A flag officer is a commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which the officer exercises command.
The term is used differently in different countries:
- In many countries, a flag officer is a senior officer of the navy, specifically those who hold any of the admiral ranks; the term may or may not include the rank of commodore.
- In some countries, such as Bangladesh, the United States, Pakistan and India, it may apply to all armed forces, not just the navy. This means generals can also be considered flag officers.
- In most Arab armies, liwa (Arabic: لواء), which can be translated as flag officer, is a specific rank, equivalent to a major general. However, "ensign" is debatably a more exact translation of the word. In principle, a flag officer commands several units called "flags" (or "ensigns") (i.e. brigades).
The generic title of flag officer is used in several modern navies and coast guards to denote those who hold the rank of rear admiral (or its equivalent) and above, also called "flag ranks"; in some navies, this also includes the rank of commodore. Flag officer corresponds to the generic terms general officer (used by land and some air forces to describe all grades of generals) and air officer (used by other air forces to describe all grades of air marshals and air commodores).
A flag officer sometimes is a junior officer, called a flag lieutenant or flag adjutant, attached as a personal adjutant or aide-de-camp.
In the Canadian Forces, a flag officer (French: officier général, "general officer") is an admiral, vice-admiral, rear-admiral, or commodore, the naval equivalent of a general officer of the army or air force. It is a somewhat counterintuitive usage of the term, as only flag officers in command of commands or formations actually have their own flags (technically a commodore has only a broad pennant, not a flag), and army and air force generals in command of commands or formations also have their own flags, but are not called flag officers. Base commanders, usually full colonels, also have a pennant that flies from the mast or flagpole on the base, when resident, or on vehicles that carry them.
A flag officer's rank is denoted by a wide strip of gold braid on the cuff of the service dress tunic; one to four gold maple leaves over a crossed sword and baton, all beneath a royal crown, on epaulettes and shoulder boards; and two rows of gold oak leaves on the peak of the service cap. Since the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, a flag officer's dress tunic had a single broad stripe on the sleeve and epaulettes. On May 5, 2010, however, the naval uniform dark dress tunic was adjusted—exterior epaulettes were removed, reverting to the sleeve ring and executive curl-rank insignia used by most navies; commodores' uniforms display a broad stripe, and each succeeding rank receives an additional sleeve ring. There are no epaulettes on the exterior of the tunic, but they are still worn on the uniform shirt underneath.
In India, it is applied to brigadiers, major generals, lieutenant generals and generals in the Army (and their equivalents in the Navy and Air Force). The equivalents are commodore, rear admiral, vice admiral and admiral in the Navy and air commodore, air vice marshal, air marshal and air chief marshal in the Air Force.[clarification needed] Each of these category of flag officers is designated with a specific flag. India's honorary ranks (five star ranks) are field marshal in the Army, marshal of the Indian Air Force in the Air Force and admiral of the fleet in the Navy.
In the Royal Navy, there is a distinction between the "flag officer" and "officer of flag" ranks. Formerly all officers promoted to flag rank were considered to be "flag officers" and the term is still widely used to refer to any officer of flag rank. Present usage is that all rear-admirals and above are officers of flag rank, but only those officers of flag rank who are authorised to fly a flag are formally called "flag officers", and have different flags for different ranks of admiral. Of the 39 officers of flag rank in the Royal Navy in 2006, very few were "flag officers" with entitlement to fly a flag. For example, Commander-in-Chief Fleet flies an admiral's flag whether ashore or afloat and is a "flag officer"; the chief of staff (support), a rear admiral, is not entitled to fly a flag and is an "officer of flag rank" rather than a "flag officer". List of fleets and major commands of the Royal Navy lists most admirals who were "flag officers". A flag officer's junior officer is often known as "Flags".
Equivalent ranks in the British Army and Royal Marines are called general officer rather than flag officers, and those in the Royal Air Force (as well as the rank of air commodore) are called air officers, although all are entitled to fly flags of rank.
