Sergeant Major (as well as being a rank in the army) is a three player card game. It requires a standard 52 card pack, and the rules are very simple.

Dealing : One person is chosen as dealer for the first hand (drawing the highest card is a good way to decide). He deals the cards out, starting with the player to his left and going round clockwise. Whenever he wants he can stop dealing, place one card to the side, and then continue where he left off. He must do this four times. When he has finished dealing, each player will have 16 cards, and there will be 4 cards on the side, called the box. Each player picks up his hand and arranges it by suit. The dealer then chooses trumps, generally his longest and strongest suit. He then picks up the box, places the cards in his hand, and discards 4 cards of his choice. Then the game begins.

The Play : The person to the left of the dealer leads, and the play goes clockwise. The rules are the same as any whist game – you must follow suit if you can; the person who plays highest (or trumps) wins the trick; whoever wins the trick leads for the next trick. The play continues like this until all 16 tricks have been played. Then each player counts up his tricks. The dealer is trying to make 8 tricks, the player on his left is trying to make 5, the player on his right is trying to make 3 tricks. Each player works out how far over or down he has gone. E.g. if the dealer makes 10 tricks, 5-position makes 2 tricks and 3-position makes 4-tricks, The dealer is 2 tricks up, 5-position is 2 down, and 3-position is 1 up.

The Next Hand : The dealer now moves round, so that the person to the left becomes dealer. The pack is shuffled and dealt in the same way. Before the dealer chooses trumps or picks up the box, cards are exchanged depending on how well people did in the last hand. If you went over, you choose however many cards you went over to give to whoever went down. They must give you their highest card(s) in whichever suit(s) you give them. If both other players went down, you give the respective number of cards to both of them. If two people went over, the person who is going for the higher contract gives cards, and gets the high cards before the other player. Once all this has been settled, the dealer chooses trumps, picks up and discards the box, and the play begins as before.

Winning : After each hand the same settling up process takes – whoever goes over gets high cards off whoever goes down. Clearly if you go over one round, you are more likely to go over the next, but this varies a lot, and you can easily go from being over to going down. The game ends when a player, in any position, goes 6 tricks over.

Tactics : There is clearly not as much skill in this game as in bridge – you cannot finesse easily, and the outcome of the play on any hand can not vary much. But it does have its tactics, particularly in deciding what to put in the box (generally it is a good idea to try and void your weakest suit), and what cards to give other players when you have gone over (often either a card from a weak suit, or what you think will be trumps). But even though it requires less thought than bridge it is just as enjoyable to play.

Sergeant Major, military rank:

United States

A Sergeant Major (abbreviated SGM or SgtMaj) in the United States Marine Corps and Army is the most senior enlisted person in the service, holding a pay grade of E-9. They serve as the chief administrative assistant of a headquarters unit of the Marine Corps or Army.

Most Sergeants Major in the Army are trained at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy (or, abbreviated, the USASMA), which is part of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES). The USAMSA, located in Fort Bliss, Texas, is designed to develop common leader training for all Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Courses, covering leadership, communications, training management, professional skills, and military studies.

The shoulder insignia of a Sergeant Major in either the Marine Corps or Army are quite similar. In the Marine Corps, three green upward-facing chevrons cap four green upward-facing shallow arches. A green star is centered in the area created by the arches and chevrons. This is mounted on a red background. In the Army, three yellow upward-facing arches are topped by three yellow upward-facing chevrons with a yellow five-pointed star in the center. This is mounted on an olive green background.

The rank of Sergeant Major is comparable to a Master Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy or a Chief Master Sergeant or First Sergeant of the United States Air Force.

Great Britain

In the British Army, Sergeant Major describes two special titles: Company Sergeant Major (CSM) and Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM). These titles are given to the most senior Warrant Officers Class 2 (for CSM) or Warrant Officers Class 1 (for RSM) when they take a leadership position in a company or regiment rather than signifying a separate rank.

As the most senior enlisted person, Sergeants Major have an unusual amount of authority in the British Army. They are in responsible for the training and discipline of all enlisteds and NCOs in their regiment/company and report directly to the second-in-command.

Unlike their American counterparts, however, Sergeants Major in the British Army are considered warrant officers instead of noncommissioned officers, so their pay grades are WO1 (for a RSM) and WO2 (for a CSM). They are addressed as "sir" by their subordinates but are not entitled to a salute.

Company and Regimental Sergeant Majors do have insignia unique from that of warrant officers. A Company Sergeant Major is entitled to wear a crown badge at the bottom of their sleeve while Regimental Sergeant Majors wear a Royal Coat of Arms at the bottom of the sleeve.

Other Countries

The Australian and New Zealand armies have the same system for sergeant majors as the British.

Further information on sergeants major in other countries' armed forces will be added as I find it.


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