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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Standard NATO symbol for an infantry brigade.

A brigade is a military formation that is typically composed of two to five regiments or battalions, depending on the era and nationality of a given army. Usually, a brigade is a sub-component of a division, a larger unit consisting of two or more brigades.

Brigades formed into divisions are usually infantry or armoured (sometimes referred to as combined arms brigades), in addition to combat units they may include combat support units or sub-units such as artillery and engineers, and logistic units or sub-units. Historically such brigades have sometimes been called brigade-groups. On operations a brigade may comprise both organic elements and attached elements, including some temporarily attached for a specific task.

Brigades may also be specialised and comprise battalions of a single branch, for example cavalry, artillery, air defence, aviation, engineers, signals or logistic. Some brigades are classified as independent or separate and operate independently from the traditional division structure. The typical NATO standard brigade consists of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 troops. However, in Switzerland and Austria, the numbers could go as high as 11,000 troops. The Soviet Union, its forerunners and successors, mostly use "regiment" instead of brigade, and this was common (e.g. Germany) in much of Europe until after World War 2.

A brigade's commander is commonly a brigadier general, brigadier or colonel. In some armies the commander is rated as a General Officer. The brigade commander has a self-contained headquarters and staff. The principal staff officer, usually a major or lieutenant colonel, may be designated chief of staff, although until the late 20th Century British and similar armies called the position 'brigade-major'. Some brigades may also have a deputy commander. The headquarters has a nucleus of staff officers and support (clerks, assistants and drivers) that can vary in size depending on the type of brigade. On operations additional specialist elements may be attached. The headquarters will usually have its own communications unit.



The brigade was invented as a tactical unit by the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus. It was introduced during the Thirty Years' War to overcome the lack of coordination between normal army structure consisting of regiments by appointing a senior officer. The term derives from Italian brigat, as used for example in the introduction to The Decameron where it refers to only to a group of ten, or Old French brigare, meaning "company" of an undefined size, which in turn derives from a Celtic root briga, which means "strife".

The so-called "brigada" was a well mixed unit, comprising infantry, cavalry and normally also artillery, designated for a special task. The size of such "brigada" was a reinforced "company" of up to two regiments. The "brigada" was the ancient form of the modern "task force".

This was copied in France by General Turenne, who made it a permanent standing unit, requiring the creation in 1667 of a permanent rank of brigadier des armées du roi (literally translating to brigadier of the armies of the king) which would in time be renamed simply Général de brigade (but would still be referred to occasionally as brigadier for short).

Individual armies


In the Australian Army, the brigade has always been the smallest tactical formation, since regiments are either administrative groupings of battalions (in the infantry) or battalion-sized units (in the cavalry). A typical brigade may consist of approximately 5,500 personnel between two mechanised infantry battalions, an armored regiment, an armored artillery regiment, and other logistic and engineering units. The brigade is usually commanded by an officer holding the rank of Brigadier, who is referred to as the "Brigade Commander"

United Kingdom

brigades, with a field not a regional administratve role, have usually been of a named type and numbered since the 19th Century (eg Cavalry Brigade or Infantry Brigade), from after World War 2 brigade numbers have been unique and not by type. Brigades in divisions do not usually command their combat support and combat service support units which remain under divisional command, although they may be permanently affiliated with a particular brigade. Historically infantry or cavalry/armoured brigades have usually been three or four combat arm battalions, but currently larger brigades are normal, made larger still when their affiiated artillery and engineer regiments are added.

In the Royal Artillery, "brigade" was also the term used for a battalion-sized unit until 1938, when "regiment" was adopted. This was because, unlike infantry battalions and cavalry regiments, which were organic, artillery units consisted of individually numbered batteries which were "brigaded" together. The commander of such a brigade was a Lieutenant-Colonel, who was referred to as the "commanding officer".


The Canadian Forces currently has 3 Regular Force Brigade Groups, known as Canadian Mechanized Brigade Groups: 1 CMBG, 2 CMBG, and 5e CBMG, the primarily French Canadian Brigade Group. These CMBGs are each composed of two mechanized infantry battalions, one light infantry battalion, one armoured regiment, one mechanized artillery regiment, one engineer regiment, one combat service and support (CSS) battalion, and one Military Police platoon. Co-located with each CMBG is a Field Ambulance, a General Service Battalion, and a Tactical Helicopter Squadron. Regular Force CMBG strengths are 5,000 personnel[1]. Canada also has 10 Primary Reserve Brigades (Canadian Brigade Group), 31 CBG through 39 CBG, and 41 CBG. The CBG formations are for administrative purposes.

United States

A U.S. infantry brigade of around 2,500, formed into eight battalion-sized divisions of around 325 soldiers each.

In the United States Army, a brigade is smaller than a division and roughly equal to or a little larger than a regiment. Strength typically ranges from 2,500 to 4,000 personnel. Army brigades formerly contained two or more and typically five regiments, during the American Civil War and continuing as a formation through World War I, but this structure is now considered obsolete since an Army reorganization before World War II. The U.S. Army has moved to a new generic brigade combat team formation which contain combat elements and their support units, and is standard across the active U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard.

In the United States Marine Corps, brigades are only formed for certain missions. Unlike the United States Army, the Marines have intact regimental structures. A Marine brigade is formed only for special expeditionary duty, for which it is outfitted like a smaller Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). For example, TF TARAWA (2d MEB) during the Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign.

The brigade commander is usually a colonel, although a lieutenant colonel can be selected for brigade command in lieu of an available colonel. A typical tour of duty for this assignment is twenty four to thirty six months.

A brigade commander enjoys an appreciably sized headquarters and staff to assist him or her in commanding the brigade and its subordinate battalion units. The typical staff includes:

  • a brigade deputy commanding officer, usually a lieutenant colonel
  • a brigade executive officer, usually a lieutenant colonel
  • a brigade command sergeant major
  • a personnel officer (S1), usually a major
  • an intelligence officer (S2), usually a major
  • an operations officer (S3), usually a lieutenant colonel
  • a logistics officer (S4), usually a major
  • a communications officer (S6), usually a major
  • a medical officer, usually a major
  • a Judge Advocate General (legal) officer, usually a major
  • a brigade chaplain, usually a major

In addition, the headquarters will include additional junior staff officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted support personnel in the occupational specialities of the staff sections; these personnel will ordinarily be assigned to the brigade's headquarters and headquarters company.

See also



  • Nouveau Larousse illustré, undated (early 20th century), in French

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BRIGADE (Fr. and Ger. brigade, Ital. brigada, Span. brigada; the English use of the word dates from the early 17th century), a unit in military organization commanded by a major-general, brigadier-general or colonel, and composed of two or more regiments of infantry, cavalry or artillery. The British infantry brigade consists as a rule of four battalions (or about 4000 bayonets) with supply, transport and medical units attached; the cavalry brigade of two or three regiments of cavalry. An artillery "brigade" (field, horse, and heavy) is in Great Britain a smaller unit, forming a lieut.-colonel's command and consisting of two or three batteries. (See Army, Artillery, Infantry, and Cavalry.) The staff of an infantry or cavalry brigade usually consists of the brigadier commanding, his aide-de-camp, and the brigade-major, a staff officer whose duties are intermediate between those of an adjutant and those of a general staff officer.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also brigade


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de


From French brigade, from Italian brigata


Brigade f. (genitive Brigade, plural Brigaden)

  1. (military) brigade

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