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In the United States, commander is a military rank that is also sometimes used as a military title, depending on the branch of service. It is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the military, particularly in police and law enforcement.

Commander as a rank

Naval rank

Insignia of Commander, United States Navy

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, commander (CDR) is a senior officer rank, with the pay grade of O-5. Commander ranks above lieutenant commander and below captain. Commander is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the other uniformed services. Notably, it is the first rank at which the holder wears an embellished cap, whereas officers of the other services are entitled to embellishment at O-4 rank.

A commander in the U.S. Navy may command a frigate, destroyer, submarine, aviation squadron or small shore activity, or may serve on a staff (typically as executive officer) or as executive officer of a larger vessel. An officer in the rank of commander who commands a vessel may also be referred to as "captain" as a courtesy title, or informally referred to as "skipper".

Historically, the rank of "commander" was originally called "Master Commandant" in the U.S. Navy. This rank corresponded in function to "Master and Commander" in the Royal Navy. It was later changed in 1838 to its modern form.

Although it exists largely as a maritime training organization, the U.S. Maritime Service has the grade of commander. The commission is appointed by the President via the Secretary of Transportation, making it a federally recognized rank with a corresponding paygrade.

U.S. police ranks

The Los Angeles Police Department was one of first American police departments to use this rank. A commander in the LAPD is equivalent to an Inspector in other US departments (such as the NYPD); the LAPD rank was originally called Inspector as well, but was changed in 1974 to Commander after senior officers voiced a preference for the more military-sounding rank.

The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia uses the rank of commander. The rank falls between those of Inspector and Assistant Chief.

The Rochester, New York Police Department (RPD) uses the rank of commander. Higher than Captain and below Deputy Chief, the rank is achieved by appointment. Commander is the rank held by the two patrol division heads and other Commanders fill various administrative roles. The St. Paul Police Department (MN) is another police force that uses the rank of commander. In the St. Paul Police department, commanders serve as the chief of the district/unit that they oversee. Many police departments in the Midwest use the rank of commander. It is equivalent to a lieutenant in most other departments, being above a sergeant and below a deputy chief or captain.

Commander is also utilized by larger sheriff's departments in the United States, with the rank usually falling between Chief Deputy and Captain, three positions removed from the sheriff.

Commander as an appointment

U.S. Army and Marine Corps

In the United States Army and United States Marine Corps, the term "commander" is officially applied to the commanding officer of army units; hence, there are company commanders, battalion commanders, brigade commanders, and so forth. At the highest levels of U.S. military command structure, "commander" also refers to what used to be called commander-in-chief, or CINC, until October 24, 2002, although the term CINC is still used in casual speech. The soldier in charge of a tank, for example the M1 Abrams, is also called its "commander".

U.S. Air Force

In the Air Force, the term "commander" (abbreviated "CC") is officially applied to the commanding officer of an Air Force unit; hence, there are squadron commanders, group commanders, wing commanders, numbered air force (NAF) commanders, major command (MAJCOM) commanders and so forth. In rank, a squadron commander is typically a lieutenant colonel, although some smaller squadrons may be commanded by a major.

A group commander is typically a mid-grade colonel, while a wing commander is typically a senior colonel or a brigadier general.

A numbered air force commander is normally a lieutenant general, although some may be in the rank of major general, especially in the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard. The MAJCOM commanders are normally in the rank of general or lieutenant general.

United States police title

Commander is also used as a title in certain circumstances, such as the commander of a squad of detectives, who would usually be of the rank of lieutenant.

See also


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