War never changes
Imperial Guard Ranks
Imperial Guard Rank Hierarchy
From highest to lowest, the ranks of the Imperial Guard include:
Lord Commander Militant (supreme commander of the Imperial Guard and a High Lord of Terra)
Warmaster (Lord Solar) (special rank only bestowed upon a general officer who leads an Imperial Crusade)
Lord Commander (supreme military commander of one of the five Imperial Segmentae)
Lord General Militant (supreme military commander of a designated theatre of operations)
General (various different titles for this rank exist)
Colonel (various different titles for this rank exist)
Captain (various different titles for this rank exist)
Commissars, Priests of the Ecclesiarchy, Tech-priests, Sanctioned Psykers, Inquisitors (All have no official rank in the Imperial Guard)
The military organisation of the Imperial Guard is a simple, hierarchical chain of command to which blind adhesion is required, especially from the lower ranks. Independent thinking and action is at best frowned upon, and at worst sanctioned by death. This one-way immutable decision structure is the only method that has proven efficient in coordinating the gargantuan resources necessary for the correct deployment of the Imperial Guard in a given war zone.
The main issues of confusion and lack of cohesion within the Imperial Guard’s hierarchy come from the interdependence of the Imperial Guard with the Imperial Navy and the Adeptus Administratum’s Departmento Munitorum. Indeed, following the Horus Heresy, the Primarch Roboute Guilliman made sure that no single individual would ever again have enough military power to threaten the stability of the Imperium. Thus, the Imperial Guard furnishes the manpower, the Departmento Munitorum furnishes the materiel and the Imperial Navy ensures air superiority and transports both men and weapons to their objective without intervening directly on the ground other than providing air support. The arrangement has proven effective, but politicking amongst Imperial officers can lead to confusion in the chain of command as they vie for seniority and the most prestigious assignments. It is one of the roles of the Commissariat to ensure, by force of arms if necessary, that the Imperial military’s chain of command always remains clear and operationally efficient.
Since the dark days after the end of the Horus Heresy when the Imperial Reformation was completed by Robute Guilliman, the Imperial Guard has been controlled jointly by the Chancellor of the Estate Imperium, the Master of the Administratum and the Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard. These three High Lords of Terra represent the top of the chain of command for the Imperium as a whole. In matters of strategy, it is the Lord Commander Militant who is the supreme commander of the Imperial Guard, and he is directly assisted by the five Lord Commanders of the Imperial Guard, one for each of the five Segmentae of the Imperium. Since most of the time of the Lord Commander Militant is occupied defending the Imperial Guard’s interests in the Senatorum Imperialis, it falls to the Lords Commander Solar, Pacificus, Tempestus, Obscurus and Ultima to ensure the correct day-to-day deployment of the Imperial Guard in their Segmentum. The highest “conventional” rank reachable in the Guard is that of Lord General Militant, the highest rank above the General Staff corps. This rank brings with it command of armies of almost limitless number, and the responsibility for command of a whole theatre of operations. It is the duty of the Lord General Militant to not only ensure military objectives are met, if necessary by negotiating for the assistance of the Adeptus Astartes, but also to ensure that the retaken or defended territories quickly return to the fold of the Administratum and the Ecclesiarchy. It is an uneasy rank to bear, for not only must the Lord General Militant be a keen strategist, he must also be a good politician and have the courage to stand up to the priests of the Ecclesiarchy or even to a Space Marine Chapter Master when necessary.
