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Corporal is a military rank in use in some form by most militaries and by some police forces or other uniformed organizations. Within NATO, each member nations corresponding military rank of corporal is combined under the NATO-standard rank scale code OR-4.
The rank of corporal nominally corresponds to commanding a section or squad of soldiers. However, in the United States Army, the rank of corporal is rarely used, as the Table of Organization & Equipment (TO&E) rank of a fire team leader is sergeant and that of squad leader is staff sergeant. In the United States Marine Corps, corporal is the Table of Organization (TO) rank for a rifle fire team leader, machine gun team leader, light mortar squad leader, and assault weapon squad leader, as well as gunner on most larger crew served weapons (i.e., medium mortars, heavy machine guns, anti-tank missiles), armored vehicles (e.g., tanks, light armored vehicles, and armored assault vehicles), and the two (2) assistant gunners on a howitzer (the gunner is a sergeant).
In most countries which derive their military structure from the British military system, it is a more senior rank than that of private. However, in several other countries, such as Canada, Italy and Norway, corporal is a junior rank, indicating a more experienced soldier than a private, and also on a higher pay scale, but having no particular command appointment corresponding to the rank, similar to specialist in the U.S. Army.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Argentina
- 3 Australia
- 4 Belgium
- 5 Brazil
- 6 Canada
- 7 Denmark
- 8 Estonia
- 9 Finland
- 10 France
- 11 Germany
- 12 India and Pakistan
- 13 Iran
- 14 Ireland
- 15 Israel
- 16 Italy
- 17 Mexico
- 18 New Zealand
- 19 Norway
- 20 Poland
- 21 Russia
- 22 Singapore
- 23 Spain
- 24 Sweden
- 25 People's Republic of China
- 26 Republic of China (Taiwan)
- 27 United Kingdom
- 28 United States
- 29 Vietnam
- 30 Corporal in navies
- 31 Corporals in popular culture
- 32 See also
- 33 References
- 34 External links
The word is derived from the medieval Italian phrase capo corporale ("head of a body"). It may also be derived from an appointment as an officer's bodyguard, originally being an adjective pertaining to the word "body".
All three branches of the Armed Forces of the Argentine Republic use two or three ranks of corporal, or cabo. Corporals in the Argentine military are considered suboficiales subalternos (subaltern sub-officers/lower non-commissioned officers), superior only to all ranks of Volunteers (enlisted members of the Army and Air Force) and Seamen (enlisted members of the Navy).
In the Argentine Army, there are two ranks of corporal, junior and senior: Cabo (“corporal”) and cabo primero (“first corporal”).
While the Argentine Navy has three corporal ranks, from junior to senior: Cabo segundo (corporal second class), Cabo primero (corporal first class) and cabo principal (principal corporal), which is equal to the army rank of sargento (sergeant). The Air Force has the same number of corporal ranks as the navy, and keeps the same titles, with the exception of cabo (corporal) instead of the navy's cabo segundo (corporal second class).
Corporal is the second lowest of the non-commissioned officer ranks in the Australian Army, falling between lance-corporal and sergeant. A corporal is usually a section commander, and is in charge of 7-14 soldiers of private rank. He is assisted by a second-in-command, a lance-corporal or a senior private. The same ranks within artillery units are bombardier and lance-bombardier respectively. A corporal is frequently referred to as 'seco' (abbreviation of section commander) by all ranks in everyday speech but not in formal written correspondence.
Corporal is also a rank of the Royal Australian Air Force, being equal to both the Australian Army and Royal Air Force rank of corporal. There is no RAAF equivalent to the army rank of lance-corporal.
All branches of the Belgian Armed Forces, except the Naval Component, use three ranks of corporal: corporal (Dutch: korporaal, French: caporal), master corporal (Dutch: korporaal-chef, French: caporal-chef) and 1st master corporal (Dutch: 1ste korporaal-chef, French: 1e caporal-chef). Corporal is equivalent to NATO Rank Code OR-3, whereas master corporal and 1st master corporal are equivalent to OR-4. The rank immediately below corporal is 1st private and the rank directly above 1st master corporal is sergeant.
The equivalent of these ranks in the Naval Component are quartermaster, chief quartermaster and 1st chief quartermaster.
Corporal (in Portuguese cabo) is the first NCO rank of the Brazilian Army. Soldiers who successfully complete the corporal course may be promoted to the rank of corporal should they excel in the course. A corporal in the Brazilian Army will lead the smallest fractions of units as machine gun squads, mortar and infantry squads.
