The United States Military is made up of five individual branches. Each one has a specific purpose but all work together seamlessly to protect our country and its citizens. All of the branches of the military are set up in such a way that they can be called into action as needed. Each individual branch has its own unique method of operation and ranks or chain of command.
Army: Boots on the Ground
The United States Army is both the oldest and the largest of all the branches of the military. Established on June 14th, 1775 by the Continental Congress, it uses a wide variety of weaponry to fulfill its mission. In addition to ground troops, the Army also uses large artillery, tanks, helicopters, and several different types of weapons, including nuclear weaponry. The purpose of the Army is to protect our country and its citizens while defending our interests against those who choose to attack them.
The Army has the largest number of troops and is supported by two distinct reserve forces. The federal government oversees and manages the Army Reserves, while National Guard units are governed by each state. Each state may have several National Guard units that specialize in different areas of service. Both the Secretary of Defense and the President of the United States have the power to call up the National Guard units to serve in the Reserves if the Army requires the use of additional troops.
Air Force: Power in the Air
As the youngest branch of the United States military, the Air Force began as part of the Army. After 1947, however, it became its own independent branch responsible for protecting the United States from the sky and supporting the Army troops that were stationed on the ground. After proving its value in World War II, it was determined that the Air Force provided increased potential as a significant air power.
The United States Air Force is responsible for all types of flight ranging from general air maneuvers to space travel. Tanker planes, fighter planes, and light to heavy bomber aircraft as well as transport planes and tactical helicopters that can be manned with guns or used for precision maneuvers are all essential to the Air Force being able to accomplish their mission. The Air Force also is supported by two separate divisions. The Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves are designed to be called up for service much like their Army counterparts.
Coast Guard: Defending the Coasts
Although the Coast Guard is the smallest branch of the United States military, it is also one that is most active within United States territories. In 1915, the United States Coast Guard was established as we know it today. It was originally known as the Revenue Cutter Service (founded in 1790). The Coast Guard was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Transportation in 1967. In 2002, it was again transferred, this time to the Department of Homeland Security.
The Coast Guard is constantly in service working alongside law enforcement and specializing in safety measures and boat/sea rescues. They also help with controlling illegal immigration. At any time that it is needed, the Navy can assume control of the Coast Guard, in part or whole, on orders of the President of the United States. The Coast Guard uses various types of watercraft and aircraft in its day to day operations. This includes shore stations, boats, ships, and helicopters. Both the Coast Guard Reserves and the Coast Guard Auxiliary support the needs of the Coast Guard. The Auxiliary is made up of volunteers. A four-star admiral or Coast Guard Commandant oversees the operation of the Coast Guard during peacetime.
Marines: Amphibious Operations Specialists
As amphibious operations specialists, the overall mission of the Marine Corps is to provide access to land through the attack and capture of beaches and waterways. This allows ground troops to land on the shore and move inland, securing targeted areas as they go. The Continental Congress established the Marines by formal order on November 10th of 1775. The intended purpose for the branch was to create access to land for the United States Navy. The Marines were declared a separate branch of the military in 1798.
In combat, the Marine Corps is no longer limited to amphibious operations. They now have troops on land as well as their own airborne troops. Their aircraft consists of fighter planes, bombers, and helicopters that are designed for swift and unrelenting attack. The Marines rely on the Navy for several aspects of their operations, including both administrative support and logistics. The Navy provides all of the medical support staff that works with the Marines, this includes medics, nurses, doctors, and any other medical personnel that are needed.
Navy: The Military at Sea
The Continental Congress established the Navy in 1775 at the same time as the Army. While the Army defends the land, the United States Navy protects and defends the country’s interests at sea. While the Navy is fully functional on its own, it offers support to both the Air Force as well as the Marines. The Navy’s large aircraft carry deploy along with the Air Force to provide access to land where an actual runway is not possible. Most aircraft carriers are capable of carrying 80 fighter aircraft or bombers. Navy transport ships carry Marines to their deployment locations and provide support while anchored offshore.
The Navy employs both ships and submarines. Ships are armed with cruise missiles and heavy artillery guns that allow them to hit land targets that are several miles from the shore. With Navy submarines, attacks can be made on land or at sea from hundreds of feet below the surface of the water. The Naval Reserves serve the same function as the Army and Air Force Reserves. Since states do not have a Naval National Guard, many have chosen to create other groups often referred to as Naval Militias.
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is made up of four flag officers from the major branches of the United States Military. The group also includes a Vice Chairman and Chairman. Even though the President nominates the Chairman, the candidate must be approved by the Senate. During times of conflict, the Joint Chiefs are required to report to the President and Secretary of Defense and bypass the secretaries that are associated with each of the individual branches.
Commissioned Officers are the highest level of leadership. They are not considered specialists, but instead, are responsible for managing the daily operations of their respective branch. In order to become a commissioned officer, an applicant must have earned a minimum of a 4-year bachelor’s degree. To continue moving upward, they must eventually attain a Master’s degree.
In order to be commissioned, they must pass through a program such as West Point, the ROTC, the Naval Academy, or other commissioned program designed to reinforce leadership qualities. Non-line commissioned officers are not trained for combat due to the specialized nature of their training.
The enlisted personnel of the United States military fill the vast majority of jobs. According to their MOS, they are trained to perform any number of jobs the military needs. There are nine ranks in which enlisted personnel can advance. With each rank, they receive more responsibilities and are assigned to provide direct supervision to personnel directly beneath them. As they move through the ranks, certain grades are referred to as Non-Commissioned Officers (Petty Officers in the Coast Guard and Navy). Each branch has a specific grade that must be reached to become a Non-Commissioned Officer.
Warrant officers have received specialized training that allows them to perform very specific duties. A warrant officer will remain in their specific area as instructors and teachers who provide leadership and training to the enlisted personnel and other commissioned officers. To become a warrant officer, you must be highly recommended by a commander and have the experience and knowledge needed to pass a very strict selection board. The only branch of the military that does not have warrant officers is the Air Force.
The five branches of the military are very diverse in their purposes but very similar in their goals. Each one utilizes specific skills and resources to defend and protect the United States and its citizens. All of the branches offer benefits to those who choose to enlist in their service.