AskDefine | Define battalion

Dictionary Definition



1 an army unit usually consisting of a headquarters and three or more companies
2 a large indefinite number; "a battalion of ants"; "a multitude of TV antennas"; "a plurality of religions" [syn: large number, multitude, plurality, pack]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An army unit having two or more companies etc. and a headquarters.
  2. Any large body of troops.
  3. In the context of "by extension": A great number of things.



army unit
any large body of troops
great number of things

Extensive Definition

A battalion is a military unit of around 500-1500 men usually consisting of between two and six companies and typically commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. Several battalions are grouped to form a regiment or a brigade.
The nomenclature varies by nationality and by branch of arms, for instance, some armies organize their infantry into battalions, but call battalion-sized cavalry, reconnaissance, or tank units a squadron or a regiment instead. There may even be subtle distinctions within a nation's branches of arms, such as a distinction between a tank battalion and an armored squadron, depending on how the unit's operational role is perceived to fit into the army's historical organization.
A battalion is generally the smallest military unit capable of independent operations (i.e. not attached to a higher command), although many armies have smaller units that are self-sustaining. The battalion is usually part of a regiment, group or a brigade, depending on the organizational model used by that service. The bulk of a battalion will ordinarily be homogeneous with respect to type (e.g. an infantry battalion or a tank battalion), although there are many exceptions. Every battalion will also include some sort of combat service support, typically organized within a combat support company.
The term is Italian in origin, appearing as battaglione. The French changed the spelling to bataillon, whereupon it directly entered into German.

British Army

The term battalion is used in the infantry, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Intelligence Corps only. It was formerly used for a few units in the Royal Engineers (before they switched to regiments), and was also used in the now defunct Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Royal Pioneer Corps. Other corps usually use the term regiment instead.
An infantry battalion is numbered ordinally within its regiment (e.g. 1st Battalion, The Rifles, usually referred to as 1st Rifles). It normally has a Headquarters Company, Support Company, and three Rifle Companies (usually, but not always, A, B and C Companies). Each company is commanded by a Major, the Officer Commanding (OC), with a Captain or senior Lieutenant as Second-in-Command (2i/c). The HQ company contains signals, quartermaster, catering, intelligence, administration, pay, training, operations and medical elements. The support company usually contains anti-tank, machine gun, mortar, pioneer and reconnaissance platoons. Mechanised units usually have an attached Light Aid Detachment (LAD) of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) to perform field repairs on vehicles and equipment.
Important figures in a battalion headquarters include:
Battalions of other corps are given separate cardinal numbers within their corps (e.g. 101 Battalion REME).

United States Army and Marine Corps

In the United States Army and United States Marine Corps, a battalion is a unit composed of a headquarters and two or more batteries, companies or troops. They are normally identified by ordinal numbers (1st Battalion, 2nd Squadron, etc.) and normally have subordinate units that are identified by single letters (Battery A, Company B, Troop C, etc.). Battalions are tactical and administrative organizations with a limited capability to plan and conduct independent operations and are normally organic components of brigades, groups, or regiments.
A United States Army battalion includes the battalion commander (Lieutenant Colonel), his staff, and headquarters, the Command Sergeant Major (CSM), and usually 3-5 companies, with a total of 300 to 1,200 soldiers. A regiment consists of between two and six organic battalions, while a brigade consists of between three and seven separate battalions.
During World War II, most infantry regiments consisted of three battalions (a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) with each battalion consisting of four companies. That is, companies A, B, C, and D were part of the 1st battalion, companies E, F, G, and H constituted the 2nd battalion, and I, K, L, and M in the 3rd. There was no J company. [The letter J was traditionally not used because in 18th and 19th century old style type the capital letters I and J looked alike and were therefore too easily confused with one another.] It wasn't uncommon for a battalion to become temporarily attached to a different regiment. For example, during the confusion and high casualty rates of both the Normandy landings and the Battle of the Bulge, in order to bolster the strength of a depleted infantry regiment, battalions and even companies were moved around as necessary.
From the 1960s through approximately 2005, a typical maneuver (infantry or tank) battalion has had four companies: Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) and A, B, and C Companies. In addition to the battalion staff, the HHC also included a scout platoon and a mortar platoon.
In this older structure, United States Army mechanized infantry battalions and tank battalions, for tactical purposes, cross-post companies to each other, forming a battalion-sized task force (TF).
Starting in 2005-2006 with Transformation, US Army mechanized and tank battalions were reorganized into Combined Arms Battalions (CABs). Tank battalions and mechanized infantry battalions no longer exist. These new combined arms battalions are modular units, each consisting of a headquarters company, two mechanized infantry companies, two armor companies, an engineer company, and a forward support company. This new structure eliminated the need to cross-post (or as it is more commonly referred to, cross-attach) companies between battalions; each combined arms battalion was organically composed of the requisite companies. At a higher level, each heavy brigade is composed of two CABs, an armored reconnaissance squadron, a fires battalion (field artillery), a special troops battalion (STB), and a brigade support battalion (BSB).
A United States Marine Corps battalion includes the battalion headquarters, consisting of the commanding officer (usually a lieutenant Colonel, sometimes a colonel), an executive officer (the second-in-command, usually a major), the Sergeant Major, and the executive staff (S-1 through S-8). The battalion headquarters is supported by a Headquarters and Service Company (Battery). A battalion usually contains 2-5 organic companies (batteries in the artillery), with a total of 500 to 1,200 Marines in the battalion. A regiment consists of a regimental headquarters, a headquarters company (or battery), and two to five organic battalions (Marine infantry regiments - three battalions of infantry; Marine artillery regiments - three to five battalions of artillery; Marine logistics regiments - two or more logistics battalions). In the US Marine Corps the brigade designation is used only in "Marine Expeditionary Brigade" (MEB). A MEB is one of the standard Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTF), is commanded by a brigadier or major general, and consists of command element, a ground combat element (usually one reinforced Marine infantry regiment), an air combat element (a reinforced Marine Air Group), and a service support element (a Marine Logistics group, which includes Naval Construction Force (SEABEEs) and naval medical elements).
In the US Marine Corps an infantry or “rifle” battalion typically consists of a Headquarters and Service Company (H&S Co.), three rifle, or “line,” companies (designated alphabetically A through M depending upon which battalion of the parent regiment to which they are attached) and a weapons company. Weapons companies do not receive a letter designation. Marine infantry regiments use battalion and company designations as described above under WW II, with company letters D, H, and M not normally used but rather held in "reserve" for use in augmenting a fourth rifle company into each battalion as needed.
United States Marine Corps infantry battalions are task organized into Battalion Landing Teams (BLT's) as the Ground Combat Element (GCE) of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). A "standard" Marine infantry battalion is typically reinforced with an artillery battery and a platoon each of tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, light armored reconnaissance vehicles, reconnaissance Marines, and combat engineers. The battalion structure is designed to readily expand to include a fourth rifle company, if required, as described above under battalion organization.
During the American Civil War, an infantry or cavalry battalion was an ad hoc grouping of companies from the parent regiment (which had ten companies, A through K, minus J as described above), except for certain regular infantry regiments, which were formally organized into three battalions of six companies each (numbered 1 - 6 per battalion vice sequential letter designations). After 1882, cavalry battalions were renamed squadrons and cavalry companies were renamed troops. Artillery battalions typically comprised four or more batteries, although this number fluctuated considerably.

