It is equivalent to the naval rank of captain in the other uniformed services. The pay grade for colonel is O-6, the insignia of the rank of colonel, as seen on the right, is worn on the officers left side. The insignia for a colonel is an eagle which is a stylized representation of the eagle dominating the Great Seal of the United States. As on the Great Seal, the eagle has a U. S. shield superimposed on its chest and is holding an olive branch, however, in simplification of the Great Seal image, the insignia lacks the scroll in the eagles mouth and the rosette above its head. On the Great Seal, the branch is always clutched in the eagles right-side talons. The head of the eagle faces towards the branch, rather than the arrows. As a result, the head of the eagle faces towards the viewers left. During World War II the military insignia for the rank of Colonel changed somewhat with the eagle facing the arrows and this was done only during war years. These special war eagles, although rare, can sometimes be found in surplus or memorabilia sales. In the United States Army and United States Air Force, the eagle is worn with the head of the eagle to the wearers right. In the United States Marine Corps, United States Navy, United States Coast Guard and NOAA, the United States rank of colonel is a direct successor to the same rank in the British Army. The first colonels in America were appointed from Colonial militias maintained as reserves to the British Army in the American colonies, upon the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, colonial legislatures would grant commissions to men to raise a regiment and serve as its colonels. Thus, the first American colonels were usually respected men with ties in local communities, such was the origin of the phrase soldier and statesman. With the post-war reduction of the US Army, the rank of colonel disappeared, the first insignia for the rank of colonel consisted of gold epaulettes worn on the blue uniform of the Continental Army. The first recorded use of the insignia was in 1805 as this insignia was made official in uniform regulations by 1810. The rank of colonel was relatively rare in the early 19th century, partly because the U. S. Army was very small, and the rank was usually obtained only after long years of service. During the War of 1812 the Army grew rapidly and many colonels were appointed, a number of other colonels were appointed by brevet - an honorary promotion usually for distinguished service in combat. The American Civil War saw an influx of colonels as the rank was commonly held in both the Confederate army and Union Army by those who commanded a regiment
William Few in the uniform of a Continental Army colonel
A shoulder strap from an infantry colonel in the Union Army
A U.S. Marine colonel (center) during the Vietnam War.