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Targetdrone.gif This article is about the Imperial rank; for the Novel by Andy Hoare, see Commissar (Novel).
A Commissar defying the enemy[1a]

Commissars are special Imperial officers assigned to Imperial Guard regiments and Imperial Navy ships, whose purpose is to enforce discipline and devotion to the Emperor of Mankind. Independent of the conventional Imperial Guard Hierarchy, Commissars are instead attached to the Departmento Munitorum's Commissariat and are formally part of the Militarum Tempestus.[6]


Commissars are invariably stern and uncompromising individuals, able to keep even the most anarchic regiments in line through fear, strength and power. Every regiment has one or more attached Commissars who remain with the regiment throughout its duties. Commissars are assigned to regiments by the Departmento Munitorum's Commissariat department, which provides high-ranking commanders to Imperial Guard armies. They have authority over both the soldiers and regimental officers. Commissars have both the right and duty to immediately execute any Imperial guardsman or officer who shows cowardice or incompetence in battle. They must also ensure the regiment does not harbor the likes of Genestealer Cultists, Chaos heretics, spies, or mutants.[18][1a]

Personnel selected to become cadet Commissars are drawn from the Schola Progenium - Ecclesiarchy-run schools where the pupils have already received a strict Imperial Cult education. The training of Cadet Commissars lasts for an indeterminate length of time, and their advancement depends entirely upon the judgment of the full/senior Commissar responsible for their development. Training may involve deployment as part of a Commissar Training Squad[4] and/or secondment to an individual full/senior Commissar.[Needs Citation]

Cadet Commissars can advance to full Commissarial rank in numerous ways including immediate promotion following their grauation of the Schola Progenium, cross-promotion from Storm Trooper deployments or assignment to a Commisssar for further field training, where after which they can then be promoted or assigned to a further developmental role as a Junior Commissar.[1][26][26] Full Commissars can be further advanced to senior roles within the Commissariat such as Commissar-Captain[11], Lord Commissar[1a], or Commissar-General.[Needs Citation] The exact method of advancement to these positions is unclear.

A Commissar executes a Guardsman[19]

Commissars are considered outside the normal chain of command are enabled to take almost any actioned to sanction malfeasance within both troopers and higher officers, including summary execution and unit decimation. However their authority does have limits and commissars who greatly over-step their authority or commit some grave failure in duty can in turn face punishment, typically in the form of a commissarial tribunal were those found guilty may be sentenced to punishments such as drafting into a Penal Legion or execution. Other less formal forms of rebuke include reassignment to a less prestigous or dangerous posting. [9c][12b][12c][13b][13c]

Commissars known to have faced sanction include:

  • Commissar Moerck - charged with failing to carry out orders after he and his company were involved in a friendly-fire incident. Found guilty and was drafted into a penal legion along with his entire company of Storm Troopers.[27]
  • Commissar 'Hero' Green - refused an order to perform a suicidal assault on an objective he deemed pointless. Found guilty and was drafted into a penal legion.[28]
  • Commissar Simeon - suffered a mental breakdown during a artillery bombardment and attempted to execute his entire platoon for failing to salute. Found guilty and was drafted into a penal legion.[15b]
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain - charged with desertion, cowardice in the face of the enemy and misappropriation of military resources during a campaign on Adumbria. Vindicated by the tribunal.[13b][13c]
  • Commissar Tomas Beije - charged with conduct unbecoming to a commissar following an attempt to intefere with Commissar Cain in the execution of his duties. Released without punishment following testimony from Commissar Cain.[13c]
  • Commissar Pius Kowle - informally dealt with. Reassigned to Verghast PDF due to the influence of Commissar Ibram Gaunt, following an incident where he ordered two troopers to be flogged to death over minor infractions.[9c]

Commissarial Ranks

Cadet Commissars

Cadet Commissars are given the standard arms and equipment of a Guardsman, although they retain their distinctive uniforms. These uniforms differ from those of a full Commissar by featuring blue trim and a specific Cadet emblem.[Needs Citation]

Their training has no set duration and a Cadet will be graduated as soon as he is deemed worthy. Part of the training of a Cadet-Commissar emphasises learning standard infantry tactics and gaining experience in situations common to standard Imperial Guardsmen. In order to ensure this, Commissar-Generals may decide to form up the Cadets under their purview into Training Squads, nine Cadets under the command of a specially chosen full Commissar.[4]