Tactical operations

Tank and mechanized infantry battalion task forces apply their combat power to—
  • Conduct sustained combat operations in all environments with proper augmentation and support.
  • Conduct offensive operations.
  • Conduct defensive operations.
  • Accomplish rapid movement and limited penetrations.
  • Exploit success and pursue a defeated enemy as part of a larger formation.
  • Conduct security operations (advance, flank, or rear guard) for a larger force.
  • Conduct stability operations and support operations as part of a larger force.
  • Conduct operations with light infantry forces.

Tactical telecommunications

Communications at the tactical level is essential in succeeding in full spectrum operations on the modern battlefield. Tactical communications means the sharing of information between small combat units (typically the squad, platoon, company, and battalion). The efficient sharing of information sharing enables small units to locate and target the enemy quickly and accurately. At the battalion level, the ability to share information links shooters (the fire team leader and his men) and the battalion commander and his staff.
The Army’s maneuver battalions employ wired and wireless systems to communicate tactically and maintain command and control. Typically, wired systems are used in static or defensive positions. Conversely, radio systems are generally used in mobile and offensive operations. Army communications systems at all levels must be secure and have a low probability of intercept and attack.
Prior to the mid-1990s, tactical communications were normally transmitted "in the clear." Communications security was achieved by applying the standards of brevity and a signal operating instruction. The signal operating instructions (SOI) was a manual carried by leaders and radio operators that standardized small unit frequencies, call-signs, and code-words (for rudimentary encryption). Units maintained 2 copies of the SOI: a training version and a "go-to-war" version. Since the fielding of the SINCGARS system, however, the SOI has generally faded from Army use.
The following is a brief overview of systems currently available to the typical Army maneuver battalion:
TA-1 field telephone
The TA-1 is a lightweight, sound powered field telephone and does not require batteries. The user signals by squeezing a pump button on the handset which generates signaling current. The TA-1 is a half duplex (push to talk, release to listen) system. Signal (65-80Vac @ 20 Hz) and voice transmission (300-4000 Hz) range is approximately 4 miles (6 km) with WD-1/TT wire. This phone is intended to be used in a field wire network connected directly to other phones or through a battery powered switchboard.
TA-312 field telephone
The TA-312 field telephone can be used in a point-to-point wire system or in any two-wire ring-down subscriber position of a telephone communications system. The TA-1 is a half duplex (push to talk, release to listen) system. Can be used in common battery, local battery, or common-battery signaling operation modes. Signal (90-100Vac @ 20 Hz) and voice transmission (300-3200 Hz) range is approximately 22 miles (35 km) with WD-1/TT wire. Requires two BA-30 batteries or an external 3Vdc power source.
AN/PRC-148 Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio (MBITR)
Replaces the AN/PRC-126 and ICOM squad radios and gives small unit leaders (team, squad, and platoon leaders) ability to communicate securely (via frequency hopping and encryption) with larger, primarily vehicle mounted systems (SINCGARS platforms). The MBITR, at 30.6 oz, is a compact, lightweight, hand-held radio. The MBITR operates between 30-512 MHz.
After the fielding of the SINCGARS but prior to the arrival of the MBITR, communications at platoon level and below were generally unsecure. Therefore, brevity and codewords (signaling operating instruction or SOI) were employed to deter the enemy’s ability to eavesdrop and triangulate. With the arrival of the MBITR, a dismounted platoon leader was now able to securely communicate with both his company commander and his squad leaders.
Single Channel Ground Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS)
Currently, the Single Channel Ground Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) is the cornerstone of Army battalion and below (platoon and company) tactical communications infrastructure. Prior to the fielding of the MBITR, the AN/PRC-119F was the smallest frequency hopping radio available to the Army maneuver battalion. The SINCGARS radio set is capable of operating either in single channel or frequency hopping mode. The latest version of this radio in use by the Army is the Advanced Lightweight SINCGARS SIP (ASIP) RT-1523(E). The SINCGARS system of radios is highly modular and can be configured in many different ways: AN/PRC-119F (manpack), AN/VRC-89 (one short range, one long range radio), AN/VRC-92 (dual long range radios), and many others.
The ASIP version of the venerable SINCGARS radio contains several major improvements. The most significant of these improvements is the reduction in size and weight, both extremely important characteristics at the small unit level. The ASIP radio is a 50% smaller and 33% lighter version (9 lb with battery, handset, and antenna) of its predecessor.
SINGCARS systems are used in the maneuver battalion’s combat vehicles including the HMMWV, M1A2SEP tank, and Bradley Fighting Vehicle variants. SINCGARS radios use frequency modulation in the VHF band (30 to 87.975 MHz). The SINCGARS radio is capable of both voice and data transmission (up to 16kbit/s). Voice transmission range varies between 0 and 40 km depending on power source and amplification.

