United States Armed Forces

The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States of America.[10] It consists of six forces: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard.[11][12] The president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and forms military policy with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), both federal executive departments, acting as the principal organs by which military policy is carried out. All six armed services are among the eight uniformed services of the United States.[13]

From its inception during the American Revolutionary War, the U.S. Armed Forces have played a decisive role in the history of the United States. It helped forge a sense of national unity and identity through its victories in the First Barbary War and the Second Barbary War. It played a critical role in the American Civil War, keeping the Confederacy from seceding from the republic. The National Security Act of 1947, adopted following World War II, created the modern U.S. military framework. The Act established the National Military Establishment, headed by the secretary of defense; and created the United States Air Force and the National Security Council. It was amended in 1949, renaming the National Military Establishment the Department of Defense, and merged the cabinet-level Department of the Army, Department of the Navy, and Department of the Air Force, into the Department of Defense.

The U.S. Armed Forces are one of the largest military forces in terms of personnel. It draws its personnel from a large pool of paid volunteers. Although conscription has been used in the past, it has not been used since 1973. The Selective Service System retains the power to conscript males, and requires that all male citizens and residents residing in the U.S. between the ages of 18–25 register with the service.

The U.S. Armed Forces are considered the world's most powerful military.[14][15] The military budget of the United States was US$693 billion in 2019, the highest in the world.[16] In 2018, that accounted for 36 percent of the world's defense expenditures. The U.S. Armed Forces has significant capabilities in both defense and power projection due to its large budget, resulting in advanced and powerful technologies which enables a widespread deployment of the force around the world, including around 800 military bases outside the United States.[17] The U.S. Air Force is the world's largest air force, the U.S. Navy is the world's largest navy by tonnage, and the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps combined are the world's second largest air arm. In terms of size, the U.S. Coast Guard is the world's 12th largest maritime force.[18][19] The U.S. as of FY2019 has about 14,061 aircraft in its military inventory.[20] The U.S. Space Force is the world's first and, as of 2021, only independent space force.[21][22]

The history of the U.S. Armed Forces dates to 14 June 1775, with the creation of the Continental Army, even before the Declaration of Independence marked the establishment of the United States. The Continental Navy, established on 13 October 1775, and Continental Marines, established on 10 November 1775, were created in close succession by the Second Continental Congress in order to defend the new nation against the British Empire in the American Revolutionary War.

These forces demobilized in 1784 after the Treaty of Paris ended the War for Independence. The Congress of the Confederation created the current United States Army on 3 June 1784. The United States Congress created the current United States Navy on 27 March 1794 and the current United States Marine Corps on 11 July 1798. All three services trace their origins to their respective Continental predecessors. The 1787 adoption of the Constitution gave the Congress the power to "raise and support armies", to "provide and maintain a navy" and to "make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces", as well as the power to declare war. The president is the U.S. Armed Forces' commander-in-chief.

The United States Coast Guard traces its origin to the founding of the Revenue Cutter Service on 4 August 1790 which merged with the United States Life-Saving Service on 28 January 1915 to establish the Coast Guard. The United States Air Force was established as an independent service on 18 September 1947; it traces its origin to the formation of the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps, which was formed 1 August 1907 and was part of the Army Air Forces before becoming an independent service as per the National Security Act of 1947. The was formerly considered to be a branch of the United States Armed Forces from 29 July 1945 until its status as such was revoked on 3 July 1952.[23]

The United States Space Force was established as an independent service on 20 December 2019. It is the sixth branch of the U.S. military and the first new branch since the establishment of the independent U.S. Air Force in 1947.[24] It traces its origin to the formation of the Air Force Space Command, which was formed 1 September 1982 and was a major command of the United States Air Force.

Presidential command over the U.S. Armed Forces is established by Article II in the Constitution whereby the president is named as the "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." The United States Armed Forces are split between two cabinet departments, with the Department of Defense serving as the primary cabinet department for military affairs and the Department of Homeland Security responsible for administering the United States Coast Guard.

