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I'm looking for a word which is the antonym for a military unit being destroyed or degraded. I considered live, but that has the connotation of a single being. I considered active, but my phrasing should be useful even if the unit is, say, encamped and not currently doing anything. What would the term-of-art be here?

Reports that the military unit were scattered and destroyed turned out to be in error; rather, the unit was still ____.

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Do you mean the unit STILL EXISTS: ie "has not been disbanded by the government and is no longer in existence". For example: "the Black Watch is disbanded, it no longer exists (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Watch), whereas the Scots Guards are still in existence." Is that what you mean? OR is what you mean "At 3PM during the battle, we thought the Highland Brigade had been scattered and reduced to ineffectiveness, but in fact, they were still fighting cohesively as one unit." Which do you mean? They are totally different. Your explanation and example are at odds. – Joe Blow Feb 1 at 18:19
(news link telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/4190805/… ) – Joe Blow Feb 1 at 18:23
@JoeBlow: More in the "still exists" sense; "able to fight". – Daniel R. Collins Feb 1 at 18:48
I don't understand (sorry). Looking at my long comment there, do you mean the former or the latter. Cheers – Joe Blow Feb 1 at 20:35
Don't have time for a full answer, but "unbroken" perhaps. As an antonym to broken in the sense of scattered and without morale. – Vality Feb 2 at 3:12

12 Answers 12

up vote 71 down vote accepted

The adjective operational comes to mind which means:

Relating to active operations of the armed forces, police, or emergency services

Your example:

Reports that the military unit was scattered and destroyed turned out to be in error; rather, the unit was still (tactically) operational.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

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I was typing that! – NVZ Feb 1 at 5:29
@NVZ Sorry, I worked as a typist in the army. :-) – Rathony Feb 1 at 5:30
@Rathony - Seems like this question was tailored for you then! ;) – BiscuitBoy Feb 1 at 10:04
This overlaps with the common noun form operational readiness or simply readiness. These terms are frequently used by the Government Accounting Office. – Kevin Krumwiede Feb 2 at 0:02
Or maybe the similar "operative". – Oriol Feb 3 at 12:35

From many books I've read that cover this genre I would go with combat effective.

Combat effectiveness - the readiness of a military unit to engage in combat based on behavioral, operational, and leadership considerations. Combat effectiveness measures the ability of a military force to accomplish its objective and is one component of overall military effectiveness.

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Would "combat ready" not pertain more to this case? – SuperBiasedMan Feb 2 at 10:42
That's certainly a good answer however, I feel as if combat effective gives it more of a cold military impression. Would be interesting to know what context it will be used in. – Chris Lannister Feb 2 at 10:50
Agreed; combat effective/combat ineffective is an actual phrase used in the military to assess a given unit's ability to complete a mission/do it's job. – TylerH Feb 2 at 17:21
@SuperBiasedMan - Except combat effective is the actual military term, even though it's being used to describe a state of readiness. A field officer would report to his superiors that his unit is combat effective, or tests would be done to determine if a unit is combat effective before deploying that force. – Jimbo Jonny Feb 3 at 3:47

I think the word you're looking for is "...active."

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It's probably more appropriate for the navy, or equipment rather than entire units, but there is in commission.

in commission - in use or in condition for use

On the flip side, a still cohesive unit that has been withdrawn to regroup is out of commission; they can not be recommitted until necessary reconfiguration has been done.

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"In commission", while a valid phrase, is more about the administrative status of the unit, rather than the tactical readiness. You wouldn't describe a defeated unit as "decommissioned", for example. – Jon Story Feb 1 at 14:54
Jon - OP is indeed asking, specifically, about "administrative existence", not actual readiness, condition etc. "but my phrasing should be useful even if the unit is, say, encamped and not currently doing anything" – Joe Blow Feb 1 at 18:15
That being said, the OPs example in a quote box, completely contradicts that. oh well. – Joe Blow Feb 1 at 18:16
@JonStory - "out of commission" was mentioned in my answer. It's not synonymous with decommissioned. – stevesliva Feb 18 at 5:37
No, but either does it relate to tactical readiness, which is what this question asks for. I can see where you came from with the answer, but it has a slightly different meaning to my eyes and I think it's worth pointing out: whether the asker cares about that difference is then up to them – Jon Story Feb 18 at 10:11

"Fully Mission Capable," is the phrase that we used in the US Army to describe everything from large groups of military personnel being able to carry out a mission, the ability of a vehicle to continue combat/logistics operations, or a radio's ability to receive/transmit consistently.

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As a technical term used by the military itself, this answer seems underrated to me. – Silverfish Feb 3 at 11:43

Reports that the military unit were scattered and destroyed turned out to be in error; rather, the unit was still viable.

a : capable of working, functioning, or developing adequately (viable alternatives)
b : capable of existence and development as an independent unit (the colony is now a viable state)
c (1) : having a reasonable chance of succeeding (a viable candidate)
c (2) : financially sustainable (a viable enterprise)

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If it has not been destroyed or degraded it is intact.

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Not a single word but how about fighting fit?

The Glossary of Military Terms indicates that this phrase is used by the British and Indian Armies. And it is idiomatic too.

Reports that the military units were scattered and destroyed turned out to be in error; rather, the units were still fighting fit.

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It may be be techniczlly correct for me to say this, but "fighting fit" implies a unit near peak performance, while merely "operational" can include this and a unit that's suffered but not so much as to be out of of comission. – Chris H Feb 1 at 9:42
@ChrisH - I concur. Since Rathony had already posted "operational" as an answer, I suggested this. Naturally, "operational" has been up-voted many times and probably works best for OP's context. But I reckon there's nothing wrong for the general English enthusiasts who get to read more answers. – BiscuitBoy Feb 1 at 10:09
I thought it was something like that -- I (too-) often comment a caveat on word-choice answers that I think are good but not the best fit. – Chris H Feb 1 at 10:12

Extant emphasizes more that the soldiers were not all killed. Cohesive emphasizes more that they are not scattered. Either of these fit fine in your original sentence:



  1. in existence; still existing; not destroyed or lost


Reports that the military unit were scattered and destroyed turned out to be in error; rather, the unit was still extant.



  1. characterized by or causing the state of (cohering, uniting, or sticking together.)



Reports that the military unit were scattered and destroyed turned out to be in error; rather, the unit was still cohesive.

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Reports that the military unit were scattered and destroyed turned out to be in error; rather, the unit was still in one piece.

in one piece: not injured or damaged. Etymology: based on the idea of an object that is not broken Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms

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Actually this is probably the best answer, to describe remaining cohesive and operational. – Joe Blow Feb 1 at 18:21
In one piece would imply that there have been no casualties. A unit can still be operational and combat effective after some casualties. – DCShannon Feb 1 at 18:42

How about steady?

I'm pretty sure I've seen that as a status in wargaming rules (along with shaken, disordered, impetuous etc.)

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Please explain how it is used. Remember, you're answering for people who don't already know the answer. – Matt E. Эллен Feb 3 at 10:58

How about functional. Scattered and destroyed can not be functional and that which can not be something must be its opposite - it's antonym

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protected by Matt E. Эллен Feb 3 at 10:59

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