The General Staff of the Imperial Guard is not a coherent organisation; the term is principally used to describe all general officers who serve in the command echelons above those of regimental level. The Imperial General Staff serves the Lord General Militant directly. It is a highly decentralised formation, with its officers present in every battle theatre in the Imperium. Most members of the General Staff bear the rank of General (or the cultural equivalent depending on their homeworld of origin) and each of these men is in command of a battlegroup or multi-regiment force. It is the task of the General Staff to ensure that their objective is met, that the men under their command work efficiently together despite sometimes wildly varying origins and home cultures and that they work well with the forces of the Adeptus Astartes and the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas when they are present. More junior officers can also be found in the General Staff; they are drawn from individual regiments to act as aides and administrative assistants. They do not exercise individual authority over other troops and merely act as conduits between their direct superiors and other officers. A position common in the General Staff is that of Imperial Tactician, a non-command rank that nevertheless is vital. As trained staff officers, Tacticians help to devise and organise battle plans and strategy.
Operating in parallel to this command tree is that of the other Imperial organisations the Imperial Guard comes into contact with, principally that of the Commissariat. Commissars are integral parts of the Imperial Guard command echelons, with every regiment having at least one Commissar attached to it, and likely more. Commissars are also normally included in any General Staff grouping. Occasionally, one or more Inquisitors will also attach themselves to the General Staff, especially where the Imperium faces the Forces of Chaos. Although they are technically allowed to take command of any Imperial Guard force, most Inquisitors leave actual tactical leadership of such a force to its professional officers, only intervening when a situation requiring their particular expertise emerges. Other “civilians” who will operate in parallel to the Imperial Guard’s chain of command are the numerous priests of the Adeptus Ministorum who accompany the Guard’s soldiers and ensure their devotion towards the God-Emperor, and the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus who provide the required expertise to keep the numerous machines and vehicles of the Imperial Guard working. Last but not least come the psykers of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica, the Astropaths and Sanctioned Psykers who will counsel the various officers and allow them to coordinate their efforts and face off against foes who also wield the power of the Empyrean.
An unusual command rank outside the normal hierarchy of the Imperial Guard is that of Warmaster, the Imperial general officer who serves as the supreme commander of an Imperial Crusade. There is rarely more than one Warmaster operating within the Imperium at any one time, due to the extreme powers given to them. The title was created in recognition of Horus’ promotion by the Emperor to take his place as the supreme commander of all Imperial military forces during the latter half of the Great Crusade, after the Emperor had retired to Terra to begin work on his secret project to open the Eldar Webway up to human use. At present, the title of Warmaster, officially designated as “Lord Solar” (not to be confused with the Lord Commander Solar who serves as the commander of all Imperial military forces in the Segmentum Solar) is one of the most powerful ranks that can be granted to a general officer of the Imperial armed forces, including officers of the Imperial Guard, the Imperial Navy or even the Chapter Master of one of the Adeptus Astartes Chapters who is commanding a much larger Imperial Crusade force. The rank is officially second in the Imperial military hierarchy only to that of the Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard, who serves on the Senatorum Imperialis as one of the High Lords of Terra and is the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Guard.
The title of Warmaster is bestowed by the High Lords of Terra in the present Imperium only when an Imperial Crusade is being planned and resources from multiple Imperial sectors are needed. The supreme overall command designated by the rank of Warmaster is necessary as inter-and intra-service strife and bureaucratic rivalries might make assembling the materiel required and co-operating in the field difficult for officers of the different services without a clear grant of supreme authority. The rank is not available unless granted by the High Lords of Terra and it is the normal formulation to say that such an individual has been given his or her command by the Emperor himself. There is rarely more than one Warmaster operating within the Imperium at any one time, due to the extreme powers given to the holder of the title.
Some consider the title of Warmaster to be cursed or a sign of ill-omen because of the ties of the rank to Horus and the Horus Heresy, the terrible galactic civil war that tore the Imperium in two over ten thousand standard years ago. This is one reason why the title is rarely granted, and why it is officially designed as “Lord Solar”. It is also the reason why the Forces of Chaos now grant that title to the Chaos Lord who is capable, like Horus, of uniting all the many different Chaotic factions under the banner of Chaos Undivided in pursuit of the single goal of destroying the Imperium of Man.