The military chain of command flows from the president of the United States to the secretary of defense (for services under the Defense Department) or secretary of homeland security (for services under the Department of Homeland Security), ensuring civilian control of the military. Within the Department of Defense the military departments, the Department of the Army, United States Department of the Navy, and Department of the Air Force, are civilian led entities that oversee the coequal military service branches organized within. The military departments and services are responsible for organizing, training, and equipping forces, with the actual chain of command flowing through the unified combatant commands.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, although outside the operational chain of command, is the senior-most military body in the United States Armed Forces. It is led by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is the military head of the armed forces and principle advisor to the president and secretary of defense on military matters. Their deputy is the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Other members include the chief of staff of the Army, commandant of the Marine Corps, chief of naval operations, chief of staff of the Air Force, chief of space operations, and the chief of the National Guard Bureau. The commandant of the Coast Guard is not an official member of the Joint Chiefs, but sometimes attends meetings as the one of the military service chiefs. The Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman is the most senior enlisted member in the United States Armed Forces.[25]

Leadership of the Armed Forces, to include the president of the United States, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are members of the United States National Security Council, which advises the president on national security, military, and foreign policy matters. The National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor may also be members of the United States Armed Forces. The National Security Council Deputies Committee also includes the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The United States Homeland Security Council, which advises the president on homeland security, includes the president of the United States, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Homeland Security Advisor may also be a member of the armed forces. Military leadership, including the Secretary of Defense, United States Secretary of Homeland Security, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also sit on the National Space Council.

Organization of the military services and military departments within the Department of Defense

The United States Armed Forces is composed of six coequal military service branches. Five of the branches, the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, United States Navy, United States Air Force, and United States Space Force are organized under the Department of Defense's military departments. The United States Coast Guard is nominally under the Department of Homeland Security, but may be transferred to the Department of Defense's Department of the Navy (which is the civilian entity that oversees the coequal U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy) at the direction of the president or congress. With the exception of the Coast Guard, the military services only organize, train, and equip forces. The unified combatant commands are responsible for operational control of non-service retained forces.

The United States Army (USA) is the land service branch of the United States Armed Forces and part of the civilian-led Department of the Army, which is led by the Secretary of the Army. The military head of the U.S. Army is the chief of staff of the Army, who is assisted by the vice chief of staff of the United States Army and sergeant major of the Army. It was founded on 14 June 1775 as the Continental Army.

The U.S. Army is composed of the Regular Army, United States Army Reserve, and United States Army National Guard. The U.S. Army is organized into four army commands, which conduct the majority of the service's organize, train, and equip functions, ten Army service component commands, which command forces attached to the combatant commands, and twelve direct reporting units. The Army also organizes its personnel into 21 different basic branches.[27]

The U.S. Army's field structure is broken into several subdivisions under its commands:[28]

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is the maritime land force service branch of the United States Armed Forces and part of the civilian-led Department of the Navy, which is led by the Secretary of the Navy. The military head of the U.S. Marine Corps is the commandant of the Marine Corps, who is assisted by the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps and sergeant major of the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps was founded on 10 November 1775 as the Continental Marines and disbanded in 1783, before being reestablished as the United States Marine Corps on 11 July 1798.[29]

The Marine Corps is responsible for amphibious warfare and expeditionary warfare operations, having a very close relationship with its coequal sister service, the United States Navy. The U.S. Marine Corps is composed of the Regular Marine Corps and the United States Marine Corps Reserve. The central unit of the Marine Corps is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, which consist of a command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element, and logistics combat element. The Marine Corps is divided in the Fleet Marine Force and the Supporting Establishment.

The U.S. Marine Corps' Marine Air-Ground Task Force structure is broken into several levels under the Fleet Marine Force:[30]

The U.S. Marine Corps' unit structure is broken into several subdivisions under the Fleet Marine Force:[30]

The United States Navy (USN) is the maritime service branch of the United States Armed Forces and part of the civilian-led Department of the Navy, which is led by the Secretary of the Navy. The military head of the U.S. Navy is the chief of naval operations, who is assisted by the vice chief of naval operations and master chief petty officer of the Navy. The Navy was founded on 13 October 1775 as the Continental Navy, which was disbanded on 1 August 1785 before being reestablished as the modern U.S. Navy on 20 January 1794.[33]

The U.S. Navy is composed of the Regular Navy and United States Navy Reserve. The U.S. Navy is organized into eight navy component commands, which command operational forces, fifteen shore commands, which support the fleets' operating forces, five systems commands, which oversee the technical requirements of the Navy, and nine type commands, which administratively manage units of a certain type.