Commissar Training Squads

Commissar Training Squads are groups of Cadet-Commissars, formed up into a fighting squad and led by a full Commissar into battle. These Cadets are then trained, under battlefield conditions, in how to live, fight and even die alongside the troops they are supposed to one day inspire and discipline. They are sent into the fiercest fighting, in which they are expected to show bravery and devotion enough to earn the respect afforded to them by standard troopers. Commissar Training Squads are highly motivated and pious fighting units and an Imperial Guard force accompanied by such a squad will consider itself destined for victory.[4]

When a Commissar decides that a Cadet has failed in his duty to become a Commissar, but has not shown cowardice or insubordination, the Cadet is relieved and may be either sent to a Stormtrooper unit or become an officer in a penal battalion. Others volunteer for service in a Rogue Trader's entourage, and others may face darker destinies.[4]

Junior Commissars

A subordinate role to a full Commissar, a junior aids his senior in overseeing the regiment or ship assigned to the full Commissar, performing adjutant and investigation duties as well as Commissarial ones. Junior Commissars do appear to undertake Commissarial supervision at a regimental (or equivalent) level, starting with smaller formations, such as an individual squad.[Needs Citation]


The standard rank of Commissar, at least one is assigned to every Imperial Guard Regiment. Their duty is to oversee the morale of the regiment, enforce discipline, and inspire the men in combat.[1a] In addition, they have the power to relieve an officer of command if they suspect that officer's judgment is impaired or otherwise flawed.[22]

Commissars are also in charge of supervising the raising of new regiments, sometimes from primitive worlds whose inhabitants are savage and do not adapt well to Imperial discipline.[1a]

Both of these roles require Commissars to lead by example, and demonstrate outstanding personal bravery on the battlefield, as an example to their men.[1a]


A rarely seen intermediate role between full Commissar and Commissar-General, the particular role of a Commissar-Captain is unclear, other than ranking above full Commissars. They have been seen to supervise at a regimental level.[11]

Lord Commissar

Higher ranked Commissars, promoted after exemplary battlefield service. Their battlefield heroics are the thing of legends for average Guardsman.[1a]


The most senior known rank in the Commissariat, Commissar-Generals are highly experienced Commissars, having the additional responsibilities of assigning Commissars under their command to officers and promoting cadets to full Commissar status.[8]


Colonel-Commissar is a very rare rank of the Imperial Guard, held usually in only extraordinary cases, and apparently referring to a Commissar who is awarded regimental command rank in the Imperial Guard itself. Though the records show the rank being held as recently as the Sabbat Worlds Crusade (Ibram Gaunt) the inherent clash between the two roles is normally seen as a threat to a regiment's discipline - Commissars maintain discipline and watch commanders, the commander leads the regiment in combat - the two roles are technically exclusive.[8][10]

PDF Commissars

A Commissar

In theory, the Commissariat has oversight authority over all branches of the Imperial military (with the obvious exceptions of the Space Marines, the Sisters of Battle, and the soldiery of the Adeptus Mechanicus), which include Planetary Defence Forces. In practice, however, only a single Commissar is assigned to the PDF of an entire planet, or even several planets in a subsector, and so plays little to no role in these forces' activities. As a result, many of these forces are ignorant that these commissars even exist. Commissars assigned to these thankless postings are usually advanced in age, or have been subject to disciplinary action[14][15a].

Some PDFs maintain their own local Commissariats. Tensions are often strained between these local units and the Imperial Commissariat, especially with issues of jurisdiction[9a], with Commissariat members even known to execute their local counterparts for overstepping their authority[5].

Notable PDF Commissariats

Commissarial Aide

Main article: Adjutant

An Astra Militarum Trooper seconded to a Commissar, to serve as an adjutant. Technically a functionary of the Commissariat while still remaining a member of the Imperial Guard.[25]

Notable Commissars

Main article: List of Commissars

See Also



Imperial Guard Infantry
Command Company Command SquadPlatoon Command SquadScion Command SquadTank CommanderRegimental AdvisorsCommissarPrimaris PsykerTech-priest EnginseerPriest
Specialists Master of OrdnanceBreacherScoutMedicVox-OperatorWeapons SpecialistSharpshooterOperator
Troops Infantry SquadHeavy Weapons SquadSpecial Weapons SquadArmoured Fist SquadVeteran SquadScions SquadCanidsPenal Legion TroopersOgryn SquadRatling SquadPsyker Battle SquadRough Rider SquadField Ordnance BatteryJump TrooperH-Grade Combat Servitor

Tempestus Scion Forces
Command CommissarMilitarum Tempestus Command Squad
Troops Tempestus Scions
Vehicles Taurox PrimeValkyrie