Oberst (German pronunciation: [ˈoːbɐst] ) is a senior field officer rank in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, equivalent to Colonel.[1] It is currently used by both the ground and air forces of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway. The Swedish rank överste is a direct translation, as are the Finnish rank eversti and the Icelandic rank ofursti.

History and origins edit

Oberst is a German word. Spelled with a capital O, "Oberst" is a noun and defines the military rank of colonel or group captain. Spelled with a lower case o, or "oberst", it is an adjective, meaning "superior, top, topmost, uppermost, highest, chief, head, first, principal, or supreme". Both usages derive from the superlative of ober(e), "the upper" or "the uppermost".[citation needed]

As a family name, Oberst is common in the southwest of Germany, in the area known as the Black Forest (Schwarzwald). The name is also concentrated in the north-central cantons of Switzerland (Aargau & Zürich). Here the Swiss version of Oberst is spelled Obrist. The name first appeared in the thirteenth century in the German-Swiss border area, and early forms were Zoberist and Oberist. The name most likely refers to the "tribe that lives the highest on the mountain" or "the family that lives the highest in the village".[citation needed]

Translated as "superior" or "supreme", the rank of Oberst can trace its origins to the Middle Ages where the term most likely described the senior knight on a battlefield or the senior captain in a regiment. With the emergence of professional armies in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an Oberst became the commander of regiment or battalion-sized formations.[citation needed]

By the eighteenth century, Obersten were typically afforded aides or lieutenants, often titled Oberstleutnant. This led to formation of the modern German rank of the same name, translated as lieutenant colonel.[citation needed]

Austria edit

Oberst is the fifth highest rank in the Austrian Armed Forces.

Denmark edit

Army and air force insignia
Country  Denmark
Service branch
Rank groupSenior officer
NATO rank codeOF-5
Pay gradeM402
Next higher rankBrigadegeneral
Next lower rankOberstløjtnant
Equivalent ranksKommandør

The Danish rank of oberst is based around the German term.[2] Ranked OF-5 within NATO and having the paygrade of M402,[3] it is used in the Royal Danish Army and the Royal Danish Air Force.

The rank can be traced back to at least 1563, when Count Günther of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt was named feltøverste (transl. Field colonel) of the Danish troops during the First Northern War.[4] By 1586, Steen Maltesen Sehested [da] was named Rigets oberst (transl. Colonel of the kingdom).[5]

On 25 May 1671, the ranks were codified, by King Christian V, with the publication of the Danish order of precedence. Here there were two types of obersts. The colonel of the Life Guards placed below major general, and above colonels of the infantry and cavalry, which in turn was placed above the rank lieutenant colonel of the Life Guards.[6]

As part of the Army Reform of 1867, the ranks of Major, Lieutenant colonel were removed, making oberst the only senior officer.[7]

Germany edit

Country  Germany
Service branch  German Army
  German Air Force
Rank groupCommissioned officer
NATO rank codeOF-5
Pay gradeA16 or B3
Formation1956 (current)
Next higher rankBrigadegeneral
Next lower rankOberstleutnant
Equivalent ranksKapitän zur See

Oberst (short: O) is the highest staff officer rank in the German Army (Heer) and the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).

Oberst in the Bundeswehr edit

The rank is rated OF-5 in NATO, and is grade A16 or B3 in the pay rules of the Federal Ministry of Defence. It is equivalent to:

On the shoulder straps (Heer, Luftwaffe) there are three silver pips (stars) in silver oak leaves.

Heer Luftwaffe

Oberst in East Germany edit

Oberst was in the so-called armed organs of the GDR (German: Bewaffnete Organe der DDR), represented by Ministry of National Defence, and Ministry for State Security, the highest field officer rank, comparable to the colonel in many NATO-Armed forces (Rangcode OF-5). This was in reference to Soviet military doctrine and in line with other armed forces of the Warsaw Pact.

Branch Stasi Land forces Air Force Border troops Volksmarine
Kapitän zur See
junior rank
National People's Army rank
(Kapitän zur See)
senior rank

Oberst in the Wehrmacht edit

Oberst was in the German Reich and Nazi Germany the highest field officer rank, comparable to the OF-5 rank in many NATO-Armed forces. It was equivalent to Kapitän zur See in the Kriegsmarine, and SS-Standartenführer in the Waffen-SS until 1945.

Branch German Army Luftwaffe Waffen-SS Kriegsmarine
Collar       None
der Waffen-SS
Kapitän zur See
junior rank:

(German officer rank)
(Kapitän zur See)

senior rank:

Norway edit

The rank of oberst was introduced around the same time as Denmark, as Norway at the time was part of Denmark–Norway.[8]

Sweden edit

The Swedish variant överste, is the most senior field grade military officer rank in the Swedish Army and the Swedish Air Force, immediately above the rank of lieutenant colonel and just below the rank of brigadier general. It is equivalent to the naval rank of captain in the Swedish Navy.[9]

Switzerland edit

Swiss and Swiss guard insignia
Country   Switzerland
Service branchSwiss Armed Forces (SAF)
Swiss Guard (SG)
Rank groupSenior officer
Next higher rankBrigadier (SAF)
Next lower rankOberstleutnant (SAF & SG)

In the Swiss Army, the Oberst ranks above the lieutenant colonel ("Oberstleutnant") and below the brigadier general ("Brigadier"). In peacetime, it is the fourth highest officer rank.

The Oberst is the commander of a Kommando (Gren Kdo, Flpl Kdo), the army engineer staff, or an antiaircraft  (Flab) cluster. These formations are comparable to regiments. As a staff officer, the Oberst performs various specialized functions in the staffs of the Army, Air Force, and territorial regions. In the brigades, the Oberst (in the general staff - "Oberst i Gst") performs the role of deputy commander and/or chief of staff. In the military justice system, the presidents of the military courts hold the rank of Oberst.

References edit

  1. ^ STANAG 2116, pp. A-2, A-5, C-2, C-5.
  2. ^ Danske Soldater 1935, p. 3.
  3. ^ Ministry of Defence 2017.
  4. ^ Madsen 1904, p. 217.
  5. ^ Madsen 1904, p. 215.
  6. ^ danmarkshistorien.dk 2017.
  7. ^ Klint 1965, p. 8.
  8. ^ Petersen 2014, p. 493.
  9. ^ "Förordning om ändring i officersförordningen (1994:882)" (PDF) (in Swedish). Swedish Code of Statutes. 26 June 2000. p. 2. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  • danmarkshistorien.dk (17 May 2017). "Rangforordningen, 25. maj 1671" (in Danish). danmarkshistorien.dk. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  • "Grads-Betegnelserne i Hæren". Danske Soldater (in Danish). 2 (2). 12 February 1935.
  • Klint, Helge (1965). "Træk af Hærstabens historie". Hærkommandoens Årsskrift (in Danish). Nyt Nordisk Forlag: 5–11.
  • Madsen, Emil (1904). "De nationale Tropper, samt Hærvæsenets Styrelse i det 16. Aarhundrede" [The National Troops, as well as the Administration of the Army in the 16th Century] (PDF). Historisk Tidsskrift (in Danish). 5 (7): 199–200. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  • Military Committee Land Standardization Board (13 January 2021). STANAG 2116 (7th ed.). NATO Standardization Agency.
  • Ministry of Defence (9 January 2017). "Historik". forpers.dk (in Danish). Forsvarsministeriets Personalestyrelse. Archived from the original on 22 February 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  • Petersen, Karsten Skjold (2014). Kongens klæder - Hærens uniformer og udrustning i Danmark-Norge (in Danish) (1st ed.). Slovenia: Historika. ISBN 9788793229006.