Chain of command

In a military context, the chain of command is the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed within a military unit and between different units. Orders are transmitted down the chain of command, from a higher-ranked soldier, such as a commissioned officer, to lower-ranked personnel who either carry out the order personally or transmit it down the chain as appropriate, until it is received by those expected to carry it out.

In general, military personnel give orders only to those directly below them in the chain of command and receive orders only from those directly above them. A service member who has difficulty carrying out a duty or order and appeals for relief directly to an officer above his immediate commander in the chain of command is likely to be disciplined for not observing the chain of command.

The concept of chain of command also implies that higher rank alone does not entitle a higher-ranking service member to give commands to anyone of lower rank. For example, an officer of unit "A" does not directly command lower-ranking members of unit "B", and is generally expected to approach an officer of unit "B" if he requires action by members of that unit. The chain of command means that individual members take orders from only one superior and only give orders to a defined group of people immediately below them.

In addition, within combat units, line officers are in the chain of command, but officers in specialist fields (such as medical, dental, legal, supply and chaplain) are not, except within their own specialty. For example, a medical officer in an infantry battalion would be responsible for the combat medics in that unit, but would not be eligible to command the battalion or any of its subordinate units.

The term is also used in a civilian management context describing comparable hierarchical structures of authority.

The Chain of command is also the chain that someone of higher rank uses to beat another with.

ee also

* Command responsibility
* High command
* Military rank
* Directive control

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