Commandant (/ˌkɒmənˈdɑːnt/ or /ˌkɒmənˈdænt/) is a title often given to the officer in charge of a military (or other uniformed service) training establishment or academy. This usage is common in English-speaking nations. In some countries it may be a military or police rank. It is also often used to refer to the commander of a military prison or prison camp (including concentration camps and prisoner of war camps).


In Bangladesh Armed Forces commandant is not any rank. It is an appointment. The commandant serves as the head of any military training institutes or unit.


Commandant is the normal Canadian French-language term for the commanding officer of a mid-sized unit, such as a regiment or battalion, within the Canadian Forces. In smaller units, the commander is usually known in French as the officier commandant.

Conversely, in Canadian English, the word commandant is used exclusively for the commanding officers of military units that provide oversight and/or services to a resident population (such as a military school or college, a long-term health care facility or a detention facility.


In the French Army and French Air Force, the term commandant is used as a rank equivalent to major (NATO rank code OF-3). However, in the French Navy commandant is the style, but not the rank, of the senior officers, specifically capitaine de corvette, capitaine de frégate and capitaine de vaisseau.


Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) - Ministry of Home Affairs.

In the Central Armed Police Forces (BSF, CRPF, CISF, ITBP, SSB), 'Commandant' is a rank. It is equivalent to the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police or Colonel of Army. Commandant rank officers generally command battalions in CAPFs.

Armed Forces - Ministry of Defence.

In the Indian Armed Forces, 'Commandant' is not a rank but an appointment. Commandant is the title of the heads of the Training establishments. Examples include:

  • Commandant of the National Defence Academy
  • Commandant of the Indian Military Academy
  • Commandant of the National Defence College
  • Commandant of Indian Naval Academy
  • Commandant of the Armed Forces Medical College

In the Indian Army, the Commanding Officer of an armoured regiment or a Mechanized infantry regiment (Mechanised Infantry Regiment, Brigade of The Guards) is known as the Commandant.

Commandant is also a rank in the Indian Coast Guard


Commandant Patrick Denis O'Donnell, Irish Army, 1979.

In the Irish Army, commandant (Comdt; Irish: ceannfort) is the equivalent of major in other armies. Irish Army commandants can sometimes be referred to as major if serving overseas under the umbrella of the United Nations or the European Union to alleviate misunderstanding.


Kenya Defence Forces

In the Kenya Defence Forces Commandant is an appointment. Commandant is the title of the head of the training institutions . Examples include:

  • Commandant of the Recruits Training School
  • Commandant of the Kenya Military Academy
  • Commandant of the National Defence College
  • Commandant of the Defence Staff College
  • Commandant of School of Infantry

National Police Service

In the National Police Service , the title of Commandant is reserved for commanders of large training institutions or commanders of large independent units. As with the Army, the post of a commander of a medium size unit is referred to as the Commanding Officer (CO) while the smallest is Officer Commanding (OC).


  • Commandant of the General Service Unit (GSU)
  • Commandant National Police College Embakasi A Campus
  • Commandant Rapid Deployment
  • Commandant Kenya Airports Police Unit


In the Philippines, a Commandant is an appointment and not a rank but once selected, the appointee is promoted to the highest rank on the service. Commandants are appointed by the President of the Philippines either after the incumbent retires or as a replacement after dismissal.

There are currently two Commandant appointments that exist in the Philippines namely:

The Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps will be promoted to the rank of Major General (Two-star Rank) once appointed while the Commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard will be promoted to the rank of an Admiral (Four-star Rank).

South Africa

South African army commandant insignia

In South Africa, Commandant was the title of the commanding officer of a commando (militia) unit in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

During the First World War, Commandant was used as a title by officers commanding Defence Rifle Association units, also known as Burgher commandoes. The commandoes were militia units raised in emergencies and constituted the third line of defence after the Permanent Force and the part-time Active Citizen Force regiments. The commandant rank was equivalent to major[1][2] or lieutenant-colonel, depending on the size of the commando.

From 1950 to 1994 commandant (rank) was the rank equivalent of lieutenant colonel.[3] and commander of a battalion. The rank was used by both the Army and the Air Force. The naval equivalent was commander [kommandeur in Afrikaans].[4] The rank was not used by the South African Police, who continued with lieutenant colonel [luitenant-kolonel].

The rank insignia for a Commandant (Kommandant in Afrikaans) was initially a crown over a five-pointed star.[5]:113–128[1] In 1957 the crown was replaced by a pentagonal castle device [6] based on the floor plan of the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, South Africa's oldest military building. In 1994, the rank of Commandant / Kommandant reverted to lieutenant colonel.[7]:4

From 1968 to 1970, a related rank, Chief Commandant, existed in the commando forces (the part-time, territorial reserve, roughly equivalent to a National Guard or Home Guard).[8]

Recently, use of the term has followed the standard practice, i.e. the commanding officer of a training institute.

New Zealand

In the New Zealand Defence Force, the term commandant is used for the senior officer (or commander) of garrisoned units that do not deploy and are not operational. This typically includes learning institutes such as the New Zealand Defence College, the New Zealand Cadet Force, and (formerly) the Command and Staff College. The title could also be used for other non-deploying units such as the Services Corrective Establishment in Burnham, or depot-level engineering units.

The equivalent term for operational units is 'commander', such as commander of the Joint Force Headquarters New Zealand.

