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First sergeant

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Title: First sergeant  
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First sergeant

First sergeant (1SG) is typically a senior non-commissioned officer rank, used in many countries. In NATO armed forces the rank is on OR8[1] level.


First sergeant is a specialist in the Singapore Armed Forces. First sergeants are the most senior of the junior specialists, ranking above second sergeants, and below staff sergeants. The rank insignia for a first sergeant features the three chevrons pointing down shared by all specialists, and two chevrons pointing up.[2]

In combat units, first sergeants are often given the responsibility for independently operating detachments of support weapons. They are often given instructional billets as well.

Singapore Armed Forces specialist ranks
NATO rank code OR-5 OR-6
Rank Third sergeant Second sergeant First sergeant Staff sergeant Master sergeant
Abbreviation 3SG 2SG 1SG SSG MSG

United States

In the United States, first sergeant is the title given to holders of certain ranks and positions within the United States armed forces that equate to a company sergeant major, and generally serve as the senior enlisted advisor of a unit. While the specifics of the title may differ between the United States Army, Marine Corps and Air Force, all first sergeants can be identified by the presence of a lozenge-shaped (colloquially "diamond") figure on their rank insignia.

United States Army

Current U.S. Army First Sergeant rank insignia.
World War I First Sergeant rank insignia.

In the United States Army, the rank of first sergeant (abbreviated 1SG) is an OR8/E8 rank above the rank of sergeant first class (OR7), and below the rank of sergeant major. It is equal in grade to master sergeant, although the two ranks have different responsibilities, with a first sergeant being senior to a master sergeant. The rank is abbreviated as "1SG" in the Army. Master sergeants are laterally promoted to first sergeant upon selection by the senior leadership at Department of the Army, depending on available billets and opportunities. Upon reassignment to a non-first sergeant billet, the soldier reverts to their original rank of master sergeant. First sergeants are generally the senior non-commissioned officers of company (battery, troop) sized units, and are unofficially but commonly referred to as "first shirt", "top", "top sergeant", "top soldier", "top kick", due to their seniority and their position at the top of the company's enlisted ranks. They are sometimes referred to as "second hat" because the Company Commander may entrust them with important responsibilities, even over one of the company's lieutenants.

First sergeants handle the leadership and professional development of their soldiers, noncommissioned officer development, manage pay issues, supervise administrative issues, manage the promotable soldiers within the company, and are the first step in disciplinary actions such as an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment) proceeding. A first sergeant may place a soldier under arrest in quarters in certain cases, as well as manage all of the daily responsibilities of running the company/unit.

United States Marine Corps

U.S. Marine Corps First Sergeant rank insignia.

In the United States Marine Corps, first sergeant (abbreviated 1stSgt) is one rank above gunnery sergeant and one pay grade below sergeant major and master gunnery sergeant. It is equal in grade to master sergeant (E8), although the two ranks have different responsibilities, with first sergeants being senior to master sergeants. A first sergeant has command leadership responsibilities and serves as the senior enlisted advisor to the commander at the company, battery or detachment level, while master sergeants have technical responsibilities within their respective occupational fields, and serve important leadership roles within various company or battery sections. Master sergeants may also perform staff functions at the battalion/squadron level or above. Unlike first sergeants and master sergeants in the U.S. Army, no lateral movement is possible between the two ranks in the Marine Corps; they're permanent appointments and require a change in occupational specialty. Rather, gunnery sergeants elect a preference on their fitness reports, which are considered before promotion. Ultimately, those selected for either rank are appointed based on suitability, previous duty assignments and the needs of the Marine Corps. Later in their careers, first sergeants are eligible to be considered for promotion to sergeant major, while master sergeants would be on the career track for master gunnery sergeant.

The grade of first sergeant initially appeared in the Marine Corps in 1833, when Congress created the grade of orderly sergeant; 30 billets for the rank were established. In 1872, the Corps replaced the title of orderly sergeant with the rank of first sergeant. The rank of first sergeant was another casualty of the rank realignment of 1947. It was reestablished in 1955.

United States Air Force

In the United States Air Force, first sergeant is not a rank, but a special duty held by a senior enlisted member of a military unit who reports directly to the unit commander. This billet is held by individuals of pay grades E-7 through E-9 (master sergeant, senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant), and is denoted on the rank insignia by a lozenge (known colloquially as a "diamond"). Often referred to as the "first shirt", or "shirt", the first sergeant is responsible for the morale, welfare, and conduct of all the enlisted members in a squadron and is the chief adviser to the squadron commander concerning the enlisted force. Most units have a master sergeant in this position, while larger units use senior master sergeants and chief master sergeants as first sergeants.

Law enforcement

Some law enforcement agencies, especially state police and highway patrol organizations have first sergeants, who are typically in charge or command of a detachment, district or post consisting of anywhere from ten to fifty or more troopers or officers. Some such state agencies may have a first sergeant in charge of special state police units such as SWAT, K-9, aviation personnel, detectives and others. Some municipal and county agencies also have a first sergeant. Civil police first sergeants are senior to sergeants and junior to lieutenants. The insignia of such a first sergeant is usually similar to a military first sergeant but may only may have a chevron of three stripes with no rockers or just one or two rockers, but generally always have the lozenge under the chevrons.

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ The abbreviation "OR" stand for "Other Ranks / sous-officiers et militaires du rang" see: NATO glossary abbreviations used in NATO documents and publications / Glossaire OTAN des abréviations utilisées dans les documents et publications OTAN. 2010. p. 237. 
  2. ^ "Specialists". SAF Military Ranks. Ministry of Defence Singapore. 6 May 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  • U.S. Army Enlisted Rank Insignia - Criteria, Background, and Images
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