Unteroffizier is a military rank of the Bundeswehr and of former German-speaking armed forces (Heer and Luftwaffe), OR-5b on the NATO scale of ranks. There is no equivalent in the British Army, Royal Marines and various Commonwealth armies (it is senior to an OR-4 Corporal and junior to an OR-6 Sergeant), although the Canadian Army equivalent is OR-5 Master Corporal. The equivalent in the United States Army and United States Marine Corps is OR-5 sergeant. However, Unteroffizier is also the collective name for all non-commissioned officers.

HD H 21 Unteroffizier PzGren.svg LD B 21 Unteroffizier.svg
Heer and Luftwaffe shoulder insignia
Country Germany
Service branch German Army
 German Air Force
AbbreviationUffz (U)
RankUnteroffiziere ohne Portepee grade
NATO rank codeOR-5b
Non-NATO rankE-5
Next higher rankStabsunteroffizier
Next lower rankOberstabsgefreiter
Equivalent ranksMaat


rank insignia field- and battle dress

In German military, Unteroffizier ("subordinate officer") is both a specific military rank as well as a generic term for any non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the army and air force, while in the navy the term Deckoffizier is used. It has existed since the 17th century.[1]

Unteroffizier means a specific junior NCO rank of both the Heer and Luftwaffe. It is placed between Gefreiter and Feldwebel, roughly equivalent to a Corporal in the English-speaking world.

Until the end of German Reich, the equivalent of Unteroffizier rank in Jäger units was Oberjäger.

The term Unteroffizier continues to be used by the German Bundeswehr.

There are two classes of non-commissioned officers

Informally, the non-commissioned officers "mit Portepee" are often called "Feldwebel ranks", which creates confusion as the collective term Unteroffizier already exists.[clarification needed] The word Unteroffizier, in turn, is getting a third meaning, namely: non-commissioned officer ohne Portepee, as opposed to "Feldwebel ranks".

Unteroffizier translates as "subordinate-officer" and, when meaning the specific rank, is in modern-day usage considered the equivalent to sergeant under the NATO rank scale. Historically the Unteroffizier rank was considered a corporal[2] and thus similar in duties to a British Army corporal. In peacetime an Unteroffizier was a career soldier who trained conscripts or led squads and platoons. He could rise through the ranks to become an Unteroffizier mit Portepee, i.e. a Feldwebel, which was the highest rank a career soldier could reach. Since the German officer corps was immensely class conscious a rise through the ranks from a NCO to become an officer was hardly possible except in times of war.

The Unteroffizierskorps was made up of professional soldiers which formed the backbone of German armies. This tradition has not been changed by the Bundeswehr where all ranks of Unteroffizier and up consist only of professional soldiers who sign up for a period extending conscription.

Unteroffizier is one of the few German military ranks whose insignia has remained unchanged over the past one hundred years. The shoulder boards of a modern Unteroffizier are relatively similar to the World War I and World War II designs.

A modern-day German Bundeswehr Unteroffizier typically commands squad sized formations or acts as an assistant platoon NCO. The rank is also used in the modern-day German Air Force. In the Bundeswehr the grade of Stabsunteroffizier (a junior NCO) ranks between Unteroffizier and Feldwebel.

Preceded by
Junior rank
Oberstabsgefreiter (OR4a)

(German NCO rank)

Succeeded by
Senior rank
Stabsunteroffizier (OR5a)

Nazi GermanyEdit

There sequence of grades in Heer, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine was as follows
Rank insignia Unteroffizier Wehrmacht and equivalent grades Waffen-SS
German Army
Name Unteroffizier Maat e.g.
junior rank
(Wehrmacht ranks)
senior rank

East GermanyEdit

By the East German National People's Army (NP's A) and the Border troops the grade was introduced in 1956, comparable to NATO OR-6b. The rank insignia remained almost identically to these Wehrmacht and Reichswehr. There designation of the two classes of non-commissioned officers, i.e. "Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee" and "Unteroffiziere mit Portepee", was generally disapproved by the East German communist military leadership, and consequently uncustomary.

There sequence of grades was as follows:

Rank insignia
Branch   Landstreitkräfte   Grenztruppen   Volksmarine
Name Unteroffizier Maat
Junior rank
(NPA ranks)
Senior rank


Unteroffizier(e), also Unteroffizier corps (en: Non-commissioned officer(s)), is the collective name to all junior NCO-ranks in the modern day's Austrian Bundesheer. It comprises the ranks of the assignment group M BUO 2 (professional NCO 2; de: Berufsunteroffizier 2) with the rank Oberwachtmeister (OR6), and M ZUO 2 (time serving NCO 2; de: Zeitunteroffizier 2) with the rank Wachtmeister (OR5).

Training and education of the Unteroffizier corps was reformed in 1995 and until 2000 finally introduced to the armed forces. First effected were professional NCOs of the assignment group M BUO 1 (Stabsunteroffiziere, staff NCO's), followed by the assignment group M BUO 2 (Unteroffiziere, NCO's).

In the result of a positive entrance examination aspirants attended the NCO trainings course (new) on the Heeresunteroffiziersakademie (HUAk) in Enns. After positive HUAk-graduation regular assignments to a Unteroffizier might be squad leader (de: Gruppenkommandant), or service in a military staff or headquarters.

Rank group NCOs (de: Unteroffiziere)
Field uniform    
Jacket gorget    
Corps colour Medical service Aviator
Flat cap    
Rank Oberwachtmeister (OWm) Wachtmeister (Wm)
NATO equivalent Staff sergeant Sergeant
  rank OR-6 OR-5



  1. ^ Brockhaus, encyclopedia in 24 volumes (1796–2001), Volume 22: 3-7653-3676-9, page 634
  2. ^ Duden, Origin and meaning of "Korporal" (in German)


  • Dictionary to the German military history, 1st edition (Liz.5, P189/84, LSV:0547, B-Nr. 746 635 0), military publishing house of the GDR (VEB) – Berlin, 1985, Volume 2, page 1013.