The history of the US Military has been one of great success. In 1776, the United States of America was formed with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. A year earlier, the Continental Army and other rag-tag military forces rallied to take on the British Empire, not knowing that their victory would turn them into the most powerful military force on the planet, composed of five armed branches: the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
Today, those who have served in the military usually fall into three categories: active duty (full-time soldiers and sailors), reserve and National Guard forces (who usually work civilian jobs but can be called to active duty at any time), and veterans and retirees (individuals who used to serve in the military but don’t anymore).
Size of US Military
Last year, it was projected that there would be about 1,281,900 active-duty U.S. military service members and about 801,200 in the reserves in the year 2017. The United States military is an all-volunteer force, though the draft can be put into effect if the president and Congress deem it necessary. Though America’s military is arguably the most powerful in the world, it is not the largest: that seat belongs to China’s People’s Liberation Army. Since the inception of the United States and up until the year 2012, more than 40 million men and women have fought and died in the U.S. military.
Branches of the United States Military
There are 5 armed forces of the United States military, all of whom serve unique and specific roles in the defense of our country and who operate in different combat arenas:
Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard
The U.S. Army is the largest and oldest military branch, created in June of 1775. As of 2010, the Army was 541,291 strong in active duty and 198,000 in reserves. It is the dominant land power of the armed forces, used to move into and secure enemy areas, as well as guard various U.S. installations and properties around the world.
The Army National Guard is a land-based domestic force subject to the command of state leaders, as opposed to federal ones. The existence of a National Guard for each state is constitutionally mandated, and state guards are usually called into action when local law enforcement forces are unable to contain violence or catastrophe by themselves. About 342,000 men and women serve in the Army National Guard.
Navy and Navy Reserve
Just a few months after the Army was formed in 1775, the Navy came to be. It is also the second largest U.S. military branch after the Army. The Navy is a primarily sea-based force, though it does conduct operations on land and by air. The Navy keeps ocean travel safe and secures American waters. In 2010, there were 317,237 active-duty members of the Navy and 57,400 reserve members.
Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve
Marines are trained for combat on land, air, sea. Often referred to as the most deadly military force in the world, U.S. Marines are a rapid-reaction team, the first to be sent to combat areas, or the “first boots on the ground.” The original two battalions of the Continental Marines were established on November 10, 1775. While the Marines Corps is its own military branch, it was named a component of the Department of the Navy since 1834 and gleans most of its transportation means from them. In 2010, there were 195,338 Marines and 38,900 serving in the reserves.
Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard
The youngest military force, the United States Air Force was a part of the Army until 1947, when it was made a separate and official branch. This was mostly due to the level of flight technology available; until the invention of planes and helicopters, air warfare wasn’t really possible. Next to combat, the USAF is involved in humanitarian aid efforts, satellite development, and space exploration. Currently, about 333,772 men and women serve in the Air Force and 69,200 in the reserves.
The Air National Guard is a separate reserve component of the United States Air Force, composed of federal military air forces as well as those of the states. Combined with the Army National Guard forces, these two branches make up a state’s guard. About 105,500 individuals serve in the Air National Guard.
Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve
Though the Coast Guard is the smallest branch of the military with approximately 42,357 active duty personnel and just 7,000 in reserve, their jurisdiction and scope of mission is wide-reaching and crucial to the defense of the United States. Coast Guard personnel clear waterways, enforce maritime law by intercepting illegal drug and migrant vessels, and perform rescue operations.
Types of Military Personnel
As mentioned briefly before, as a member of the armed forces, you can either be active duty or reserve. But there are further distinctions within active duty personnel regarding rank and paygrade. Enlisted officers are usually recruited at a young age and granted paygrades that reflect their education level. Non-commissioned officers progress through the lower enlisted ranks for and are promoted on a competitive basis. Becoming an NCO can take up to about 6 years of service. Warrant officers are normally appointed for their technical expertise. Commissioned officers hold a commission from the president of the United States and have the greatest authority over all the personnel types listed so far; they’re the ones giving orders.
US Military History
The Continental Navy, Marines, and Army were formed by the Second Continental Congress in the crucial year leading up to America’s independence and in the early years that followed. These forces were officially demobilized in 1784 after the Treaty of Paris was signed. Three years later, the United States Constitution was adopted, giving Congress the power to “raise and support armies” and a “navy.” And so, on June 3, 1784, the United States Army was created by the Congress of the Confederation. Ten years later, on March 27, 1794, the United States Congress formed the United States Navy, and just four years after that, the United States Marine Corps was formed on July 11, 1798. Though the branches we know today were formed on these dates, those within the Army, Navy, and Marines consider the Continental forces created in 1775 to be their origin.
