U.S. Armed Forces Overview

Five Armed Forces Emblems

What is the military? In simple terms, the U.S. Armed Forces are made up of the five armed service branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. There are three general categories of military people: active duty (full-time soldiers and sailors), reserve & guard forces (usually work a civilian job, but can be called to full-time military duty), and veterans and retirees (past members of the military). And of course there are the millions of family members and friends of military members, past and present. But you're here to learn more about the military. There is much to learn! So first the basics. Exactly who is in charge?

The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief, who is responsible for all final decisions. The Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) has control over the military and each branch - except the Coast Guard, which is under the Dept. of Homeland Security. With over 2 million civilian and military employees, the DoD is the world's largest "company."

Each branch of the military has a unique mission within the overall mission of U.S. security and peace. Here they are in a nutshell:

Air Force and Air Force Reserve:

The nation's source of air and space power. The primary mission of the USAF is to fly planes, helicopters, and satellites.

Air National Guard:

The Air National Guard as we know it today is a separate reserve component of the United States Air Force.

Army and Army Reserve:

The dominant land power. The Army generally moves in to an area, secures it, and instills order and values before it leaves. It also guards U.S. installations and properties throughout the world.

Army National Guard:

The Army National Guard is an elite group of warriors who dedicate a portion of their time to serving their nation. Each state has its own Guard, as required by the Constitution; in fact, it is the only branch of the military whose existence is actually required by the Constitution.

Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve:

The Coast Guard's mission is primarily with domestic waterways. The Coast Guard does rescues, law enforcement, drug prevention, and clears waterways.

Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve:

The Marine Corps is known as the U.S.' rapid-reaction force. They are trained to fight by sea and land, and usually are the first "boots on the ground." Marines are known as the world's fiercest warriors.

Navy and Navy Reserve:

The Navy accomplishes its missions primarily by sea, but also by air and land. It secures and protects the oceans around the world to create peace and stability, making the seas safe for travel and trade.

Where are all these Military men and women stationed?

The U.S. operates in over 100 countries, including the U.K., Germany, Italy, Bahrain, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Japan just to name a few.

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