Platoons, Brigades, Divisions Oh My!
Here is a general descriptor of how the army is structured. Don't get too caught in the numbers though. Sections will vary in size. Platoons may be short sections (or may have extra sections). Regular Force infantry battalions only have three rifle companies these days (as opposed to the traditional four) and many reserve regiments only have one company.
Note that generally the "rule of three" gives you a rough estimate of what an element can be broken down in to (ie: 3 sections to a platoon, 3 platoons to a company, 3 companies to a battalion, etc, etc). However, that rule of three typically breaks down when you try to apply it to support elements or combined arms groups.
The dot/line/x system is the NATO standard designation used in conjuction with map symbols.
. - Detachment, Crew or fireteam
Two to four soldiers. This could be a vehicle crew, a sniper team, an engineer firing party, or something else which is tiny.
.. - Section
A section normally numbers about 8-10 men and is commanded by a Sgt with a MCpl as second in command.
... - Platoon or Troop
A platoon is a basic building block of sub-unit organizations. They are headed by a junior officer (2Lt to Capt) and number about 30 to 45 members. They consist of 3 or 4 sections (depending on the Arm) plus additional detachments as necessary (ie an infantry platoon Weapons Det). A Tank Troop would consist of 4 battle tanks.
l - Company
A company is considered a sub-unit and is the building block of "unit" sized organizations. They are commanded by Majors (referred to as Officer Commanding, or OC) and consist of a headquarters and 2 to 4 platoons (or troops). An Artillery sub-unit is refered to as a Battery, and the Armoured, Engineers and Signals refer to their sub-units as squadrons.
ll - Batallion
The Battalion is the standard sized "unit" of the Army. The Artillery, Armoured, Engineers, and Signals refer to thier units as Regiments. Tactical Aviation refers to its units as squadrons. Units are commanded by a commanding officer (typically a LCol). In some rare cases, smaller organizations may be given the designation of "unit" (but they would still use the map designator of their smaller size).
As for the Infantry Battalion structure, it is comprised of three rifle companies, a combat support company, a combat service support company and a battalion headquarters. Two rifle companies are mechanised while the third is light, and in one battalion per regiment, parachute. The combat support company is comprised of a reconnaissance platoon, a sniper platoon and a signals platoon. The combat service support company is comprised of a maintenance platoon, a transport platoon and other logistical elements. The headquarters is comprised of the Commanding Officer and his staff.
lll - Regiment
Common for Soviet and WWII German forces in which a Regiment was a fighting formation. A Regiment typically consists of three to four battalions under the command of a Col.
(This should not be confused with the term "regiment" as it is used in commonwealth armies. Those Canadian regiments which are larger than one unit are still not formations. PPCLI, RCR, R22R, RNBR, etc will never deploy under a regimental headquarters. They will always be battalions as part of a Bde. For this reason you won't see Canadian units marked as Regiments on a map. The same is true of most of our allies.)
In western armies, the Group was an equivalent level supporting formation. Canadian doctrinal examples include the division services group (DISGP)or the divisional engineer group.
x - Brigade
A Brigade typically consists of three to four battalions under the command of a BGen. Brigades lack sufficient resources to conduct independent operations. They must operate within a division and they are dependant on division troops for support.
In Canada we have Brigade Groups, which are slightly larger than brigades and include brigade troops (reconnaissance, artillery, engineers, signals, aviation, medical and logistics (including military police)). The term "Brigade Group" is often used to designate a combined arms Brigade. These formations are not dependant on divisional troops for support, and can be fought independent of a higher formation.
Canadian Mechanized Brigade Groups are typically composed of the following:
- 1x Headquarters / Signal Squadron
- 3 x Infantry Battalions
- 1x Armoured Regiment (including a reconnaisance squadron)
- 1x Field Artillery Regiment
- 1x Engineer Regiment
- 1x Service Battalion (but it is technically not part of the CMBG)
- 1x Field Ambulance (but it is technically not part of the CMBG)
- 1x Military Police platoon
Canadian Brigade Groups (the title given to the reserve brigades) have no fixed organization and are primarily trainining organizations with a certain domestic operations capabilities (although this is changing too...). For example, one Res CBG may consists of a headquarters, two Armoured units, three Artillery units, five Infantry units, one Engineer sub-unit and three combat service support units. Other CBGs are totally different: it is really a geographic and administrative grouping rather than an operational one.
xx - Division
A division consists of 2 to 3 brigades (or 2 to 3 Regiments), plus division troops (reconnaissance, artillery, engineers, signals, aviation, medical and logistics (including military police)) commanded by a Major General.
There are currently no Divisions within the Canadian Army.
xxx - Corps
2+ divisions, plus corps troops (reconnaissance, artillery, engineers, signals, information/electronic warfare, aviation, medical and logistics (including military police))commanded by a Lieutenant General
xxxx - Army
xxxxx - Army Group or Theater Command