Captain (United States)


Captain (United States)

:"See "Captain" for other versions of this rank."

In the uniformed services of the United States, captain is a federal commisioned officer rank.

US Army, US Air Force, and US Marine Corps

In the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force, Captain is a company grade officer rank, with the pay grade of O-3. It ranks above First Lieutenant and below Major. It is equivalent to the rank of Lieutenant in the below uniformed services.

Army and Marine Captains generally command company-sized units. When given such a command, they bear the title Company Commander. Captains also instruct at service schools and combat training centers and are often staff officers at the battalion level. In medical units (in all services except the Marine Corps), Captain is the entry-level rank for doctors and those possessing a Doctor of Pharmacy. In Judge Advocate General units in all services except the United States Marine Corps, Captain or First Lieutenant is the entry-level rank for lawyers who already have their Juris Doctor degree and have been admitted to the bar of at least one U.S. state or territory. Air Force Captains' authority varies by group assignment. In the operations group, senior captains may be flight commanders while more junior captains may be heads of departments. In the maintenance and mission support groups they are almost always flight commanders. In the medical group, Captains usually have little administrative responsibility as Captain is the entry level rank for many medical officers. Captains in the MSC, BSC, and NC corps, however, are sometimes assigned as flight commanders.

US Navy, US Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps

In the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps, captain (CAPT) is a senior officer rank, with the pay grade of O-6. It ranks above commander and below rear admiral (lower half). It is equivalent to the rank of colonel in the above uniformed services.

Navy captains with sea commands in the Surface Warfare community generally command ships of cruiser size or larger. The more senior the officer, the larger the ship. In Naval Aviation, captains with sea commands generally command aircraft carriers, air-capable amphibious assault ships, carrier air wings, functional air wings or special mission air wings or air groups. Commanders of aircraft carrier strike groups and expeditionary strike groups are normally rear admirals, while subordinate destroyer squadron commodores, amphibious squadron commodores, carrier air wing commanders and the individual ship commanding officers within the strike group are of captain rank or lower. In rare instances, the carrier air wing commander may be a Marine Corps colonel who is a Naval Aviator or Naval Flight Officer, while in the expeditionary strike group, the Marine Expeditionary Unit commanding officer will be a Marine Corps colonel.

Navy captains may also fill important senior staff positions or have shore based command assignments, such as commanding officer of naval stations, naval air stations, naval support activities, specialized centers or commanders of test wings or training air wings.

NOAA Corps and PHS Commissioned Corps captains are senior non-combatant officers that serve as directors or ranking supervisors in their respective Uniformed Service Corps.

Rank equivalency between services

Due to the ambiguity created by the common use of "captain" for officers of different grades between the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, equivalency is conferred between officers by use of identical pay grade rather than title of rank. The higher the number of the grade, the higher the rank of the officer. For example, an Army, Air Force, or Marine captain is equivalent in rank, responsibilities, and grade to a Navy or Coast Guard lieutenant, all of which are of the third officer grade, or O-3. Similarly, a Navy or Coast Guard captain is equivalent in rank, responsibilities, and grade to an Army, Air Force, or Marine colonel, all of which are of the sixth officer grade, or O-6. Thus, Army, Air Force, and Marine colonels together with Navy and Coast Guard captains wear the silver eagle insignia of their grade O-6, while Army, Air Force, and Marine captains together with Navy and Coast Guard lieutenants wear a pair of silver bars as their rank insignia in the grade O-3.

Early history

In the United States, the rank of captain first appeared in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. A captain was the officer placed in charge of a company of soldiers and was granted a commission from the regimental Colonel. A captain was afforded one to several Lieutenants, depending on the size of the company, and the captain’s commission could be revoked or expired at the end of a particular military campaign.

The Continental Navy used the rank of captain as the commander of a sailing vessel at war, with the captain having several lieutenants on board, as well as a Sailing Master to assist in their duties. This use of the rank carried over into the U.S. Navy. With the addition of the ranks of Commander and Lieutenant Commander between Lieutenant and Captain, a Navy Captain became equivalent in rank to an Army Colonel.


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