Section (military unit)

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Military organization
Nigerien soldiers during Gulf War.jpg
Typical Units Typical numbers Typical Commander
fireteam 3-4 corporal
squad/section 8-12 sergeant
platoon 15–30 lieutenant
company 80–150 captain/
battalion 300–800 lieutenant colonel
regiment/brigade 2,000–4,000 colonel/
brigadier general
division 10,000–15,000 major general
corps 20,000–40,000 lieutenant general
field army 80,000+ general
army group o2+
field armies
field marshal
region/theater 4+ army groups Six-star rank
Standard NATO military map symbol to Section
Squad sized unit
(8-12 soldiers)
Platoon sized unit
(up to 39 soldiers)
“Infantry” friendly / own armed forces

A section is a military sub-subunit in some armies. In many armies, it might be a squad of 2-3 fireteams (i.e. seven to twelve soldiers). However, in France and armies based on the French model, it is the sub-division of a company (equivalent to a platoon).


Australian Army

Under the new structure of the infantry platoon, sections are made up of eight men divided into two four-man fireteams. Each fireteam consists of a team leader (corporal/lance-corporal), a marksman with enhanced optics, a grenadier with an M203 and an LSW operator with an F89 Minimi light support weapon.

Typical fire team structure:

Position Armament
Team leader F88 Steyr
Marksman F88 Steyr w/enhanced optic (e.g. 3.4× Wildcat)
Grenadier F88 Steyr w/M203 under-barrel grenade launcher
Machine gunner F89 Minimi

At the start of World War I, the Australian Army used a section that consisted of 27 men including the section commander, who was a non-commissioned officer holding the rank of sergeant.[1]

During World War II, a rifle section comprised ten soldiers with a corporal in command with a lance-corporal as his second-in-command. The corporal used an M1928 Thompson submachine gun, while one of the privates used a Bren gun. The other eight soldiers all used No.1 Mk.3 Lee–Enfield rifles with a bayonet and scabbard. They all carried two or three No.36 Mills bomb grenades.

Post–World War II and indicative for the Vietnam War a rifle section consisted of ten personnel comprising: a command & scout group (three people – two sub-machineguns/M16A1 and a L1A1 SLR); a gun group (three people – an M60 machine gun and two L1A1 SLRs) and a rifle group (four people – L1A1 SLRs).[2][3]

British Army

The British Army section now consists of eight soldiers[4] made up of a Corporal as the section commander, a Lance-Corporal as his second-in-command ("2IC") and six privates. Three sections together form a platoon. In conventional warfare, the section is split into two four-man fireteams ("Charlie" and "Delta"), commanded by the corporal and lance-corporal respectively.

Second World War and after

The "Rifle Section" of a Second World War Infantry Battalion was generally formed of 10 men;[5] a Corporal as the section leader with six privates with Lee–Enfield rifles forming a rifle group, and a light machine gun group of a Lance-corporal, a gunner with the Bren gun and a "loader" carrying a spare barrel and extra ammunition.

With the switch from .303 to 7.62mm NATO in the 1950s until the introduction of 5.56 mm calibre weapons in the late 1980s, the typical section was armed with and organized around the 7.62 mm L7 GPMG (general purpose machine gun). The section was typically divided into two "groups": a rifle group and a gun group.

The rifle group comprised the Section Commander (Corporal) with an L1A1 SLR, the Anti-Tank gunner with the 84mm Carl Gustav and a 9mm SMG, the Anti-Tank No 2 with spare 84mm rounds and an L1A1 and two riflemen with L1A1s. The gun group was commanded by the section 2IC (Lance Corporal) with an L1A1, and comprised the gunner with the GPMG and the gun No 2 with an L1A1.

All section tactics were basically designed to bring the gun to bear on the enemy and support the gun; once the gun had suppressed the enemy ("winning the firefight"), the rifle group would assault and destroy the enemy position with the gun providing fire until the last safe moment.

This organization was abandoned in favour of fireteams when 5.56 mm assault rifles and SAWs were introduced in the late 1980s. These were the L85 IW and the longer-barrelled L86 LSW ("Light support weapon"). The firepower of the team has now been extended by the L110A1 LMG. The LSW is now generally used as a designated marksman's rifle and the LMG is the belt fed weapon for laying down suppressing fire. Each fire team has two IW, one with an underslung grenade launcher, one LSW and one LMG.