Though America had won its independence from Britain, wars with Britain and France were still to follow. These wars helped the United States military grow in numbers and advance technologically. In 1790, the Coast Guard was formed. And in 1907, the Aeronautical Division, predecessor of the United States Air Force, was established.
Command Structure of the United States Military
According to Article II of the Constitution, the president of the United States is the commander in chief of the military. However, the constitution also allows Congress to create executive departments to advise the president. The secretary of the Department of Defense is one of these executive civilian leaders and second in command to the president; he or she is also a member of the president’s cabinet. Civilian leadership of the military is a key characteristic of the United States military. Military departments within the Department of Defense are also controlled by civilians. Additionally, the secretary of the Army, the secretary of the Navy, the secretary of the Air Force, and the secretary of Homeland Security are all civilians. However, they are advised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who possess no commanding power. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest-ranking officer in the United States military.
If the chain of command is forced to travel past the president and the secretary of defense, then command of the military goes to the combatant commanders. These are senior commissioned officers who can exercise supreme authority regardless of their military branch or location, should the need arise.
In addition to the secretary of defense, the president has the National Security Council at his disposal, whose members include the secretary of state, the secretary of energy, and the national security advisor. While this council only has the power to advise the president in military matters, individual members of the council have executive power over their individual departments.
All military branches belong to the Department of Defense, with the exception of the Coast Guard, which belongs to the Department of Homeland Security. In a time of war, Congress has the power to transfer the Coast Guard to the Department of Defense if necessary. In all, the Department of Defense is the largest company in the United States, employing more than 1.3 million active duty personnel and 742,000 civilians.
Where is the United States Military?
The United States military operates all over the world, in both friendly and not-so-friendly territories. As of 2015, America has been maintaining approximately 800 bases in more than 70 countries. The military builds bases in friendly nations in order to facilitate cooperation with these countries. Often, the locals benefit from the military’s presence, whether that be financially or in a security sense. Military installations in conflict areas include those in the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan and Iraq. These bases are situated where they are for the sake of tactics and intelligence. Here are some approximate numbers on U.S. military bases around the world:
The Army has about 38 bases in Germany, 3 in Italy, 84 in Japan, and at least one in Israel, Kosovo, Kuwait, and South Korea.
The Marine Corps has several bases in Afghanistan, one in Germany, and 12 in Japan.
The Navy has bases in the Bahamas, Bahrain, Cuba, Dijbouti, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, South Korea, and Spain, as well as the British Indian Ocean Territory.
The Air Force has 4 bases in Afghanistan, 5 in Germany, one in Denmark, 3 in Italy, 3 in the United Kingdom, 3 in Japan, 2 in South Korea, and at least one base in Kuwait, Qatar, and Turkey.
United States Military Budget
The United States military has the largest budget of any military in the world, having been granted about $580 billion in 2016’s fiscal year. And this is just when it comes to spending within the Department of Defense. Outside the DoD, the United States military spent about $262 billion in 2016 on projects and programs in homeland security, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the State Department, as well as the maintenance of nuclear weaponry.
As far as individual branch allocations, in 2016, the Army received about $146 billion dollars and the Navy and Marines received about $168 billion, with $161 billion going to the Air Force and $102 billion going to defense spending. Approximately $1.3 billion a year are spent on military family housing, $69 billion are spent on research, and $244 billion are spent on maintenance and operations.
Cooperation Between Military Branches
Though each military branch has its own missions, goals, and spheres of operation, all five of the armed forces still work closely together. While it’s usually easiest to call for backup within one’s own branch, the branches are often called to help each other, particularly when battles cross lines between land, sea, and air.
Low Rates for Veterans
We at Low VA Rates are proud of the United States military and its rich history of victory and sacrifice. We got into the VA loan business because we wanted to give back to those who have served; we want to help them create a secure life for themselves and their families once their time in the military has ended. While we don’t know what the future holds or where our troops will be sent next, we stand by them and their families through every conflict. If you’re a veteran and want to learn about how we can help you specifically, give us a call at 855-223-0705.