Corporal is an Army and Air Force non-commissioned member rank of the Canadian Forces. Its Naval equivalent is leading seaman. It is senior to the rank of private and its naval equivalent able seaman, and junior to master corporal (caporal-chef) and its equivalent master seaman (matelot-chef). It is part of the cadre of junior non-commissioned officers, and one of the junior ranks. In French the rank is caporal.
The rank insignia of a corporal is a two-bar chevron, point down, worn in gold thread on both upper sleeves of the service dress jacket; in rifle green (army) or dark blue (air force) thread on CADPAT slip-ons for operational dress; in old gold thread on blue slip-ons on other air force uniforms; and in gold metal and green enamel miniature pins on the collars of the army dress shirt and outerwear coats. On army ceremonial uniforms, it is usually rendered in gold braid (black for rifle regiments), on either both sleeves, or just the right, depending on unit custom.
Corporal is the first non-commissioned officer rank, and the lowest rank officially empowered to issue a lawful command. Corporals can lead troops if they have the formal qualifications to be promoted to master corporal but have not been promoted yet. However, the rank of corporal was severely downgraded after Unification, along with the attendant responsibilities. A corporal in the Canadian Army in 1967 had the same duties and responsibilities that a sergeant has today. In an infantry section a corporal will sometimes command an assault team if a master corporal is leading the section or they are pending promotion to master corporal.
Another effect of Unification was to delete the appointments of lance-corporal and lance-sergeant (a corporal holding the acting rank of sergeant). The former is still common in other Commonwealth militaries.
Corporal is deemed to be the substantive rank of the members carrying the appointment of master corporal. On pay documents, corporal was formerly listed as "Cpl (A)" and master corporal as "Cpl (B)".
Privates in the Canadian Forces are considered to be apprentices in their trades, and corporals are journeymen. To become a corporal one must have served four years as a private, and have achieved Qualification Level 5 trades training, or two years in the reserves but only require the completion of their trades course. In some cases, privates having served a minimum of 3 years may be advance promoted to the rank of corporal with the approval of their superiors, providing they have shown dedication to the military and exemplary skills with reference to their trade.
In rifle regiments, a distinction was historically drawn between a corporal and an acting corporal; The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada had a special insignia to distinguish between the two.
In the Danish military the rank of corporal (korporal in Danish) is the lowest rank of the NCO group. Professional (non-conscripted) soldiers, often those with the rank of "overkonstabel" (somewhat similar to “specialist” in the U.S. Army) may sometimes get selected for the rank of corporal, if they have unique experience or skills. This can't be given as a battlefield appointment and the aspiring corporal has to take a 3-week course in order to be promoted. A corporal will often be given a task similar to that of other countries corporals; i.e. ad hoc assistance of squad-commanders. In the homeguard a private can after completing a 10 day course get promoted to the rank of corporal and function as second in command of an infantry squad. The rank of corporal was phased out but was reintroduced into the Danish Army in October 2008.
Alikersantti is an OR-4 rank and the lowest NCO rank of the Finnish Defence Forces. Alikersantti carries two-chevron rank insignia. In translations from English to Finnish the corporal rank is often mistranslated as lance corporal, which is called korpraali in Finnish. In direct translation the rank name basically means "junior sergeant" or “sub-sergeant”. Typical duties of alikersantti' are leading the squad or being second-in-command of the squad.
There are three ranks of corporal (caporal in French). In the French Army these are not NCO ranks, but enlisted ones. The corporals are called "ranked" (gradés) .NCO start at the rank of sergent (OR-5).
- "Corporal" (caporal) is a NATO OR-3 level rank. The insignia is two chevrons of wool (vs. the two gold chevrons of a sergeant).
- "Staff corporal" (caporal-chef) is OR-4. The insignia is two chevrons of wool plus a gold chevron.
- "First class staff corporal" (caporal-chef de première classe) is intermediate between OR-4 and OR-5. The insignia is one red chevron and two gold chevrons.
Historically the German army rank of Unteroffizier was the traditional German equivalent to the British Army corporal rank, and this grade has existed as a military rank since at least the 18th century. Other sources identify the German rank of Gefreiter as being equivalent to a corporal rank of other armies, it was indeed a deputy rank to the Unteroffizier and thus was considered the equivalent to a British Army lance corporal. The additional German rank of Obergefreiter was historically considered a senior lance corporal otherwise second corporal in the foot artillery which replaced the bombardier rank.
In modern-day Bundeswehr usage the German rank of Unteroffizier is classified as OR-5 within the combined NATO-standard rank scale and is considered more to be a sergeant less a corporal rank, with Oberstabsgefreiter and Stabsgefreiter now considered the equivalent ranks to the corporal (OR-4).