Headquarters personnel

The commanding officer of a battalion is usually a lieutenant colonel, although a major can be selected for battalion command in lieu of an available lieutenant colonel. A typical tour of duty for this assignment is twenty-four to thirty-six months.
A battalion command is the first unit command position at which the commanding officer is given an appreciably sized headquarters and staff to assist him or her in commanding the battalion and its subordinate company units. The typical staff usually includes:
  • a battalion executive officer, usually a major
  • a battalion command sergeant major
  • a personnel officer (S1), usually a captain
  • an intelligence officer (S2), usually a captain
  • an operations officer (S3), usually a major
  • a logistics officer (S4), usually a captain
  • a communications officer (S6), usually a captain
  • a medical officer, usually a captain
  • a JAG (legal) officer, usually a captain
  • a battalion chaplain, usually a captain
In addition, the headquarters will include non-commissioned officers and enlisted support personnel in the occupational specialties of the staff sections; these personnel will ordinarily be assigned to the battalion's headquarters and headquarters company.


External links

battalion in Arabic: كتيبة (وحدة عسكرية)
battalion in Bengali: ব্যাটালিয়ন
battalion in Belarusian: Батальён
battalion in Bulgarian: Батальон
battalion in Catalan: Batalló
battalion in Danish: Bataljon
battalion in German: Bataillon
battalion in Estonian: Pataljon
battalion in Spanish: Batallón
battalion in Esperanto: Bataliono
battalion in Persian: گردان
battalion in French: Bataillon
battalion in Galician: Batallón
battalion in Croatian: Bojna
battalion in Indonesian: Batalyon
battalion in Icelandic: Herfylki
battalion in Italian: Battaglione
battalion in Hebrew: גדוד
battalion in Javanese: Batalyon
battalion in Georgian: ბატალიონი
battalion in Lithuanian: Batalionas
battalion in Hungarian: Zászlóalj
battalion in Malay (macrolanguage): Batalion
battalion in Dutch: Bataljon
battalion in Japanese: 大隊
battalion in Norwegian: Bataljon
battalion in Norwegian Nynorsk: Bataljon
battalion in Low German: Bataillon
battalion in Polish: Batalion
battalion in Portuguese: Batalhão
battalion in Russian: Батальон
battalion in Slovenian: Bataljon
battalion in Serbian: Батаљон
battalion in Serbo-Croatian: Bataljon
battalion in Finnish: Pataljoona
battalion in Swedish: Bataljon
battalion in Turkish: Tabur
battalion in Ukrainian: Батальйон
battalion in Chinese: 营

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

KP, age group, army, army group, band, battery, battle group, bevy, body, brigade, bunch, cabal, cadre, cast, clique, cohort, column, combat command, combat team, company, complement, contingent, corps, coterie, covey, crew, crowd, detachment, detail, division, faction, field army, field train, file, fleet, flying column, gang, garrison, group, grouping, groupment, in-group, junta, kitchen police, legion, maniple, mob, movement, organization, out-group, outfit, pack, party, peer group, phalanx, platoon, posse, rank, regiment, salon, section, set, squad, squadron, stable, string, tactical unit, task force, team, train, tribe, troop, troupe, unit, wing
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