Sergeant Major

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(Redirected from Command Sergeant Major)

This article is about a military rank and position. There is also a fish called the Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis)

A sergeant major is a senior non-commissioned officer or warrant officer, depending on the country and military service in question.



Usage in the Canadian Army generally follows that in the British Army.

SSMs, BSMs and CSMs generally hold the rank of Master Warrant Officer, while RSMs generally hold the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.

Sergeant Major is still a rank in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is the 6th level of rank, below Corps Sergeant Major and above Staff Sergeant Major.

United Kingdom

Sergeant Major is no longer a rank in the British Army and Royal Marines, although it may be used in the title of various appointments held by Warrant Officers. In particular, the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) (WO1) is the senior NCO of a battalion or regiment, equivalent to a Command Sergeant Major in the United States. The Company Sergeant Major (CSM) (WO2) is the senior NCO of a company, equivalent to a US First Sergeant. Equivalent terms are Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM) and Battery Sergeant Major (BSM). There are various other designations of Sergeant Major at both levels.

For the use of "Sergeant Major" as a form of address, see the articles on Regimental and Company Sergeant Majors, and that on Staff Sergeants.

United States Army

Missing image
E-9 insignia

Sergeant Major insignia
(U.S. Army)

In the U.S. Army, Sergeant Major refers to both a military rank and to a specific administrative position. The rank refers to the highest enlisted rank, just above Master Sergeant, with a pay grade of E-9.

E-9 COMM insignia
Sergeant Major insignia
(U.S. Army)

The administrative position, Command Sergeant Major, is the senior enlisted advisor to the commanding officer and carries with it certain ceremonial functions such as caring for the unit's colors. Additionally, they serve as monitors for and advocates of the enlisted men in the command. This position exists in units of battalion size or larger.

An alternate usage of Command Sergeant Major is the senior NCO of a headquarters unit at battalion level or above; the soldier filling this position should carry the rank of Sergeant Major, but personnel shortages may, from time to time, force this sergeant major position to be held by a senior Master Sergeant.

Missing image
E-9 SMA insignia

Sergeant Major of the
Army insignia
(U.S. Army)

There exists one post, Sergeant Major of the Army, which is unique. The holder of this post is the senior enlisted member of the U.S. Army. He is appointed to serve as spokesperson to address the issues of enlisted men to the highest positions in the army. As such he is senior enlisted advisor to the Chief of Staff of the US Army. His exact duties vary, depending on the Chief of Staff, though he generally devotes much of his time to traveling throughout the Army observing training, and talking to soldiers and their families. The current SMA, since January 2004, is SMA Kenneth O. Preston.

Former Sergeants Major of the Army

  1. William O. Wooldridge (July 1966 - August 1968)
  2. George W. Dunaway (September 1968 - September 1970)
  3. Silas L. Copeland (October 1970 - June 1973)
  4. Leon L. Van Autreve (July 1973 - June 1975)
  5. William G. Bainbridge (July 1975 - June 1979)
  6. William A. Connelly (July 1979 - June 1983)
  7. Glen E. Morrell (July 1983 - July 1987)
  8. Julius W. Gates (July 1987 - June 1991)
  9. Richard A. Kidd (July 1991 - June 1995)
  10. Gene C. McKinney (July 1995 - October 1997)
  11. Robert E. Hall (October 1997 - June 2000)
  12. Jack L. Tilley (June 2000 - January 2004)

United States Marine Corps

E-9 SMC insignia

Sergeant Major
of the Marine Corps
(U.S. Marine Corps)

E-9 sgtmaj insignia

Sergeant Major
(U.S. Marine Corps)

In the United States Marine Corps, Sergeant Major is the ninth and highest enlisted rank, just above Master Sergeant, and equal in grade to Master Gunnery Sergeant, although the two have different reponsibilities. It is not an administrative position (or "billet"); it is a military rank only.

There exists one post, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, which is unique. The holder of this post is the senior enlisted member of the U.S. Marine Corps. This position is currently held by John L. Estrada.