Current Organisation

An infantry section now consists of:

Charlie Fireteam:[clarification needed]

  • Corporal, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle.
  • Rifleman, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle with 40mm underslung grenade launcher.
  • Rifleman, armed with an L110A1 5.56mm light machine gun.
  • Rifleman, armed with an L86A2 5.56mm light support weapon.

Delta Fireteam:

  • Lance Corporal, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle.
  • Rifleman, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle with 40mm underslung grenade launcher.
  • Rifleman, armed with an L110A1 5.56mm light machine gun.
  • Rifleman, armed with an L86A2 5.56mm light support weapon.

Some units operating in Afghanistan reintroduced the GPMG as a section gun[citation needed], on the scale of one per fire team, meaning that only two L85A2s were carried per section and both are fitted with the UGL. This practice may be altered following the introduction of the L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle[dubious ], bringing 7.62mm weapons back to Section level in recognition that the 5.56mm proved inadequate in Afghanistan. The L86A2 LSW is now almost entirely unused by Infantry Sections, due to the implementation of the L110A1 (FN Minimi) and L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle, LAWs are also an option as a secondary weapon for anti-structure roles, and the Javelin can also be carried for anti-armor. Fireteams can be split into smaller sub-divisions if needed, and these are likely designated alpha and bravo respectively.

Canadian Forces

The Canadian Army also uses the section, which is roughly the same as its British counterpart, except that it is led by a sergeant, with a master corporal as the second-in-command. The section is further divided into assault groups, which are equivalent to the British fireteams (four soldiers). They are designated Assault Group 1 and Assault Group 2. Assault groups are broken down to even smaller fireteams, normally consisting of two soldiers, designated Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. Alpha and Bravo make up Assault Group 1; Charlie and Delta make up Assault Group 2.

The section commander will have overall control of the section, and is assigned to Assault Group 1, Alpha Team. His 2nd in command will be in command of Assault Group 2, and is assigned to Delta team.

In a normal rifle section, the focus is around the pair of C9 LMGs(Light Machine Gun) that are carried by Bravo and Delta teams, one in each team. This results in a formation of Bravo, Alpha, Charlie, Delta, with Bravo and Delta providing fire support with the C9s, Alpha as the command element and Charlie as the assault team.

Danish Army

In the Danish Army, the section consists of two squads, usually commanded by a Sergeant First Class. Sections are usually highly specialized support units providing heavy weapons support, EOD support etc.

French Army

In the French Army, a section is the sub-division of a company (equivalent to a platoon) in traditional foot arms (e.g. infantry, engineering). In traditionally horse-mounted arms of the French Army (e.g. armour), the sub-division of a company is a peloton (platoon). The French equivalent of the British Army section is called a Groupe de Combat (Combat Group). French squads are divided into a 300-meter fireteam armed with FAMAS 5.56 mm assault rifles and carrying an AT4 anti-tank weapon and a 600-meter fireteam with an FN Minimi, another FAMAS and a personal grenade launcher.

Singapore Army

Singapore Army's infantry section consists of seven men led by a Third Sergeant and assisted by a Corporal as 2IC. The section is divided into a 3-man "group", which includes the section commander, and two 2-man groups. The weapons carried include two light anti-tank weapons, two section automatic weapons (SAW), and two grenade launchers.[citation needed]

United States Armed Forces

United States Army

Historically, a section of US Infantry was a "half platoon" (the platoon itself being a "half company"). The section was led by a sergeant assisted by one or (later) two corporals and consisted of a total of from 12-24 soldiers, depending on the time period. In the US Cavalry, a section was roughly equivalent to a squad in the US Infantry. In Armor, Armored Cavalry, Mechanized Infantry, and Stryker Infantry units, a section consists of two tanks/armored vehicles, with two sections to a platoon. The platoon leader, leads one section and the platoon sergeant leads the other. Some branches, such as Air Defense Artillery and Field Artillery, use the term section to denote a squad-sized unit that may act independently of each other in the larger platoon formation. (I.e., the Firing Platoon consists of several gun sections, which are the basic firing elements of the unit.) The section is used as an administrative formation and may be bigger than the regular squad formation often overseen by a Staff Sergeant.