See also: Admiral (United States) § History
Captain was the highest rank in the United States Navy from its beginning in 1775 until 1857, when Congress created the temporary rank of Flag Officer, which gave way to Commodore and Rear Admiral in 1862. The rank of "flag officer" was bestowed on senior Navy captains who were assigned to lead a squadron of vessels in addition to command of their own ship. During the American Civil War, the Confederate States Navy also used the term. The 19th-century rank of "flag officer" was considered strictly temporary and became obsolete upon the creation and widespread usage of the equivalent naval rank of commodore; however, the term is still in use today, explicitly defined as an officer of the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard serving in or having the grade of admiral, vice admiral, rear admiral, or rear admiral (lower half),  equivalent to general officers of an army. In 1862 Congress authorized the use of the title "admiral."
In the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, the term "flag officer" generally is applied to all general officers authorized to fly their own command flags—i.e., brigadier general, or pay grade O-7, and above. However, as a matter of law, Title 10 of the United States Code makes a distinction between general officers and flag officers. Non-naval officers usually fly their flags from their headquarters, vessels, or vehicles, typically only for the most senior officer present. In the United States all flag and general officers must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate; each subsequent promotion requires renomination and re-approval. For the Navy, each flag officer assignment is usually limited to a maximum of two years, followed by either reassignment, promotion and reassignment, or retirement.
- ^Canada – National Defence: A-AD-200-000/AG-000 The Heritage Structure of the Canadian Forces, Chapter 14, Section 3.
- ^Canada - National Defence: "Navy Rank and Appointment Insignia: NavyArchived 2011-08-20 at WebCite"
- ^Note: The referenced website, above, has not yet been updated to reflect the change as of July 9, 2010.
- ^See e.g.King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions Volume I 1913., §192
- ^"Naval History and Heritage Command - Navy Captain". History.navy.mil. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- ^ ab§101 of Title 10, US Code on law.cornell.edu
- ^Offenhauer, Priscilla. "General and flag officer authorizations for the active and reserve components: A comparative and historical analysis"(PDF). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, December 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- ^Kapp, Lawrence. General and Flag Officers in the U.S. Armed Forces: Background and Considerations for Congress, Congressional Research Service, February 18, 2016.
- ^Army Regulation 840-10, Flags, Guidons, Streamers, Tabards, and Automobile and Aircraft PlatesArchived 2010-06-07 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^Department of the Army Institute of Heraldry website on General Officer FlagsArchived 2008-06-14 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^Chief of Naval Operations. Navy Military Personnel Assignment Policy, 2006, pg 6
From the Homefront: Top 10 things we wish people knew about Coast Guard life
Posted by Christopher Lagan, Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, commanding officer of Air Station Miami, for nearly 13 years and currently serves as chapter director for Blue Star Families in Miami, Fla.
The Joint Service Color Guard performs at a welcoming ceremony for Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Pentagon, Jan. 10, 2014. The combined unit, which performs routinely for national and international leaders, includes three Army soldiers, two Marines and one service member each the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard. Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. Katryn Tuton.
Written by Shelley Kimball.
Photo by Bill Keefrey.
I spend a lot of time explaining Coast Guard life to other people – not just here, but everywhere: to my neighbors, at the gym, at the grocery store, at kids’ birthday parties. I know I am not alone. Every Coastie I know has a set list of responses for the questions we get. We love that people want to understand us. So this week I crowd-sourced the question and asked people to tell me what they wish people knew about Coast Guard life. I sent out a survey over social media, and asked everyone to weigh in to come up with the following top 10 list.
1. The Coast Guard is a part of the military. If there was one most frequently asked question, this is it. Let me explain definitively that, yes, the Coast Guard is part of the United States Armed Forces, according to Title 10, Section 101 of the U.S. Code. The confusion may arise because the Coast Guard is housed under the Department of Homeland Security, but it is still one of the armed forces. I can’t agree more with the participant who said, “That the Coast Guard is part of the military, facing the same issues as other services. I have met many people who think Coast Guard members work one weekend a month and are sometimes called up during emergencies. I wish they knew that we are active duty every day, with families who face long deployments, frequent moves, dangerous situations, and other struggles.”
