Lieutenant colonel (United States)
- See "lieutenant colonel" for other countries which use this rank.
In the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps, a lieutenant colonel is a field grade military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of commander in the other uniformed services.
The pay grade for the rank of lieutenant colonel is O-5. The insignia for the rank consists of a silver oak leaf, with slight stylized differences between the Army/Air Force version and the Navy/Marine Corps version.
Promotion to lieutenant colonel is governed by Department of Defense policies derived from the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980. DOPMA guidelines suggest 70% of majors should be promoted to lieutenant colonel after serving a minimum of three years at their present rank and after attaining 15-17 years of cumulative commissioned service.
While written as "Lt. Colonel" in orders and signature blocks, as a courtesy, lieutenant colonels are addressed simply as "colonel" verbally and in the salutation of correspondence. The U.S. Army uses the three letter abbreviation "LTC." The U.S. Air Force and United States Marine Corps use the abbreviations "Lt Col" and "LtCol" (note the space) respectively.
The U.S. Government Printing Office recommends the abbreviation "LTC" for U.S. Army usage, "Lt. Col." for the Air Force, and "LtCol" for Marine Corps usage. The Associated Press Stylebook recommends the abbreviation "Lt. Col." for the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
Slang terms for the rank historically used by the U.S. military include "light colonel", "short colonel", "light bird", "half colonel", "bottlecap colonel" (referring to the silver oak leaf insignia), and "telephone colonel" (from self-reference as "colonel" when using a telephone).
The rank of lieutenant colonel was first created during the Revolutionary War, when the position was held by aides to Regiment Colonels, and was sometimes known as "lieutenant to the colonel." The rank of lieutenant colonel had existed in the British Army since at least the 16th century.
During the 19th century, lieutenant colonel was often a terminal rank for many officers, since the rank of "full colonel" was considered extremely prestigious reserved only for the most successful officers. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, the rank of lieutenant colonel became much more common and was used as a "stepping stone" for officers who commanded small regiments or battalions and were expected, by default, to be promoted to full colonel once the manpower of a regiment grew in strength. Such was the case of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who commanded a Maine regiment as both a lieutenant colonel and later as a colonel.
After the Civil War ended, those officers remaining in the United States Armed Forces found lieutenant colonel to again be a terminal rank, although many lieutenant colonels were raised to higher positions in a brevet status. Such was the case with George A. Custer, who was a lieutenant colonel in the regular army, but held the brevet rank of major general.
The 20th century saw lieutenant colonel in its present day status although, during the 1930s, many officers again found the rank to be terminal as the rank of colonel was reserved for only a select few officers.
In the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, a lieutenant colonel typically commands a battalion-sized unit (300 to 1,200 soldiers/Marines), with a major as second-in-command and a command sergeant major as principal NCO adviser. A lieutenant colonel may also serve as a brigade, regiment, or task force executive officer, or principal staff officer, S-1 (administration and personnel), S-2 (intelligence), S-3 (operations), S-4 (logistics), S-5 (civil/military affairs), or S-6 (computers and communications). Usage of "The S-n" may refer to either a specific staff section or the staff officer leading a section. Lieutenant colonels may also be junior staff at a variety of higher echelons.
In the United States Air Force, a lieutenant colonel is generally a squadron commander in the operations group, mission support and maintenance groups, or a squadron commander or division chief in a medical group. Lieutenant colonels may also serve on general staffs and may be the heads of some wing staff departments.
Notable American lieutenant colonels
- Robert L. Bacon (U.S. Army)
- Scott Brown (U.S. Army National Guard)
- Aaron Burr (Continental Army)
- Joshua Chamberlain (U.S. Army)
- Robert G. Cole (U.S. Army)
- Jerry Coleman (United States Marine Corps)
- David P. Cooley (U.S. Air Force)
- Bruce P. "Snake" Crandall (U.S. Army), Medal of Honor recipient for his actions at Ia Drang, portrayed during his majority by Greg Kinnear in the film, We Were Soldiers
- George A. Custer (U.S. Army), portrayed by numerous actors
- James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle (U.S. Air Force), Medal of Honor recipient for his raid on Tokyo, portrayed by Spencer Tracy in the film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and Alec Baldwin in the film Pearl Harbor
- Tammy Duckworth (U.S. Army), Democratic Congresswoman (IL-8)
- Rick Francona (U.S. Air Force)
- John C. Fremont (U.S. Army)
- Gregory D. Gadson (U.S. Army) bilateral above-the-knee amputee, occasional actor and motivational speaker.
- Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom (U.S. Air Force), portrayed by Fred Ward in the film The Right Stuff, Steve Bernie in the film Apollo 13, Bryan Cranston in the film That Thing You Do!, Mark Rolston in the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, and by Kevin McCorkle in the third season finale of the NBC television series American Dreams
- Iceal Hambleton (U.S. Air Force), portrayed by Gene Hackman in the film, Bat-21
- Anthony B. Herbert (U.S. Army)
- Jon S. Jackson (U.S. Army), served as defense lawyer at Guantanamo Bay for detainees Majid Khan (detainee), Omar Khadr, and Mustafa Hawsawi
- Gus Kohntopp (U.S. Air National Guard)
- John Laurens (Continental Army)
- Michael Mori (U.S. Marine Corps) lawyer and military judge (retired), known for representing David Hicks.