The U.S. Navy's unit structure is broken into several subdivisions under the operating force:[35]

The U.S. Navy's unit structure is broken into several subdivisions under the type command structure. For Naval Air Forces:[35]

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air service branch of the United States Armed Forces and part of the civilian-led Department of the Air Force, which is led by the Secretary of the Air Force. The military head of the U.S. Air Force is the chief of staff of the Air Force, who is assisted by the vice chief of staff of the United States Air Force and chief master sergeant of the Air Force. It achieved independence on 18 September 1947 from the U.S. Army, but directly traces its history through the United States Army Air Forces, United States Army Air Corps, United States Army Air Service, the Division of Military Aeronautics, Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps, to the birth of Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps on 1 August 1907.

The U.S. Air Force is composed of the Regular Air Force, United States Air Force Reserve, and United States Air National Guard. The U.S. Air Force is organized into nine major commands, which conduct the majority of the service's organize, train, and equip functions and command forces attached to the combatant commands.[37]

The U.S. Air Force's field structure is broken into several subdivisions under its major commands:[38]

The United States Space Force (USSF) is the space service branch of the United States Armed Forces and part of the civilian-led Department of the Air Force, which is led by the Secretary of the Air Force. The military head of the U.S. Space Force is the chief of space operations, who is assisted by the vice chief of space operations and senior enlisted advisor of the Space Force. It achieved independence on 20 December 2019 from the U.S. Air Force, but directly traces its history through Air Force Space Command to 1 September 1982, with even earlier history traced to the Western Development Division established on 1 July 1954.

The Sodium Guidestar at the Directed Energy Directorate's Starfire Optical Range for real-time, high-fidelity tracking and imaging of satellites.

The U.S. Space Force is composed of the Regular Space Force, not yet having organized a reserve component outside of the Air Force. The Space Force is organized into one field command and one center, with the intent to fully organize into three field commands, activating Space Systems Command to replace the Space and Missile Systems Center and Space Training and Readiness Command to institutionalize its training, education, and doctrine development.[40]

The Space Force's field structure is broken into several subdivisions under its field commands:[40]

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the maritime security, search and rescue, and law enforcement service branch of the United States Armed Forces and part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is led by the Secretary of Homeland Security. It is the only military branch outside the Department of Defense, but can be transferred to the civilian-led Department of the Navy, which is led by the Secretary of the Navy, in the case that congress stipulates that when declaring war or the president directs.[41] The military head of the U.S. Coast Guard is the commandant of the Coast Guard, who is assisted by the vice commandant of the Coast Guard and master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard was founded as a military service branch on 4 August 1790 as the United States Revenue-Marine, before being renamed on 31 July 1894 as the United States Revenue Cutter Service. On 28 January 1915 it was merged with the civilian United States Life-Saving Service to form the United States Coast Guard. In 1939, the civilian United States Lighthouse Service was merged into the Coast Guard. The Revenue-Marine, and later the Coast Guard, were organized under the Department of the Treasury, transferring to the Department of the Navy during World War I and World War II. In 1967 it was transferred to the Department of Transportation, where it would reside until 2003 when it was permanently transferred to the Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Coast Guard is composed of the Regular Coast Guard and United States Coast Guard Reserve. The U.S. Coast Guard is organized into two area commands.[43]

