The commanding officer (CO) is the officer in command of a military unit. Typically, the commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as he sees fit, within the bounds of military law. In this respect, commanding officers have significant responsibilities (for example, the use of force, finances, equipment, the Geneva Conventions), duties (to higher authority, mission effectiveness, duty of care to personnel) and powers (for example, discipline and punishment of personnel within certain limits of military law).
In some countries, commanding officers may be of any commissioned rank; usually there are more officers than command positions available, and time spent in command is generally a key aspect of promotion, so the role of commanding officer is highly valued, and in theory only goes to the best officers. The commanding officer is often assisted by an executive officer (XO) or second-in-command (2i/c), who handles personnel and day-to-day matters and a senior enlisted advisor. Larger units may also have staff officers of various responsibilities.
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Famous quotes containing the words commanding and/or officer:
“It has never occurred to me to wish for empire or royalty, nor for the eminence of those high and commanding fortunes. My aim lies not in that direction; I love myself too well.”
—Michel de Montaigne (15331592)
“When Prince William [later King William IV] was at Cork in 1787, an old officer ... dined with him, and happened to say he had been forty years in the service. The Prince with a sneer asked what he had learnt in those forty years. The old gentleman justly offended, said, Sir, I have learnt, when I am no longer fit to fight, to make as good a retreat as I can and walked out of the room.”
—Horace Walpole (17171797)