According to the Tactica Imperium, Imperial Guard regimental command officers range in rank from Colonel to Lieutenant. In practice, however, the individual regiments making up the vast Imperial Guard are drawn from so many different human worlds and cultures that the actual name given to an officer rank can vary widely across the Guard. Regimental officers always hail from the same world as the troops they command, assuming their officer rank at the initial formation of the regiment. Providing a regiment with officers from its homeworld is an easy but extremely effective way to enhance an enlisted Guardsman’s loyalty and morale.
While the exact title of an officer will vary depending on which Imperial world his regiment hails from, the various regimental ranks are standardised as:
Colonel – The most senior officer in a regiment and the commander of the regiment.
Major – A Major usually serves as the executive officer of an Imperial Guard regiment, and the primary assistant to the regiment’s commanding Colonel. This rank is not universal in the Imperial Guard’s organisation and only exists in certain regiments
Captain – The Imperial Guard’s Captains serve as Combat Unit Commanders, and can command either multiple infantry platoons bound together into a company, or multiple Armoured Fists bound together into an Armoured Company. Captains are the most common senior officers found in an Imperial Guard regiment.
Lieutenant – Lieutenants are the most junior officer rank to be found in the Imperial Guard. They serve as platoon leaders or as the leader of a single Armoured Fist.
Sergeants, Corporals and other non-commissioned officer ranks act as small unit commanders for the Imperial Guard, as well as providing almost constant oversight of the main body of Guardsmen within a regiment. They carry out any tasks assigned to them by their officers and are essential to the running of the regiment.
Sergeant – A Sergeant is a non-commissioned officer of the Imperial Guard who is either in charge of a single squad of 10 Guardsmen, or the tank commander for a single tank. Although they are often thought of as mere grunts, good Sergeants are just as necessary to the Imperial Guard’s mission as good Generals, and some Sergeants have gained famous renown thanks to their bravery, resourcefulness or sheer resilience. Legendary Imperial heroes such as Sergeant Lukas Bastonne, Gunnery Sergeant “Stonetooth” Harker and Jarran Kell are all proud to hold the rank and that “they work for a living” rather than enjoy the privileges and pomp of the Imperial Guard’s officer corps.
Corporal – A Corporal is a non-commissioned officer of the Imperial Guard who serves as a second and aide to his squad Sergeant. He will also serve as a section leader during patrols or on sentry duty when the whole squad is spread out or not employed as a whole. In armoured regiments, it is common to have the main gunners and drivers of all tanks promoted to the rank of Corporal, while the secondary gunners/loaders and the Vox operators remain simple enlisted Guardsmen. This is done to denote the fact that main gunners and drivers hold the most prestigious positions within the armoured machine. It is purely a question of prestige though, for on the battlefield, a tank commander is his vehicle’s sole lord and master.
The enlisted rank-and-file troops of the Imperial Guard perform a large variety of combat and support roles and make up the vast bulk of the Imperial Guard’s forces. They are the grunts who ultimately get the job done for the Emperor. There are two kinds of troops in the Imperial Guard, namely the “regular” professional Guardsmen who have been raised from their homeworld and trained as part of the Imperial tithe and conscripts. Conscripts are those civilians present in an Imperial Guard warzone who get inducted into the Imperial Guard to replace losses for the duration of the conflict. Well-equipped but poorly trained, Imperial Guard conscripts are often used as reserve troops, manning static defence posts and secondary battle lines, allowing the Imperial commanders to deploy their best troops on the frontline.
The Commissariat attaches one or more Commissars to each Imperial Guard regiment in order to ensure that discipline and loyalty to the Emperor are maintained. A Commissar is a political officer and doctrinal enforcer who has no official rank within the Guard’s hierarchy, but he or she has the supreme authority to punish or execute any soldier, whatever his rank, that he judges to have failed in his duties to the God-Emperor. Should the necessity arise, a Commissar can assume command of an Imperial Guard force for the duration of a battle, but he will relinquish it at the end of the fighting to a regular officer.