platoon size
General Military Questions

Platoon Size – How The US Army Is Organized

The U.S. Army organizational structure can be confusing at first glance and you may find it hard to follow charts on platoon size and how the US Army is organized.

Learning the organizational structure of the U.S. Army allows for an understanding of the overall size of the army and each of its components.

The U.S. Army structure flows together as each component being an integrated part of the unit above it.

The field army, is one of the largest units in the organizational structure, consisting of 90,000 soldiers and each subsequent unit, falls under a Field Army command.

The smallest unit is called a fire team and consists of 4 soldiers.

Organizational structure from the field army to the fire team consists of corps, division, brigade, battalion, company, platoon and squad.

Each unit contains soldiers of different ranks.

After training, soldiers usually hold a Private Second Class (PV2) rank and within a year, Private First Class (PFC).

Private First Class ranking soldiers will complete missions in each unit.

Once soldiers reach Specialist (SPC) rank, they can manage other lower ranking soldiers in units.

Lower units, such as the fire team, will be lead by Corporal or higher ranking officers.

As soldiers rise in rank, they can command higher level units.

Whether you want to understand how the Army units work together, or want to understand what a person means when they tell you what their specific role is in the Army, this guide will help break down each unit from top to bottom.

Army units, size, general purpose and commanding rank can be found below.

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US Army Organization

Note: These are listed in order of largest to smallest.

Here’s a chart of exactly how the US Army organization breaks down.  Below this chart are details on how large the elements are, what their rank structure is, who commands them, and more.

Army organization chart

Field Army

army unit leaders
Army unit leaders from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Image: wikimedia

A Field Army is made up of two or more corps and can hold around 90,000 soldiers.

It it ran by a General, which is generally a 4-star general.

Field Army is used in wartime in support of theater of operations and generally covers a specific geographical area.

Current field army:

  • First Army- mobilization, readiness and training command
  • Third Army- U.S. Army Central, commands U.S. Central Command forces
  • Fifth Army- U.S. Army North, commands U.S. Northern Command forces
  • Sixth Army- U.S. Army South, commands U.S. Southern Command forces
  • Seventh Army- U.S. Army Europe, commands U.S. European Command forces
  • Eighth Army- U.S. Army South Korea, commands U.S. Korean Command forces
  • Ninth Army-U.S. Army Africa, commands U.S. Africa Command Forces

Field Army can be part of an Army Group. 

Corps

Corps consists of 2-5 divisions and can contain anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 soldiers.

Corps are a component of the Field Army.

Currently, the Army is made up of three corps with headquarters in the Continental United States.

The Corps locations are I Corps at Fort Lewis, WA., III Corps at Fort Hood, TX., and XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, NC.

A lieutenant general is in command of Corps with the function of providing command, control and logistic support.

The lieutenant general is a three-star general and is generally concerned with administration over operations.

A command sergeant major assists the lieutenant general in addition to Corps staff.

The Corps are considered a deployable level of command used to sustain combat operations.

They are the highest level of command that can provide operational direction.

Division

Divisions can be made up of anywhere from 3 to 4 brigades and are a component of the larger unit, Corps.

They can include 10,000 to 16,000 soldiers.

Divisions are ran by a major general with a command sergeant major as the NCO assistant.

A division major general is assisted by two principle brigadier generals with respective duties with either maneuver or support.

The purpose of a division is to perform major tactical operations with sustained battles and engagements.

A division can be either cavalry, armored, infantry, airborne or artillery.

They consist of maneuver brigades, sustainment brigades and combat aviation brigades.

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Brigade

A brigade is made up of a few battalions and is part of a division.

The size will vary based on the number of battalions but can range from 1,500 to more than 3,000 soldiers.

A colonel is in command of a Brigade and the colonel is assisted by a command sergeant major.

A brigade can be independent or semi-independent.

Brigades include the primary combat arm, with sustainment, maneuver or supporting functions.

