AskDefine | Define noncom

Dictionary Definition

noncom n : a military officer appointed from enlisted personnel [syn: noncommissioned officer]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Shortened term for a non-commissioned officer, such as a sergeant (army) or petty officer (navy).

Extensive Definition

A non-commissioned officer (sometimes noncommissioned officer), also known as an NCO or Noncom, is an enlisted member of an armed force who has been given authority by a commissioned officer. "Noncom" is the lesser-used term in many militaries since it may also refer to non-combatants. The NCO corps includes all the grades of sergeant and, in some militaries, corporals and warrant officers. The naval equivalent includes some or all grades of petty officer, although not all navies class their petty officers as NCOs.


The non-commissioned officer corps is the "junior" management of the military. They serve as administrative or training personnel and as advisors to the officer corps. However, their most valuable function is as a link between the 'common soldier' and the (commissioned) officer, who, in most armies, is discouraged from developing too close personal relationships with his charges. Also because officers - other than those who join as enlisted soldiers and are later commissioned - begin their careers in a position of authority but lack practical experience, senior NCOs are also often responsible for giving them on-the-job training.

National usage

An experienced NCO corps is a key component of Western armies: in many cases NCOs are credited as being the metaphorical "backbone" of their service.


In the Canadian Forces, the Queen's Regulations and Orders defines a non-commissioned officer as:
"A Canadian Forces member holding the rank of Sergeant or Corporal." QR&O 1.02
By definition, with the unification of the CF into one service, the rank of Sergeant includes the naval rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class, and Corporal includes the Naval rank of Leading Seaman; Corporal also includes the appointment of Master Corporal (Naval Master Seaman).
NCOs are officially divided into two categories: Junior Non-Commissioned Officers (Jr NCOs), consisting of Corporals/Leading Seamen and Master Corporals/Master Seamen; and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (Sr NCOs), consisting of Sergeants and Petty Officers 2nd Class. In the Canadian Navy, however, the accepted definition of "NCO" reflects the international use of the term (i.e. all grades of Petty Officer).
Junior Non-Commissioned Officers mess and billet with Privates and Seamen; their mess is usually referred to as the Junior Ranks Mess. Conversely, Senior Non-Commissioned Officers mess and billet with Warrant Officers; their mess is normally referred to as the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess (Army and Air Force establishments) or the Chiefs and Petty Officers Mess (Naval establishments).
As a group, NCOs rank above Privates and below Warrant Officers.


In Germany and German-speaking countries like Austria, the term Unteroffizier (literally: “Under Officer”) describes a class of ranks between normal enlisted personnel (Mannschaften) and officers (Offiziere). In this group of ranks there are two other classes: Unteroffiziere mit Portepee (with swordknot) and Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee (without swordknot), both containing several ranks.

Rome (historical)

Some have compared the centurions of the Roman Army with modern NCOs. At some levels this comparison may be apt, but a Roman centurion was responsible for between 60 and 120 men, making him most comparable to a Company Commander in terms of the trust and responsibility given to him by his cohort. The Roman Principalis more closely represents the idea of an NCO; being a very experienced veteran these individuals could provide a source of great insight to initiates with regards to conducting one's self on the battlefield.

New Zealand

In the New Zealand Defence Force, a non-commissioned officer is defined as:
"(a) In relation to the Navy, a rating of warrant officer, chief petty officer, petty officer, or leading rank; and includes—
(i) A non-commissioned officer of the Army or the Air Force attached to the Navy; and
(ii) A person duly attached or lent as a non-commissioned officer to or seconded for service or appointed for duty as a non-commissioned officer with the Navy:
(b) In relation to the Army, a soldier above the rank of private but below the rank of officer cadet; and includes a warrant officer; and also includes—
(i) A non-commissioned officer of the Navy or the Air Force attached to the Army; and
(ii) A person duly attached or lent as a non-commissioned officer to or seconded for service or appointed for duty as a non-commissioned officer with the Army:
(c) In relation to the Air Force, an airman above the rank of leading aircraftman but below the rank of officer cadet; and includes a warrant officer; and also includes—
(i) A non-commissioned officer of the Navy or the Army attached to the Air Force; and
(ii) A person duly attached or lent as a non-commissioned officer to or seconded for service or appointed for duty as a non-commissioned officer with the Air Force:" — Defence Act 1990, Sect 2 (Interpretation)


In the Singapore Armed Forces, the term "non-commissioned officer" is no longer used, being replaced with Specialist. Apart from the different name, Specialists perform similar tasks and roles as NCOs in other militaries.