Military camouflage Unterscharführer of the Waffen-SS
India and Pakistan
These ranks are still used in the Indian Army and Pakistan Army. Although this rank is still used in the Indian and Pakistan Air Force and is a rank given to an airman who is senior to leading air craftsman but junior to a sergeant.
The main role of an infantry corporal is to either command a section as the section commander or to command the fire support group as the second in command of the section. All corporals are qualified instructors on drill, section weapons, and fieldcraft.
In the Artillery Corps, the corporal is normally assigned to a gun detachment as a layer [disambiguation needed], or a detachment commander. Artillery corporals can also find themselves in charge of the battery signals section.
The army rank insignia consists of two winged chevrons (or "stripes"), the dress uniform being red chevrons with a yellow border.
Before 1994, the Air Corps was considered part of the army and wore army uniforms with distinct corps badges but the same rank insignia. With the introduction of a unique Air Corps blue uniform in 1994, the same rank markings in a white colour were worn, before the introduction of a new two-chevron badge with wing rank marking.
- For further information, you may refer to Israel Defense Forces ranks.
In the Israel Defense Forces, soldiers are promoted from private to corporal (rav-turai or rabat) after 7–10 months of service (7 for combatants, 8 for combat support and 10 for non-combatants), if they performed their duties appropriately during this time. Soldiers who take a commander's course, are prisoner instructors or practical engineers become corporals earlier. Corporals get a symbolic pay raise of 3.60 NIS and those who are also non-commissioned officers (mashak) are able to command privates in their respective units.
A soldier can be promoted from private (soldato) to corporal rank (caporale) after 3 months of service.
Corporal (in Spanish "cabo") is one of the lower ranks of the Mexican army.
The New Zealand Defence Force awards the corporal rank to soldiers or airman after 6 or 7 years of service. There is substantial responsibility on the part of a corporal in the New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force. They usually command a small team and work closely with their sergeants. A pay increase is also given.
Like their British and Australian counterparts, they wear two chevrons to distinguish their rank.
Corporals have what is termed 'power of arrest', and is impressed on recruits in RNZAF basic training. Basically, this power means that any airman or private disobeying or ignoring an order from a corporal will be subject to military arrest by that individual. Needless to say, power of arrest is used by higher ranks to enforce their orders, corporal in the RNZAF being the lowest rank with this power.
In the Norwegian Armed Forces, promotion to the rank of korporal is an acknowledgement for good service by conscripted personnel. The rank does give some commanding authority, and corporals may be given increased informal responsibilities by senior officers and non-commissioned officers. The rank carries two chevrons and a slight pay increase.
All conscripted personnel in the military police are awarded the rank after the five month learning period is over.
In the Polish Land Forces, the rank of kapral is the lowest rank in the NCO corps (OR-3 in NATO code). Most commonly the rank is held by a NCO commanding an infantry squad, tank or gun crew, or a similar unit. The equivalent rank in the Polish Navy is mat.
As with many other military ranks, direct comparison between various armies might be misleading. Before World War II Polish Army's kapral was more or less equivalent to the British rank of lance corporal, while British rank of corporal was named plutonowy (lit. platooner). In modern times the rank is still equivalent to lance corporal in UK or private first class in the U.S. Army (OR-3), while British and American rank of corporal (OR-4) is equivalent to the Polish rank of starszy kapral (lit. “senior corporal”), introduced in 1971.
Historically, the rank was first introduced in Poland in 17th century, together with mercenary troops of Italian origin. In foreign troops on the royal payroll, a kapral commanded four ranks of musketeers or part of a company of pikemen. In the 20th century, between the world wars, the rank of corporal was held by both conscripted NCOs and professional soldiers alike. This was changed after World War II, when the Polish Army was under Soviet command and the rank of kapral was modified to resemble that of Soviet junior sergeant, reserved for conscripted NCOs. In modern Polish Army the rank is reserved for professional soldiers exclusively.
The insignia of kapral (worn on shoulder straps and/or badge above breast pocket) are two bars.
The rank of corporal (Russian: капрал) existed in the Russian Army from 1647 to 1798, when it was replaced with that of non-commissioned officer (Russian: унтер-офицер, from German: unteroffizier, literally “sub-officer”). Soviet and modern Russian armies have the rank of junior sergeant (Russian: младший сержант) that is more or less equivalent to the rank of corporal.
Corporals in the Singapore Armed Forces lies between lance corporal and corporal first class. It is a rank most commonly held by Full Time National Servicemen with at least an A Level Certification or Polytechnic Diploma. National Servicemen are usually promoted to this rank within the 2nd year of service.