Armored Calvary units are called regiments, Special Forces units are called groups and Ranger units are called regiments.

Battalion

A battalion consists of 3-5 companies and is part of a brigade.

They can have up to 1,000 soldiers in a Battalion.

A battalion is commanded by a lieutenant colonel with a command sergeant major as an assistant.

Battalions are tactically and administratively self-sufficient with the ability to perform independent operations.

Battalions can be combat arms, combat support and combat service support.

When a comparable size unit consisting of an armored or air cavalry units exist, they are called as squadrons instead of battalion.

To improve mission capabilities, a battalion can be expanded to a battalion task-force, which is a battalion-sized unit with additional companies attached.

Company

A company consists of 3-4 platoons and is part of a battalion.

They can range from a few dozen soldiers to up to 200.

A company is commanded by a captain with a first sergeant as the assistant.

The captain is responsible for direction, training and welfare of those below him.

Companies are built around a function (specialties such as signal repair or reconnaissance) or around a weapon (infantry, tank).

If the unit is field artillery or air defense artillery, it is actually called a battery versus company and if it is an armored air cavalry or ground unit, it is called a troop.

Platoon

army platoon
U.S. Army signal intelligence student platoon. Image: af.mil

Platoons are made up of a few squads and fall under a company.

They can have up to a few dozen soldiers and are ran by a lieutenant.

Generally, in infantry, the platoon consists of 3 infantry squads, a weapons squad and a platoon headquarters-with a platoon radiotelephone operator.

The platoon is a task-organized unit that deploys squads based on the mission from the above company command.

The Lieutenant is responsible for maneuvering squads, requesting assets, ensuring security and assigning clear tasks to his lower command (platoon sergeant).

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Squad

A squad, also called a section, consists of about 9 soldiers.

A staff sergeant is in charge of a squad.

The squad is made up of two fire teams and a leader.

The role of the squad is to balance the two fire teams as the fighting element.

Squads have different capabilities but can be used to conduct a fire and movement, provide security or establish a base of fire.

The role of the squad leader is to direct the team leaders (the two leaders in the respective fire teams), communicate locations, control movement of the squad, controls distribution of fire and selects location.

Fire Team

The role of the fire team is to be the movement and the fighting element.

Having a small firing team is effective because it allows for maneuverability and stealth, not easily achievable with larger groups.

Fire team is generally made up of four soldiers.

The fire team runs under the squad leader, who will control their objectives.

A fire team does have a team leader, who will control aspects such as positioning and ensuring all members are meeting their responsibilities.

The team leader will be trained in radio procedures, communicate with the squad leader and send status reports to the squad leader.

The team leader is generally a corporal or sometimes a sergeant.

Fire teams can have a grenadier, automatic rifleman and a rifleman.

Conclusion

When learning the Army organizational structure, it can be confusing to understand where an individual soldier belongs.

A soldier is not just a component of one unit, but rather every unit.

A unit in the Army organizational structure falls under a larger combined unit.

One of the largest Army units is the field army and the smallest is a fire team.

The field army is consists of multiple corps, corps consists of multiple divisions, divisions consists of brigades, brigades consist of battalions, battalions consists of companies, companies consist of platoons, platoons consists of squads, and finally squads consist of fire teams.

Each unit is ran by a different ranking soldier, can hold anywhere from 90,000 (field army) to 4 soldiers (fire team) and has individual functions.

Understanding how the Army structure works provides a respect for how large the Army is, and how well each component works together.

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References

US Dept. of Defense

Rifle Platoon and Squad

Britannica-Military Units

Army Ranks

Elie P.

Elie Piha served as a paratrooper in the US Army from 2008 to 2012. He used
the GI Bill to graduate from UC Berkeley where he majored in English. He
currently works as a writing tutor, a freelance writer, and a bartender, is
completing a novel based on his time in Afghanistan, and is pursuing
graduate school.
Elie P.

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