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A commander is generally a high-ranking military force leader.


In historical documents, the term “commander” is used to refer to a military superior with authority to command , regardless of the size of the units under his command.

For example, Carl von Clausewitz does not institutionalize the commander as an explicit service post at a certain management level, but sees him as a tactical leader. Although he associates the term with large units from the division level onwards , he does not commit himself to a certain size of the units to be led, but rather refers to the fact that combat formations require a separate commander depending on the individual circumstances. Accordingly, this is essential, for example, for any part of the force that, due to the spatial conditions, cannot, or poorly, be managed by the higher command.

An administrative meaning of the term commander describes the “Disciplinar-Straordordnung für das German Reichsheer” of April 22, 1849. In this case, the commander - as the owner of the command and as the person responsible for the discipline - can best be compared with a current disciplinary superior - from Company commander to inspector, so here too regardless of the size of the unit being led.

In the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, commanders generally commanded large units from the army upwards.

armed forces

In the Bundeswehr , commander is the name of a position . Commanders are usually at the head of higher command authorities to which task forces are subordinate, or in the territorial defense organization. Today, the commanders are the heads of the command and control command of the Bundeswehr and the multinational command of the operational command . The Inspector of the Armed Forces Base is also the National Territorial Commander . The posts are intended for lieutenant generals or vice admirals.

Before the reorientation of the Bundeswehr commanders were the heads of Army Forces Command , Air Force Command , Fleet Command , Joint Support Command and Medical Forces Command called and in the territorial defense organization the leaders of the military district commands and territorial commands . Until the change of name to the contingent commander in the operational area , the troop service superior of the respective German operational contingent, who is usually not responsible for operational tasks, was designated as the national commander in the operational area .


When translating designations of NATO commanders, the exact designation is based on the level of command within the NATO command structure .

Until the current structure came into force, a distinction was made between Major NATO Commanders, Major Subordinate Commanders and Principal Subordinate Commanders.

In the current structure, there are supreme NATO commander on the (in military) strategic level with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe ( Supreme Allied Commander Europe - SACEUR) and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation ( Supreme Allied Command Transformation - SACT).

At the operational level, with the Allied Joint Force Commands in Brunssum and Naples , the armed forces are jointly led by the Commander-in-Chief .

Standing at the head of the armed Component Commander , the commander .

In addition, the designation of the commander is determined on a case-by-case basis (for example according to regional allocation).

special cases

time of the nationalsocialism

During the time of National Socialism , the designations of the commander in chief and the commander-in-chief were sometimes also used as a position and at the same time as a post (for example, commander of the security police and the SD ).

International criminal law

The term commander in international criminal law is broad . Analogous to Article 28 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court , according to the International Criminal Code (VStGB § 4 Para. 2), "a military commander [...] is equivalent to a person who exercises actual command or control and control in a force." That means that It is not the formal authority of command that is decisive, but the relationship of command and instruction that exists in the respective situation, which is regulated, among other things, in the superiors ordinance. A commander can therefore be a military or a civilian superior.

Commander in Chief of National Armed Forces

The supreme civil or military authority that is responsible for the military or large parts of the armed forces is often referred to as the commander-in-chief .

Individual evidence

  1. Clausewitz - On War, Book 5
  2. ^ Disciplinary order of the Reichsheer from 1849 on
  3. NATO Handbook 2001 (PDF, 2.18 MB) ( Memento from September 15, 2001 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
  5. International Criminal Code on the homepage of the Foreign Office (PDF, 28 kB)

Web links

Wiktionary: Commanders  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations