- "A good soldier obeys without question. A good officer commands without doubt."
- — Tactica Imperialis
A Sergeant is a noncommissioned officer (NCO) rank within the Astra Militarum. They are the assigned leaders of individual squads and conduct much of the day-to-day training and operations within any platoon of an Imperial Guard regiment. Those few battle-hardened Sergeants who have proved their fidelity, loyalty and valour are promoted to the seasoned rank of Veteran Sergeant. These combat veterans often find themselves in a leadership role, mentoring less-experienced troops and junior officers. They lead by example, inspiring courage and awe on the field of battle, instilling their wisdom and battle-field experience upon their subordinates -- and often their superiors as well. Veteran Sergeants often have access to non-standard gear as well as a variety of items, such as peaked caps and refractor field gorgets, normally reserved only for officers.
- "Impact in ten... nine... eight... Holt pull it together, six... five... get those weapons ready you maggots, three... two... [VOX LOG DISTORT]. Out, out out! Go, you pukes, go! That's the target, that one there. You want to end up as one of those corpses, Feldspar? Stop gawking and move Move MOVE! Holt, krak missiles, not frag, you fumbling oaf! Today would be good... Throne dammit, take it down!"
- — Sergeant Stig "Bull" Krieger, Cadian XIV Orbital Assault, the Battle of Parched Earth
Sergeants are typically well-respected, non-commissioned officers, who fill a number of leadership roles within the Imperial Guard. The strong backbone of the Imperial Guard, Sergeants are in charge of the individual squads, and much of the day-to-day operation of units falls on their capable shoulders. Along with their leadership roles, Sergeants are tasked with the training and general education of their subordinates. They are expected to take new conscripts and turn them from inexperienced civilians into battle-ready and professional Guardsmen, typically in a stunningly short amount of time. The institutional memory of the Imperial Guard also lies largely with its Sergeants and their colleagues among the non-commissioned officers. These senior enlisted men and women typically have years of hard-earned combat and leadership experience, and tend to have a better grasp of tactics and the necessities of competent command under fire than many of their superior officers, especially those who have never served in actual combat. It is a wise officer who places his trust in his Sergeants, especially when new to a unit, as the Sergeants typically have the trust and respect of the men under them already, and, in some regiments, their support, or lack thereof, can make or break an officer.
Due to their role as both leaders and instructors, Sergeants in the Imperial Guard are expected to lead from the front, driving their men to feats of valour and glory, and setting a strong example for junior enlisted men and officers alike. A good Sergeant can keep a squad together even under the most dire of circumstances, using his command skills, natural gravitas, and the earned trust of his men to quell fear and rally shaken Guardsmen under their command. This is not to suggest, however, that all Sergeants in the Imperial Guard are highly-respected father figures and competent leaders, who have the best interests of their men foremost in mind. In an organisation as vast and far-ranging as the Imperial Guard, the opposite may be the case. Tyrannical, corrupt, and incompetent Sergeants litter the noncommissioned officers' corps. Many find that the power they wield goes to their head, and they take to brutalising their subordinates. Others find themselves in over their heads, and their fear and inability make them capricious and dangerous. Many incompetent or brutal Sergeants have met their end at the hands of their subordinates, victims of "accidents" or "friendly fire incidents" (also known as "fragging") on the battlefield. In general, however, Sergeants are a blessing to a squad. Their experience and knowledge is priceless, and surely, without the Sergeants, the Imperial Guard would suffer greatly.
The Sergeant rank insignia is indicated Imperium-wide as three chevrons, with little to no variation. In most cases this is sewn or pinned on the uniform. However, in more brutal environments (such as on Catachan, where most of the issued gear that would reflect rank has been sold for alcohol or cigars) it is more common to see the rank tattooed or even branded onto the individual's arm. On service and dress unifoms, senior Sergeants have varied ways of discerning one from another. Sergeant Majors will usually have a star underneath their chevrons, whereas a Sergeant assigned to Tactica Control will have a skull and wreaths in the same location. A Master of Ordnance will have his own unique insignia as well (a bursting bomb), but tends not to wear it on the surface of planets -- this is because the Master of Ordinance is the primary, if not the only, line of communication with the Imperial Navy and exposing his rank makes him a priority target for snipers; the same philosophy is also applied to many high-ranking officers, and is also why all Sergeants, even senior ones, are not referred to by their full rank in the field and simply called "Sergeant."
Tiers of Sergeants
The Tactica Imperium only dictates the existence of the ranks of Sergeant and Veteran Sergeant (following the practices of the Adeptus Astartes), but as the need for experience and advisement from the non-commissioned corps is required higher and higher into the Guard's structure, Governor-Militants have universally adopted the practice of expanding the Sergeant rank into multiple other ranks in order to discern one from another:
- Sergeant - Sergeants are often placed in charge of a squad of Imperial Guardsmen at the lowest tactical level (platoon).
- Staff Sergeant - A Staff Sergeant is the senior Sergeant in a platoon. They can also be assigned to the platoon's Command Squad or to an Infantry Squad. Also known as a "Platoon Sergeant."
- Gunnery Sergeant - Above platoon level, most Gunnery Sergeants find themselves in charge of munitions and weapons for a company, and are usually assigned positions in company command elements, in charge of a squad deemed critical by the company commander, or as the senior enlisted man in heavy support detachments.
- Master Sergeant - Master Sergeants tend to forego the opportunity to become liaisons and advisors to their commanders and instead focus on one specific duty, such as logistics and supplies to the frontline, commanding a Leman Russ or Chimera armoured transport vehicle, or being in charge of communications at the company level.
- First Sergeant - Unlike a Master Sergeant, First Sergeants become liaisons and advisors to their company commander, and use their battlefield experience to recommend tactics and strategies to their commanding officer.
- Master Gunnery Sergeant (Master of Ordnance) - A Master Gunnery Sergeant is usually assigned to oversee all logistics, transport, and supply operations of a full regiment or even higher levels of tactical organisation. In combat, Master Gunnery Sergeants are usually assigned to command Leman Russ pattern tanks, or even on the rare occasion a Baneblade super heavy tank. Senior Master Gunnery Sergeants will undergo Imperial Naval training as a Communications Officer, and using their knowledge of communications will be assigned to a Command Squad at the regimental level or higher as a Master of Ordnance who is responisble for calling in all of his regiment's air support from the Imperial Navy.
- Sergeant Major - Following the path of a First Sergeant, the Sergeant Major is the senior enlisted advisor and liaison to a regimental commanding officer or to an even higher-ranked Imperial Guard officer, and is the senior enlisted man for his entire regiment. When more than one regiment is involved in a campaign, the senior officer, usually a Governor-Militant, will appoint one of the available Sergeants Major to the title of Command Sergeant Major, indicating that he is the most senior of the Sergeants Major within all of the Imperial forces assigned to that theatre for the duration of the campaign. There have been rumors of appointing one sole Sergeant Major to a new rank called "Sergeant Major of the Imperial Guard" to act as the Lord and Commander of the Imperial Guard's personal liaison and advisor to the ranks, but the selection list would be astronomically long and to this date such a rank does not yet exist.
- Colour Sergeant - While more of an appointment than an actual rank, the title of Colour Sergeant is often bestowed upon Veteran and senior Sergeants and Sergeants Major as a reward for years of loyal service in the Imperial Guard. With the reward comes the responsibility of guarding the ensign or "colours" of the Colour Sergeant's parent regiment. These sacred flags are carried into battle, and are a key source of the average Guardsman's morale and pride in their regiment. The colours carry each regiments battle honours and are the embodiment of a regiment's soul. The loss of colours is not only considered to be bad luck for the regiment, but also a source of great shame, dishonour and an affront to the God-Emperor of Mankind. Even dropping or allowing the colours to fall in battle is seen as a disgraceful act, so much so that Guardsmen are known to willingly lay down their lives in droves so that the colours never touch the ground in the heat of battle. So important are the colours to each individual Guardsman and the regiment as a whole, only Sergeants with the fiercest fighting reputations and unwavering loyalty to the Emperor are given the appointment of Colour Sergeant.
- Sergeant Dryak - Sergeant Dryak is a hardened veteran of the Catachan 233rd Regiment and a long serving member of the 14th Recon Company.
- Sergeant Major Jarran Kell (8th Cadian Colour Sergeant) - Jarran Kell was long the best friend and chief aide of Lord Castellan Ursarkar E. Creed. He was slain by Abaddon the Despoiler while getting Creed to safety aboard a Valkyrie transport on Cadia during the 13th Black Crusade before that world's fall to Chaos.
- Sergeant Major Merrick - Merrick was the Command Sergeant Major of the Imperial Guardsmen involved in the Sub-sector Aurelia Exterminatus campaign during the Third Aurelian Crusade.
- Gunnery Sergeant "Stonetooth" Harker (Catachan Jungle Fighters, "Catachan Devils" Regiment) - A famous (infamous) NCO of the Catachan Jungle Fighters Imperial Guard regiments.
- Staff Sergeant Lukas Bastonne (Cadian Shock Troops) - Lukas Bastonne was one of the most recognised faces on Cadia, as his image was the public trademark of the Cadian regiments, used for propaganda purposes for the Astra Militarum across the galaxy. His heroism and great bravery earned him enough of a reputation that he was instantly recognizable by his superiors, colleagues, and almost the entire population of Cadia. Bastonne's passion for his soldierly duty was second to none, which many whispered bordered on fanaticism.
- Sergeant Poul Marlin (10th Slavok Regiment) - Poul Marlin was considered the toughest NCO in the 10th Slavok Regiment.
|Astra Militarum Hierarchy|
|General Officers||Lord Commander Militant • Warmaster (Lord Solar) • Lord Commander • Lord General Militant • Lord General • General|
|Officers||Colonel • Major • Captain • Lieutenant|
|Non-Commissioned Officers and Enlisted||Sergeant • Corporal • Trooper (Guardsman)|
|Specialists||Inquisitor • Commissar • Priest • Tech-Priest • Enginseer • Sanctioned Psyker • Primaris Psyker • Wyrdvane Psyker|
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pp. 59, 62
- Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), pg. 16
- Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer (Supplement), pg. 31
- Imperial Munitorum Manual (Supplement), pg. 18
- Lone Wolves (Graphic Novel) by Dan Abnett and Karl Richardson
- Only War: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 82
- Only War: Eleventh Hour (RPG), pg. 20