In the past, the SAF followed the British model, and corporals were non-commissioned officers often holding the appointment of section leader. Today, a corporal is not a specialist (NCO-equivalent), and holds no command authority, although they may be given higher responsibilities such as appointment as a section 2IC, or 2nd-in-command.
In the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Prison Service and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, a corporal is a rank below sergeant. The rank is also used in uniformed groups for students such as National Police Cadet Corps, National Cadet Corps and National Civil Defence Cadet Corps.
The rank insignia for a corporal is two chevrons pointing downward with an arc on top.
In the Spanish Armed Forces cabo (corporal) is the rank between soldado de primera (first class private) and cabo primero (first corporal). It actually equates to a NATO OR-3, with cabo primero equating to an OR-4 and cabo mayor to an OR-5.
People's Republic of China
Corporal (Chinese: 下士, literally junior officer) is the lowest among the ranks of the non-commissioned officer of the People's Liberation Army. This rank was once replaced by the rank "level one non-commissioned officer" (Chinese:一级士官, 1998–2009), but was re-introduced in 2009.
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Corporal (Chinese: 下士, literally junior NCO) is the lowest among the ranks of the non-commissioned officer of the Republic of China Army, Marines, and Military Police. The rank wears an insignia with a broad chevron along with a narrow one, representing the NCO character and the juniority of the rank, respectively.
Corporal is the second rank of non-commissioned officer in the British Army, Royal Marines, and RAF Regiment, falling between lance-corporal and sergeant. The badge of rank is a two-bar chevron (also known as "stripes", "tapes", or "hooks"). A corporal's role varies between regiments; but, in the standard infantry role, a corporal commands a section, with a lance-corporal as second-in-command (2ic). When the section is split into fire teams, they command one each. In the Royal Armoured Corps, a corporal commands an individual tank. Their duties therefore largely correspond to those of staff sergeants in the United States Army and corporals are often described as the "backbone" of the British Army.
In the Household Cavalry, all non-commissioned ranks are designated as different grades of corporal up to regimental corporal major (who is a warrant officer class 1). There is no effective actual rank of corporal, however, and the ranks progress directly from lance-corporal to lance-corporal of horse (who is effectively equivalent to a corporal; technically, a lance-corporal of horse holds the rank of corporal but is automatically give the appointment of lance-corporal of horse). Similarly, in the Foot Guards the appointment of lance-sergeant is effectively used instead of corporal, with a lance-corporal wearing two stripes: this is sometimes said to have originated with Queen Victoria who did not like "her own guardsmen" having only one chevron.
Royal Artillery corporals are called bombardiers; although, until 1920, the Royal Artillery had corporals and bombardier was a lower rank. The rank of second corporal existed in the Royal Engineers and Royal Army Ordnance Corps until 1920.
A common nickname for a corporal is a "full screw", with lance-corporals being known as "lance-jacks".
Corporal is the lowest NCO rank in the Royal Air Force (aside from the RAF Regiment who have lance-corporals), coming between junior technician or Senior aircraftman technician and sergeant in the technical trades, or senior aircraftman and sergeant in the non technical trades. Between 1950 and 1964, corporals in technical trades were known as “corporal technicians” and wore their chevrons point up.
In the Royal Navy, the equivalent to corporal is leading hand or leading rate. Although classified as NATO OR-4, British corporals frequently fill OR-5 equivalent posts.
The Army Cadet Force, Combined Cadet Force, Air Training Corps, Royal Marines sections of the Sea Cadet Corps and the Combined Cadet Force all have the rank of corporal, reflecting the structure of their parent service; therefore it is the second NCO rank of the ACF, CCF (including the RAF Section, which has the rank of junior corporal) and marine cadets, and the first NCO rank in the ATC.
United States Army
In the U.S. Army corporal is preceded by the first three forms of private and the rank of specialist. A corporal rank shares the same pay grade (E-4) as a specialist. Unlike a specialist, however, a corporal is a non-commissioned officer and may direct the activities of other soldiers. A soldier may be promoted to corporal directly from the rank of private first class or laterally promoted from specialist.
The typical criterion for promotion to corporal is that the junior enlisted soldier must be serving in a leadership position that would typically be occupied by an NCO such as a sergeant or higher. Normally these promotions are given to specialists who work in an NCO position but who are prevented promotion to sergeant (E-5) due to not having sufficient promotion points. This promotion is done at the discretion of the unit commander; many specialists serve in NCO positions.
