The U.S. Armed Forces is composed of five uniformed services known as the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. From the land, sea and air, these military services work together to protect the security of the United States within its borders, as well as in its territories and other areas that the country occupies. The military branches also join forces to maintain peace and to fight in armed conflicts in which the United States are involved. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense oversees the U.S. Armed Forces, with the ultimate decisions made by the President who is the Commander in Chief.
Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force
The Army, Navy and Marine Corps were established in 1775 during the American Revolutionary War. The Air Force was originally part of the Army and was made a separate branch after World War II. Today, all four military services are part of the Department of Defense. The Army, the largest of the five military branches, is responsible for ground-based military operations. The Navy handles marine operations, and the Air Force takes care of air and space operations. An amphibious force, the Marine Corps performs an expeditionary role in military conflicts, conducting both ground and air operations.
The Coast Guard traces its roots to the Revenue-Marine, which was part of the Treasury Department in 1790. Today this military branch is under the helm of the Department of Homeland Security. It is responsible for protecting the country’s ports and shorelines, both in the United States and around the world, as well as performing law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental protection and maritime navigation safeguards. Coast Guard units also assist during national emergencies. During times of war or other armed conflicts, the Coast Guard assists in military operations under the direction of the Department of Defense.
Active and Reserve Duty
Men and women serve as commissioned officers or enlisted personnel in the military service of their choice. Many military people sign up for active duty, meaning they have committed themselves to serve on a full-time basis. Some military people serve part time in their military branch’s Reserve, such as the Air Force Reserve or Coast Guard Reserve. After completing their initial military training, reservists continue living and working as civilians. They take part in military training one weekend each month, as well as a two-week training exercise every year. Reservists may be called to active duty at any time.
The National Guard is another military component in which individuals can serve on a part-time basis. The National Guard serves both the federal and state governments. The 50 states, the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia each have a National Guard to respond to domestic emergencies. When needed, the federal government activates the National Guard to assist in times of war or national emergency. The National Guard consists of the Army National Guard, a reserve force of the Army, and the Air National Guard, a reserve force of the Air Force.
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