instructor, who would then order you to paint the barracks.

Conversely, if the Air Force forgets to pay you this month, you wouldn’t walk directly into the Oval Office to complain to the President. Instead, you’d speak to your drill instructor, who would try to resolve the issue. If he couldn’t, he’d ask the senior drill instructor for help. If the senior drill instructor had no luck solving your pay problem, she’d speak with the unit First Sergeant. If the First Sergeant couldn’t get the problem fixed, he’d ask the commanding officer for help, and onward and onward up the chain, untilyou finally get paid.

Army BT chain of command

The chain of command in Army basic training runs from the lowest ranking recruit (you) all the way to the President of the United States. Simply, the Army basic training chain of command is as follows:

  • Recruit (that’s you)
  • Drill Sergeant (you’ll probably have more than one, and they’ll be led by the senior drill sergeant).
  • Executive Officer (in Army basic training, this is usually your senior drill sergeant).
  • Company Commander
  • Battalion Commander
  • Brigade Commander
  • Division Commander
  • Corps Commander
  • Army Chief of Staff
  • Secretary of the Army
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Commander-in-Chief (President of the United States.)

Air Force BT chain of command

As with all military organizations, Air Force basic training also has a designated chain of command:

  • Recruit (you)
  • Training Instructor
  • Flight Chief (will be a senior training instructor, or T.I.)
  • Squadron commander
  • 373rd Training Group commander
  • 37th Training Wing commander
  • Air Education and Training Command Commander
  • Air Force Chief of Staff
  • Secretary of the Air Force
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Commander-in-Chief (President of the United States)

Navy BT chain of command

The Navy’s basic training chain of command is designed to imitate the same chain of command you will see on many Navy ships:

  • Recruit (guess who?)
  • Company Commander (CC), also known as the Recruit Division Commander (RDC), or your training instructor
  • Division Leading Chief Petty Officer (LCPO)
  • Division Officer (DO)
  • Military Training Assistant (MTA)
  • Military Training Officer (MTO)
  • Executive Officer RTC (XO)
  • Commanding Officer RTC
  • Chief of Naval Education and Training
  • Chief of Naval Operations
  • Secretary of the Navy
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Commander-in-Chief (President of the United States)

Marine Corps BT chain of command

The Marine Corps basic training chain of command is a bit tricky because there is no Department of the Marine Corps. While technically a separate branch of the U.S. Military, operationally the Marine Corps falls under the command and control of the Department of the Navy. The Marine Corps basic training chain of command is as follows:

  • Recruit (that would be you)
  • Drill Instructor (DI)
  • Company Commander
  • Battalion Commander
  • Regimental Commander
  • Division Commander
  • Chief of Naval Education and Training
  • Commandant of the Marine Corps
  • Secretary of the Navy
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Commander-in-Chief (President of the United States)

Coast Guard BT chain of command

While the Coast Guard (like the Navy) is a seagoing service, the Coast Guard basic training chain of command is somewhat different from the Navy basic training chain of command:

  • Recruit (you)
  • Company Commander (CC)
  • Lead Company Commander (LCC)
  • Section Commander (SC)
  • Battalion Commander (BC)
  • Battalion Officer (BO)
  • Regimental Officer (RO)
  • Training Officer (TO)
  • Executive Officer (XO)
  • Commanding Officer (CO)
  • Coast Guard Commandant
  • Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Commander-in-Chief (President of the United States)

From Basic Training for Dummies, copyright © 2011 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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