Under the 2010 creation of the Training and Education Directorate, an additional position of commandant was established for the Training Institute to complement the commandant of the Defence College.


In the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC), the position of Commandant is given to a Singapore Police Force officer who heads NPCC. The Commandant is aided by his Assistant Commandants, who are NPCC officers. As NPCC units around Singapore are divided into 20 "areas", each area is headed by an Area Commandant who is an NPCC officer. This Area Commandant is also usually an Officer from one of the units in the area that he/she is taking charge of.[9]

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the Commandant of the Volunteer Force is the head of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force. Commandant is also the title used for the commanding officer (one-star rank) of military academies - Sri Lanka Military Academy, Naval and Maritime Academy and Air Force Academy - and the commanding officer (two-star rank) of the Defence Services Command and Staff College. It is also the title of the de facto vice-chancellor of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, usually an officer of two-star rank.

Colonel-commandant is an honorary post in corps of the army and the Sri Lanka National Guard, similar to that of Colonel of the Regiment found in infantry regiments. The post of centre commandant is the commanding officer of a corps or regiment. Commandant is the head of the Special Task Force of the Sri Lanka Police.

United Kingdom

In the British Armed Forces, a commandant is usually the commanding officer of a training establishment, such as the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst or the Royal Air Force College Cranwell. In early 19th century England, the term commandant was used interchangeably with commandment - i.e., a person could act as a Commandment of the Justices - an officer-in-charge.[10]

Colonel-commandant was an appointment which existed in the British Army between 1922 and 1928, and in the Royal Marines from 1755 to some time after World War II. It replaced brigadier-general in the army, and was itself replaced by brigadier in both the army and the Marines. The colonel-commandant is also the ceremonial head of some Army corps and this position is usually held by a senior general.

Commandant was also the appointment, equivalent to commodore, held by the director of the Women's Royal Naval Service between 1951 and 1993.

The most senior rank at Army Foundation College (AFC Harrogate) is the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. As he's the most senior officer in charge, he's the Commandant of the entire college.

In the Army Cadet Force, a Colonel is customarily the most senior commissioned officer in charge of an ACF County (of which contains four companies). This rank is thus known as the Commandant and their second-in-command (2IC) is the Deputy Commandant, who has the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Similarly, the commissioned officer in charge of a detachment (e.g. platoon, troop, aka. "unit") is that detachment's Commanding Officer (CO), and/whereas the officer commanding a company is the Officer-Commanding (OC)

In the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, the officer in charge of the organisation is given the title Commandant Air Cadets and will hold the position for two years.

Formerly, commandant was the usual title for the head of the Special Constabulary within a police force. In some forces the title was Chief Commandant, with subordinate divisional or sub-divisional commandants. The standard title for this position is now "chief officer".

United States

In the United States, "commandant" is an appointment, not a rank, and the following three appointments currently exist:

Formerly, admirals were appointed as commandants of naval districts.

The commandant is the second most senior officer (after the superintendent) of United States Service academies, such as West Point, United States Naval Academy, and the United States Air Force Academy, equivalent to the Dean of Students at a civilian college. Commandant is also the title of the commanding officer of many units of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, including the non-commissioned officer academies, whose commandants are typically command sergeants major.

Commandant is also the title of the ranking officer in charge of each War college of the United States military, and is responsible for the administration, academic progress and success of the civilians and military officers assigned to the college. The commandant is a model for all personnel, a military academy graduate of impeccable character and bearing who has demonstrated accomplishment in both academic excellence and active military service in the field. They include the Naval War College, the USAF Air War College, the Army War College, the Marine Corps War College and the National War College.[11]

Commandant is the duty title for the commanding officer of the US Air Force Test Pilot School.

Commandant is also the duty title of the senior enlisted leader of a Professional Military Education (PME) academy, such as the Airman Leadership School, Non-Commissioned Officer Academy, and Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy.

The title may also be used for the commander of a unit headquarters, who is usually responsible for administrative matters such as billeting and is called the headquarters commandant; this may also be a duty assigned to a staff officer in large headquarters.

See also

  • Commandant general, in Fascist Italy, was the head of the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (National Security Volunteer Militia or "Blackshirts"), a position held by Benito Mussolini.
  • Commandant's Service, a military police type force in some militaries.


  1. Radburn, A. (1990). "South African Army Ranks and Insignia". Militaria, South African Journal of Military Studies. 20 (2).
  2. Naamlys, Lindley Kommando, Military Archives, Pretoria
  3. Government Notice 2092 (25 Aug 1950)
  4. Rank Chart, Paratus, 1974
  5. Jooste, L. (1996). "Die politieke koerswending van 1948 besorg 'n nuwe identiteit aan die Unieverdedigingsma". Militaria (in Afrikaans). 26 (2).
  6. Radburn, A, South African Army Ranks and Insignia, In: Militaria, South African Journal of Military Studies, Vol 20, Nr 2, 1990
  7. "Commandant". Salut. 1 (1). May 1994.
  8. Retief, J.J. (December 1997). "Die rang van hoofkommandant in die Suid-Afrikaanse Weermag". Military History Journal (in Afrikaans). 10 (6).
  9. "National Police Cadet Corps". Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  10. Rees, A. (1819). The Cyclopaedia; Or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences ... p. 16. Retrieved 7 October 2021. a Legal Sense, has various...a Commandment of the Justices,...or, when on their own authority...
  11. "Academic Policies and Procedures". US Army War College. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2010-03-13.
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