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd class Brice Fronek, with Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber, guards contraband at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach, April 26, 2013. The contraband was seized during an interdiction in the Caribbean Sea, April 18, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sabrina Laberdesque.
2. The Coast Guard does more than search and rescue. Take a look at this cool snapshot of the Coast Guard. Yes, we are incredibly proud of the 20, 510 search and rescue missions in 2012, and the 3, 800 lives saved. But we also want everyone to recognize the thousands and thousands of maritime inspections and boardings Coasties conducted to keep our waters safe. And add to that the drug interdictions – more than 166,000 pounds of cocaine was removed in 2012. Just this week, the Coast Guard in Miami seized what may be a historic amount of cocaine – $37 million worth.
3. We do so much with so few. There are about 43,000 active duty members in the Coast Guard. One participant said, “The USCG is a very selective branch and just because we’re small doesn’t mean we aren’t powerful!” And that’s true. Go back to those boarding and drug interdiction figures and remember that the Coast Guard has only about 8,500 more people than the New York City Police Department.
4. Coasties are on duty every single day. The Coast Guard is active duty, not a reserve unit. (We do have separate reserve and auxiliary units.) I often tell people that when your family would batten down the hatches in the face of an emergency, that is when our Coast Guard members are heading to work. The Coast Guard is on duty 24/7, and it has been since 1790.
Members of Port Security Unit 312 board a plane at San Francisco International Airport en route to the Middle East in 2010. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Caleb Critchfield.
5. The Coast Guard deploys. Last year, members of the Coast Guard deployed to Iraq to protect the maritime oil infrastructure, but also to train the Iraqi naval service. The Coast Guard has also provided security and support to Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia deploy for a year at a time to the Middle East. In wartime, the Coast Guard can also be called to augment the Navy. Stateside, Coasties deploy every day in their duties – there are cutters out for months at a time.
6. We PCS, and no we can’t always pick where we go. We do get wish lists and dream sheets, but that doesn’t mean we always get our top choices, just like every other military service branch. We generally move every two to four years.
7. Not all military support programs include the Coast Guard. Remember how I explained that we are part of the Department of Homeland Security? Well, some of the family support programs are only for the branches under the Department of Defense, so we get left out of those. (It’s a budget issue, not a preferential one.)
8. We rely on, and we appreciate community programs that support the Coast Guard. So, because of #7, the programs that include the Coast Guard are really important to us. Our bases are also smaller, and therefore we don’t necessarily have commissaries and exchanges like other services. As one participant said, “For communities to have programs in place for military members and their dependents, it’s really needed and appreciated.”
9. We are not all on the coast – some of us are inland. For example, the Eighth Coast Guard District runs from the ports of New Orleans and Houston north through 26 states in the heartland. This district protects 10,300 miles of inland waterways.
Flag-waving family members welcome the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Bear home following a 58-day deployment. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
10. We take great pride in Coast Guard service. We are a close-knit military service, and we are proud of the sacrifices our families make to help keep the Coast Guard strong. I love how one Coastie summed it up: “That most of us are just normal people who are just happy being married to our Coastie. Even if it isn’t always the most glamorous or accommodating lifestyle, when the day ends we just want to be home with our spouse and our families.” And another, who said, “I wish people knew how often we move, how little control we have over transfers, how often they are at sea, how isolated we can be from military support services, and how service impacts our children. Also, how proud we are and the great work done by Coasties.”
The more people learn about us, the more they will embrace and understand us. What do you find yourself wanting to share with others about Coast Guard life? Is there something you explain a lot? Here is your chance — share your stories and perspectives below!
The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Tags: boat forces reserve management plan, deployment, from the homefront, shelley kimball
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.