United Kingdom

In the British Armed Forces, NCOs are divided into two categories. Lance Corporals, Corporals (Lance Bombardiers and Bombardiers in the Royal Artillery) and Lance Sergeants are Junior NCOs (JNCOs). Sergeants, Staff Sergeants, Colour Sergeants (and in the RAF Chief Technicians and Flight Sergeants), are Senior NCOs (SNCOs).
Warrant Officers are often included in the SNCO category, but actually form a separate class of their own. SNCOs and WOs have their own messes, which are similar to officers' messes (and are usually known as Sergeants' Messes), whereas JNCOs live and eat with the unranked personnel.
The Royal Navy does not refer to its Petty Officers as NCOs, but calls them Senior Ratings (or Senior Rates). Leading Ratings and below are Junior Ratings.

United States

In the United States Army, United States Air Force and United States Marine Corps, all ranks of Sergeant are termed NCOs, as are Corporals in the Army and Marine Corps. The rank of Corporal (E-4) in the Army is considered a junior NCO, and is to be shown the same respect as an NCO. In the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, all ranks of Petty Officer are so designated. Junior NCOs function as first tier supervisors and technical leaders. Of all five branches of service, only the Marine Corps authorize its NCOs to carry swords on ceremonial occasions.
NCOs serving in the top three enlisted grades (E-7, E-8, and E-9) are termed senior noncommissioned officers (Chief Petty Officers in the Navy and Coast Guard). Senior NCOs are expected to exercise leadership at a more general level. They lead larger groups of service members, mentor junior officers, and advise senior officers on matters pertaining to their areas of responsibility. Within the Marine Corps, senior NCOs are referred to as Staff NCOs and also include the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-6). A select few senior NCOs serve at the highest levels of their service, advising their service Secretary and Chief of Staff on all matters pertaining to the well-being and utilization of the enlisted force.
Unlike Warrant Officers in other militaries, Warrant Officers in the United States Armed Forces are considered specialty officers and fall in between non-commissioned and commissioned officers. Warrant officers also have their own rank tier and paygrade. However, when a Warrant Officer achieves the rank of Chief Warrant Officer, CWO2 or higher, they are commissioned and are considered as commissioned officers just like any other regular commissioned officer but are still held in a different paygrade tier. They are entitled to salutes from their juniors, an officer's sword and uniform, but for much of the UCMJ are considered on par with NCOs.

Related abbreviations

  • NCOA - Noncommissioned Officers Association (U.S.)
  • NCOER - Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report (Department of the Army FORM 2166-8)
  • NCOIC - Noncommissioned Officer In Charge (U.S./UK/Canada)
  • NCOWC - Noncommissioned Officers' Wives Club (U.S.)
  • NCOCC - Noncommissioned Officers Candidate Course (U.S.)
noncom in German: Unteroffizier
noncom in Spanish: Suboficial
noncom in French: Sous-officier
noncom in Hebrew: מש"ק
noncom in Italian: Sottufficiale
noncom in Dutch: Onderofficier
noncom in Japanese: 下士官
noncom in Norwegian: Underoffiser
noncom in Polish: Podoficer
noncom in Russian: Унтер-офицер
noncom in Slovenian: Podčastnik
noncom in Serbian: Подофицир
noncom in Finnish: Aliupseeri
noncom in Swedish: Underofficer
noncom in Walloon: Bas oficî

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

NCO, acting corporal, acting sergeant, centurion, chief warrant officer, color sergeant, corporal, first sergeant, havildar, lance corporal, lance sergeant, master sergeant, mess sergeant, naik, noncommissioned officer, platoon sergeant, sarge, sergeant, sergeant first class, sergeant major, staff sergeant, technical sergeant, top sergeant, topkick, warrant officer
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