United States Marine Corps

The USMC employs sections as intermediate tactical echelons in infantry, armored vehicle units (individual vehicles being the base tactical element), and low altitude air defense (LAAD) units, and as the base tactical element in artillery units. Infantry sections can consist of as few as eight Marines (heavy machinegun section) to as many as 32 in an 81-mm mortar section. In headquarters, service, and support units throughout the USMC (CE, GCE, ACE, and LCE), sections are used as functional sub-units of headquarters or platoons. For example, the intelligence section (S-2) of a battalion or squadron headquarters; the communications-electronics maintenance section, communication platoon, regimental headquarters company; armory section, Marine aviation logistics squadron. In Marine aircraft squadrons, section is also used to designate a flight of two or three aircraft under the command of a designated section leader. Some sections, such as weapons platoon sections are led by a staff non-commissioned Officer (SNCO), usually a staff sergeant. Tank and other armored vehicle sections, as well as service and support sections, may be led by either an officer, usually a lieutenant (or a CWO, in the case of service and support units), or a SNCO ranging from staff sergeant to master sergeant. Headquarters and aircraft sections are always led by a commissioned officer.

In infantry units, weapons platoons have sections consisting of the squads and teams that man the crew-served weapons.

Weapons platoon, rifle company:

  • a machine gun section, consisting of a section leader and three machine gun squads, each containing two machine gun teams of three men each
  • a LWCMS mortar section, consisting of a section leader and three 60mm mortar squads, each containing one mortar and four man crew
  • an assault section, consisting of a section leader and three assault squads, each containing two assault teams of two men each

Weapons company, infantry battalion:

  • an 81mm mortar platoon, consisting of a five-man platoon headquarters and two 81mm mortar sections, each section containing four 81mm mortar squads of six men each and an eight-man section headquarters.
  • an antiarmor platoon, consisting of a three-man platoon headquarters and a Javelin section, containing a section leader and two Javelin squads, each having two teams of two men each, and an antitank (TOW) section, containing a section leader and four antitank squads, each having a squad leader and two TOW teams of two men each
  • a heavy machine gun (HMG) platoon, consisting of a four-man platoon headquarters and three HMG sections, each having two HMG squads of four men each.

In armored vehicle units, platoons consist of sections consisting of individual vehicles and their crews:

  • tank and light armored reconnaissance platoons consist of two sections, each containing two tanks/light armored vehicles and crews
  • assault amphibian vehicle (AAV) platoons consist of four sections, each containing three AAV's and crews
  • combat engineer assault breacher sections consist of two CEV assault breacher vehicles and crews

In low altitude air defense (LAAD) batteries, the firing platoons consist of three sections, each consisting of a section leader and five two-man Stinger missile teams.

In artillery batteries, the firing platoon consists of a platoon headquarters and six artillery sections, each containing a section chief (staff sergeant) eight-member gun crew with one howitzer, and a driver and prime mover (i.e., a truck to tow the artillery piece and transport the gun crew and baggage). The gun crew consists of a gunner (sergeant), two assistant gunners (corporals), and five cannoneers (lance corporals and/or PFCs).


In some air forces, a section is also a unit containing two or three aircraft, commanded by a Lieutenant.

The USAF uses the term "element", in lieu of section, to designate units of two or three aircraft in a "flight".

In the German Luftwaffe in the Second World War, this would have been called a Rotte, (in the Soviet Union Red Air Force it would have been called a zveno or para). Two sections made up a flight, called a Schwarm, with three flights, along with headquarters and support personnel, comprising a Staffel.

A section is also the name for a shift or team of police officers in various police forces, particularly in the Commonwealth. The term is no longer used in the British police, in which it originated and where it was the group of officers headed by a Sergeant.

See also


  1. Ryan, Alan (2003). Putting Your Young Men in the Mud: Change, Continuity and the Australian Infantry Battalion. Land Warfare Studies Centre Working Papers. Working Paper No. 124. Duntroon, Australian Capital Territory: Land Warfare Studies Centre. p. 11. ISBN 0-642-29595-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Military Organisation and Structure – Army: Detailed Structure". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 20 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "PART 5 – Battalion Organisational Structure 1965 – 1972". .4RAR Museum. Retrieved 20 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Kennedy, Gary. "British Infantry Battalion, June 1944 Rifle Company". Battalion Organisation during the Second World War. Retrieved 4 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links