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It has been said that the hardest jump in the military is between colonel and general. That's because a colonel is a "specialist" who commands troops of only one type (infantry, cavalry or artillery), while a "general" (short for general officer) commands "combined" troops of different types. It was this fact, not the number of men, that made e.g. George Washington a four star "general." (At times, he commanded only 3,000-4,000 men, about the same as a colonel's modern regiment, and other "generals" of the time commanded around 1,000 men, about the same as a modern battalion commanded by a major or lieutenant colonel.

Likewise, a Navy "captain" (the equivalent of an army colonel) commands a single ship, by definition, of one "type."

The level between captain and admiral is called a commodore, who is the equivalent of a brigadier general. Does a commodore command multiple ships of the same type or different types? (A rear admiral commands the rear of a fleet, a vice admiral the front, and a full admiral a whole fleet, as a full general commands an army).

A"brigadier" general used to command a (combined arms) "brigade, when there were four regiments to a division, meaning two to a brigade, and two brigades to a division. Now that there are three regiments in a division, a "brigadier" has lost his original function.

Are brigadier generals and commodores TODAY "general" officers with independent commands as the term was originally understood? Or are they "training" positions for major generals and rear admirals to bridge the gaps between colonel and general, captain and admiral?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

A Commodore wasn't originally a rank but a temporary appointment, where a captain (i.e. non-admiral) was given the command of a squad/esquade with several ships (each with their own captain) - often it would be a detachment from a larger fleet (commanded by an admiral). There became two "grades" among commodores; 2nd grade which commanded not only the squad but also his own ship, and 1st grade which had another captain commanding the ship and thus only commanded the squadron (like a admiral - the captain of the flagship commanded the ship, while the admiral commanded the whole fleet... the captains fought their ships, while the admiral fought the battle). This is probably the reason why many navys don't use commodore as a rank, but rather split existing ones (e.g. rear admiral upper and lower half) or created new ones (e.g. flotilja admiral). Also remember that a fleet of sailing-ship typically had three admirals - the admiral in the center, the vice-admiral in the front (looking and reporting to the admiral), and the rear-admiral in the back - who would become the admiral "in front" if the fleet had to counter ("turn" and go the other way - the individual ships turned, so the back-line became the new front) - which is why the rank is called "counter admiral" in many navys.

In some armies "brigader" is not a general-rank (just an "uber-colonel"), in others there are two grades of colonel; so I'm not sure you could say brigader/brigader general is really equivalent to a commodore. Don't know what "rank" a colonel in charge of several brigades (each with their own colonel) would traditionally hold - that would be the equivalent of a commodore in army-context.

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I learnt something today. Thanks. +1 – One-One Apr 6 '13 at 13:17
In the US Navy, Commodore still is a temporary appointment instead of a rank. – cpast May 10 '15 at 20:39

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