- Oliver North (U.S. Marine Corps)
- Ellison S. Onizuka (U.S. Air Force)
- Ralph Peters (U.S. Army)
- Rob Riggle (U.S. Marine Corps)
- Rick Smith[disambiguation needed] (North Dakota Army National Guard)
- Ronald Speirs (U.S. Army)
- Michael Strobl (U.S. Marine Corps), portrayed by Kevin Bacon in the HBO film, Taking Chance.
- William Travis (Texas Militia)
- Matt Urban (U.S. Army)
- Dick Muri (U.S. Air Force)
- John Paul Vann (U.S. Army), portrayed by Bill Paxton in the HBO film, A Bright Shining Lie
- Edward Higgins White (U.S. Air Force)
- Earl Woods (U.S. Army)
- Philip Corso (U.S. Army)
- Christopher B. Howard (U.S. Air Force)
- Hal Moore (U.S. Army) Famous for his actions at Ia Drang, portrayed by Mel Gibson in the film, We Were Soldiers
- Allen West (U.S. Army)
In popular culture
- Lt. Col. Henry Blake of the film MASH and television series M*A*S*H, portrayed by Roger Bowen and McLean Stevenson, respectively.
- Samantha Carter was promoted to this rank in the eighth season of the television series Stargate SG-1 (portrayed by Amanda Tapping).
- John Sheppard was promoted to this rank in the second season of the television series Stargate: Atlantis (portrayed by Joe Flanigan).
- Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell of the television series Stargate SG-1, portrayed by Ben Browder.
- George Peppard famously played Lt. Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith on The A-Team. Although he was usually referred to as a Colonel, his rank was clarified in many episodes as Lt. Colonel.
- Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, portrayed by American actor Robert Duvall.
- Lt. Col. Robert Neville of the 2007 film I Am Legend, portrayed by American actor Will Smith. The movie is based on the book of the same name, I Am Legend, from 1954. The 2007 film version is a remake of the 1971 film The Omega Man, in which Robert Neville, portrayed by Charlton Heston, is one of few remaining survivors of a hellish germ-warfare doomsday.
- Lt. Col. Sarah MacKenzie was promoted to this rank in the fifth season of the television series JAG, portrayed by Catherine Bell.
- Al Pacino portrayed Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in the 1992 film Scent of a Woman.
- Sean Connery portrayed Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell in the film The Presidio in 1988
- Lt. Col. Joan Burton of the Lifetime television series Army Wives, portrayed by Wendy Davis. The series is based on the book of the same name, Army Wives by Tanya Biank.
- Lt. Col. Thomas Devoe of the movie The Peacemaker, portrayed by George Clooney.
- Lt. Col. Nathaniel Serling of the movie Courage Under Fire, portrayed by Denzel Washington.
- Lt. Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes, portrayed by Terrence Howard in Iron Man and Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3.
- Lt. Col. John Cambridge, portrayed by Christian Camargo in The Hurt Locker.
- Lt. Col. Wayne Fields, portrayed by Eric Steinberg in Pretty Little Liars.
- "Preliminary-cloth.indd" (PDF). Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- Posted by Jack (21 May 2009). "AP Style Book". Apstylebook.blogspot.com. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "History of the lieutenant colonel rank". Usmilitary.about.com. 9 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "Lieutenant-Colonel And Brevet Major-General George A. Custer, U.S.A". All-biographies.com. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "Brevet Rank In The Civil War". Civilwarhome.com. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
|United States commissioned officer and officer candidate ranks|
|Pay grade / Branch of service||Officer
|Air Force||Cadet / OT||2d Lt||1st Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig Gen||Maj Gen||Lt Gen||Gen||GAF|||
|Army||CDT / OC||2LT||1LT||CPT||MAJ||LTC||COL||BG||MG||LTG||GEN||GA||GAS|
|Marine Corps||Midn / Cand||2ndLt||1stLt||Capt||Maj||LtCol||Col||BGen||MajGen||LtGen||Gen|||||
|Navy||MIDN / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM||FADM||AN|
|Coast Guard||CDT / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
|Public Health Service||||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RADM||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
|National Oceanic and
Unofficial 1945 proposal for General of the Armies insignia; John J. Pershing's GAS insignia: ; George Dewey's AN insignia:
 Grade is inactive; requires Congressional approval for re-activation
 Grade is authorized by the U.S. Code for use but has not been created
 Grade has never been created or authorized
|United States warrant officer ranks|
|Public Health Service|||||||||||
|National Oceanic and
 Grade is authorized for use by U.S. Code but has not been created
 Grade never created or authorized