What Are the Duties of a Lieutenant Colonel?


Lieutenant colonels are commissioned officers in the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps. In the field they command medium-sized forces, and can also serve as staff officers in larger units.

Rank Structure

  • A lieutenant colonel ranks above a major and below a full colonel in the order of commissioned ranks in the U.S. armed forces.


  • In the 19th Century, the U.S. Army was smaller than it is today, and lieutenant colonels were usually of the highest rank, although there were a few exceptions.

Field Commands

  • A lieutenant colonel generally commands battalions of roughly 300-1,000 troops in the Army and Marine Corps, and squadrons of aircraft in the Air Force.

Staff Positions

  • In larger units such as brigades and divisions, a lieutenant colonel may serve on the staff of a general, offering advice and managing certain operations as needed.

Famous Lieutenant Colonels

  • Early American political figure Aaron Burr attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, as did cavalry commander George Custer and, more recently, Oliver North.

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