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Brigade general is a rank used in many armies to denote the lowest rank of general, corresponding to command of a brigade. The rank is mostly used in countries where it is used as a modern alternative to a previous older rank of brigadier or brigadier general. The rank was first used in the French revolutionary armies.
The Land Component, the Air Component and the Medical Component of the Belgian Armed Forces use the rank of brigade general (French: général de brigade, Dutch:brigadegeneraal). However, in this small military there are no permanent promotions to this rank, and it is only awarded as a temporary promotion to a full colonel who assumes a post requiring the rank, notably in an international context (e.g. as Military Attaché in a major embassy such as Washington, D.C.).
France uses the rank of brigade general. It formerly used the historic rank, until 1793, of brigadier des armées ("brigadier of the armies"). The rank contrasts with the French sub-officer rank of brigadier. As with all French general officers, a French brigade general is titled "general" (e.g., notably General Charles de Gaulle) without any implication that he is an army general.
Until 1793, a rank of brigadier des armées ("brigadier of the armies") existed in the French Army, which could be described as a senior colonel or junior brigade commander. The normal brigade command rank was field marshal (maréchal de camp) (which elsewhere is a more senior rank). A "brigadier of the armies" wore one star and a "field marshal" wore two stars. During the French Revolution, the revolutionaries' drive to rationalise the state led to a change in the system of ranks. The rank of "brigadier of the armies" was abolished and the normal brigade command rank, field marshal, was replaced by brigade general. The rank of brigade general inherited the two stars of the rank of field marshal, explaining the absence since 1793 of a French rank with only one star.
Nowadays, a French général de brigade generally commands a brigade, which is the biggest permanent formation in the French army. The rank can also be awarded in an honorary fashion to retiring colonels. The insignias are two stars, worn on the shoulder are at the sleeve of the uniform, depending on the dress. Two different kepis are issued : the service kepi sports the two starts, while the formal kepi features a large band of oak leaves (the kepi of a division general has two smaller such bands).
Charles de Gaulle held the rank of brigade general. He was given a temporary promotion to this rank in May 1940 as commander of the 4th Armoured Reserve Division (4ème division cuirassée de réserve). However his authority as head of the Free French really came not from his military rank, but from being the only cabinet member outside occupied France, as he was appointed Under Secretary of State for National Defence and War in June 1940. As a reminder of his war position, he refused any further promotion.
German military uses the rank of brigade general, in German brigadegeneral. The concept of a brigade general rank is relatively new, as prior to 1950 the lowest German general officer rank was major-general, in part reflecting German colonels' former higher command responsibility than in many other armies.
In the Argentine army, brigade general is the lowest rank of general, equivalent to an air force brigadier or a navy rear-admiral.
The Argentine rank of brigade general is sometimes described as a "two-star" general, on the description of "senior colonel" as a "one-star" rank; however this overstates the responsibilities of brigade generals and "senior colonels" in the Argentine army in comparison to other armies. The Argentine rank of brigade general is junior to the Argentine air force ranks of brigadier-major and brigadier general.
In Mexico, brigade general is the rank below divisional general and, confusingly, the rank above brigadier general. A Mexican brigade general wears as rank insignia the arms of Mexico above two stars. (A Mexican brigadier general wears the arms of Mexico above one star.)