Former Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps

  1. Wilbur Bestwick (23 May 1957 - 31 August 1959)
  2. Francis D. Rauber (1 September 1959 - 28 June 1962)
  3. Thomas J. McHugh (29 June 1962 - 16 July 1965)
  4. Herbert J. Sweet (17 July 1965 - 31 July 1969)
  5. Joseph W. Dailey (1 August 1969 - 31 January 1973)
  6. Clinton A. Puckett (1 February 1973 - 31 May 1975)
  7. Henry H. Black (1 June 1975 - 31 March 1977)
  8. John R. Massaro (1 April 1977 - 15 August 1979)
  9. Leland D. Crawford (16 August 1979 - 27 June 1983)
  10. Robert E. Cleary (28 June 1983 - 26 June 1987)
  11. David W. Sommers (27 June 1987 - 27 June 1991)
  12. Harold G. Overstreet (28 June 1991 - 29 June 1995)
  13. Lewis G. Lee (30 June 1995 - 28 June 1999)
  14. Alford L. McMichael (29 June 1999 - 26 June 2003)
  15. John L. Estrada (27 June 2003 - present)
Missing image
Flag of the United States of America

U.S. military enlisted ranks

  E-1 E-2 E-3 E-4 E-5 E-6 E-7 E-8 E-9
Air Force: AB Amn A1C SRA SSgt TSgt MSgt SMSgt CMSgt -


Army: PV1 PV2 PFC SPC -






Marine Corps: Pvt PFC LCpl Cpl Sgt SSgt GySgt MSgt -

1st Sgt

MGySgt -

SgtMaj - SMOMC




In the 16th century, the sergeant major was a general officer. He commanded an army's infantry, and ranked about third in the army's command structure; he also acted as a sort of chief of staff to the army's commander.

In the 17th century, sergeant majors appeared in individual regiments. These were field officers, third in command of their regiments (after their colonels and lieutenant colonels), with a role similar to the older, army-level sergeant majors (although obviously on a smaller scale). The older position became known as sergeant major general to distinguish it. Over time, the sergeant was dropped from both titles, giving rise to the modern ranks of major and major general.

The full title of sergeant major fell out of use until the latter part of the 18th century, when it began to be applied to the senior non-commissioned officer of an infantry battalion or cavalry regiment.

It is about this time that the U.S. and British histories of the title diverge, with the American Revolutionary War.

The first official U.S. use of the term was in 1776, when a sergeant major was appointed to the headquarters of each infantry battalion of the Continental Army. In 1920, with the standardisation of the army's enlisted pay grades, it ceased to be a title of rank or grade. However, it survived as the job title of the senior NCO of a battalion, and was re-introduced as a rank in 1958. The appointment of Sergeant Major of the Army was created in 1966. Command Sergeant Major got separate insignia in 1968.

The U.S. Marine Corps got its first sergeant major in 1801. This was originally a solitary post, similar to the modern Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, but by 1899 there were five of them. The title was abolished in 1946 but re-introduced as a rank in 1954; the post of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps was established in 1957.

The British use of the term was formalised around 1800, when the sergeant major was added to the battalion or regimental staff. When chevrons were introduced as badges of rank, he wore four, later under a crown.

In 1813, cavalry regiments introduced the Troop Sergeant Major to replace the Quartermaster as the senior NCO of a troop; this required the existing position to be explicitly redesignated the Regimental Sergeant Major. Later, the rise of the squadron as the principal sub-regimental unit saw the corresponding introduction of the Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM). The infantry, however, hung on to the undifferentiated, one-per-battalion sergeant major until the eve of the First World War, when the introduction of the Company Sergeant Major forced them to adopt the RSM title as well. (As an infantry regiment could be, and usually was, made up of a number of battalions, one would logically expect the new title to be Battalion Sergeant Major rather than Regimental Sergeant Major: perhaps the infantry felt this would imply a lower status than their cavalry equivalents.)

In the late 19th century, the cavalry RSM and infantry Sergeant Major were among a number of senior non-commissioned positions that were confirmed with warrants, making them warrant officers. This was extended and rationalised in 1915, with the introduction of the new ranks of Warrant Officer Class I (WOI) and Warrant Officer Class II (WOII). RSM became an appointment of the former, CSM and SSM of the latter.

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