For a time, it was not uncommon to find paralegal corporals assigned to the legal assistance branch of a post's staff judge advocate's office, despite often having little or no actual leadership duties. Army Regulation 27-55 Notarial Services conferred (under provisions of 10 U.S.C. §§ 936, 1044a) authority to act as a notary and consul of the United States upon JAG Corps NCOs. Notarisation of powers of attorney and other documents is a "bread-and-butter" task in such offices, which necessitated the presence of either NCOs or state notaries. AR 27-55 was later amended to confer the authority on such paralegal specialists who are so designated by their respective staff judge advocate.
It is common for a corporal to lead a fireteam; however, if a soldier is promoted to corporal and there are too many soldiers of that rank, the new corporal will stay in his current position.
United States Marine Corps
Corporal is the fourth enlisted rank in the U.S. Marine Corps, ranking immediately above lance corporal and immediately below sergeant. The Marine Corps, unlike the Army, has no other rank at the pay grade of E-4. Corporal is the lowest grade of non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, though promotion to corporal traditionally confers a significant jump in authority and responsibility compared to promotion from private through lance corporal. Marine infantry corporals generally serve as "fire-team leaders," leading a 4-man team or weapons crew of similar size (e.g., assault weapons squad, medium machine gun team, or LWCMS mortar squad).
In practice, however, the billet of fire team leader is generally held by a lance corporal, while corporals serve in the squad leader billet that would normally be held by a sergeant (E-5) in infantry units. In support units, corporals generally serve in "journeyman" level roles in which they direct the activities of junior Marines and provide technical supervision, on a very limited scope, under the direct supervision of a sergeant or SNCO. Due to its emphasis on small-unit tactics, its infantry-centric ethos, and its tradition of empowering junior NCO's to exercise first-level leadership, Marine Corps' Tables of Organization (TO's) usually place corporals (as well as sergeants and staff sergeants) in billets where other services would normally have higher ranking NCO's in authority. Similarly, the term "Strategic Corporal" refers to the special responsibilities conferred upon a Marine corporal over the other branches of the U.S. armed forces.
|United States enlisted ranks|
|Pay Grade →
Branch of Service ↓
MSgt - 1st Sgt
SMSgt - 1st Sgt
CMSgt - 1st Sgt - CCM - CMSAF
SPC - CPL
MSG - 1SG
SGM - CSM - SMA
MSgt - 1stSgt
MGySgt - SgtMaj - SgtMajMarCor
MCPO - CMDCM - FORCM - FLTCM - MCPON
MCPO - CMC - MCPOCG
In the Vietnam People's Army, corporal (Hạ sĩ) is the lowest rank in non-commissioned officer. Corporal is below sergeant and above private 2nd class
In some navies a “ship's corporal” is a position used in place of a leading seaman.
Corporals in popular culture
Benito Mussolini was a corporal at one time. Although Adolf Hitler has often been referred to as a "corporal" in English, his actual rank, gefreiter, was more equivalent to senior private; he was never a corporal (unteroffizier).
A corporalship or corporal's guard is a name for a small band of followers based on the small amount of soldiers directly led by a corporal.
In the movie Aliens, after the death of Sergeant Apone and a concussion suffered by Lieutenant Gorman, Corporal Hicks takes command, where he is referred to as a "grunt".
In the novelization of the game Doom, the protagonist Flynn Taggart is a corporal in the United States Marine Corps at the beginning of the story, though he later receives a promotion to sergeant.
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, there is a small, unpleasant corporal named Nobby Nobbs. A running joke in the books is that he is so small and unpleasant that it is disputed whether or not he is human.
In M*A*S*H, Radar O'Reilly and Maxwell Klinger are corporals.
- Corporal of the field
- Master corporal
- Tech corporal
- Corporal of horse
- Staff corporal
- Corporal major
- Lance corporal
- List of comparative military ranks
- "Define 'corporal'". Dictionary.com. 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
- "Training to corporal" (in Danish). Royal Danish Army. 1 September 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
- "Korporalen ready to fight" (in Danish). Royal Danish Army. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
- Duden; Origin and meaning of "Korporal", in German. 
- Duden; Definition of Gefreiter, in German. 
- "Gefreiter" - Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste, Erste Section, A-G, (Universal Encyclopaedia of the Sciences and Arts, First Section, A-G), Author: Johann Samuel Ersch and Johann Gottfried Gruber, Publisher: F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1852, Page 471-472, in German. 
- "The Career" (in Italian). Italian Army. 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
- "SAF Military Ranks - Enlistees". Mindef.gov.sg. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "U.S. Army Ranks". U.S. Army. 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
- Torbush, Alicia (12 March 2009). "Corporal: Stepping into the world of NCOs". U.S. Army. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
- "Enlisted Rank Insignia". U.S. Department of Defense. 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
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