Unified combatant commands are joint military commands consisting of forces from multiple military departments, with their chain of command flowing from the president, to the secretary of defense, to the commanders of the combatant commands. There are eleven unified combatant commands that come in two types. Geographic commands, such as Africa, Central, European, Indo-Pacific, Northern, Southern and Space commands are responsible for planning and operations in a certain geographic area. Functional commands, such as Cyber, Special Operations, Strategic, and Transportation commands are responsible for a functional activity that crosses geographic boundaries. Each service organizes, trains, and equips forces that are then presented to the unified combatant commands through service component commands. Special Operations Command and Cyber Command also present theater special operations commands or joint force headquarters – cyber to other combatant commanders. Army or Marine Corps components are typically duel hatted as the joint force land component, Navy components are typically duel hatted as the joint force maritime component, and Air Force components are typically duel hatted as the joint force air component, with the theater special operations command duel hatted as the joint force special operations component, and Space Force component sometimes duel hatted as the joint force space component.[44]

United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM or AFRICOM) is the geographic combatant command responsible for United States military operations in Africa, except for Egypt, which is under United States Central Command. Africa Command is headquartered in Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany. Africa Command was created due to the rising strategic importance of Africa, and to harmonize military eff in Africa with the United States Department of State and other U.S. agencies, activated on 1 October 2007 as a sub-unified command of United States European Command, beortsfore becoming an independent combatant command on 1 October 2008. Prior to the establishment of United States Africa Command, military operations on the continent were the responsibility of United States European Command for North Africa, West Africa, and Southern Africa, United States Central Command for East Africa, and United States Pacific Command for the Indian Ocean and African islands off the coast.[45]

United States Central Command (USCENTCOM or CENTCOM) is the geographic combatant command responsible for United States military operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and parts of South Asia, except for Israel, which is under United States European Command. Central Command is headquartered in MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida, with a forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Central Command was established on 1 January 1983, growing out of United States Readiness Command's Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, which itself was established on 1 March 1980 . Prior to its establishment, military operations in the Middle East were the responsibility of United States European Command, and before that United States Strike Command.[48]

United States European Command (USEUCOM or EUCOM) is the geographic combatant command responsible for United States military operations in Europe, Russia, Greenland, and Israel. European Command is headquartered in Patch Barracks, Stuttgart, German, and shares a commander with NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. European Command was established on 1 August 1952.[49]

United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM or INDOPACOM) is the geographic combatant command responsible for United States military operations in the Pacific, Asia, India, and Antarctica. Indo-Pacific Command is headquartered in Camp H. M. Smith, Oahu, Hawaii. Indo-Pacific Command was established on 1 January 1947 as United States Pacific Command, assuming the responsibilities of United States Far East Command and Alaskan Command on 1 July 1957. It was renamed on 30 May 2018 in recognition of the increasing strategic importance of the Indian Ocean.[50]

Indo-Pacific Command has two subordinate unified commands, two direct reporting units, and one standing joint task force:

United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM or NORTHCOM) is the geographic combatant command responsible for United States military operations and the defense of North America. Northern Command is headquartered in Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado and shares a commander and some staff with the combined U.S.–Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command. Northern Command was established on 1 October 2002 in direct response to the 9/11 Attacks.[52]

Northern Command has one sub-unified command and three joint task forces:

United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM or SOUTHCOM) is the geographic combatant command responsible for United States military operations in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. Southern Command is headquartered in Doral, Florida. Southern Command was established on 11 June 1963, replacing Caribbean Command.[53]

United States Space Command (USSPACECOM or SPACECOM) is the geographic combatant command responsible for United States military operations in outer space. Space Command is headquartered in Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Space Command was reestablished on 29 August 2019, being first established as a unified combatant command on 23 September 1985 before being inactivated on 1 October 2002 and having space activities folded into Strategic Command. While at strategic command, space operations were handled by the Joint Force Space Component Command, Joint Functional Component Command for Space, and Joint Space Operations.

United States Space Command has one subordinate combined command and one joint task force:

United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM or CYBERCOM) is the functional combatant command responsible for United States military operations in cyberspace. Cyber Command is headquartered in Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, sharing leadership, personnel, and resources with the National Security Agency and Central Security Service. Cyber Command was established on 21 May 2010 as a sub-unified command under United States Strategic Command, becoming an independent combatant command on 4 May 2018. Cyber Command traces its history through Strategic Command's , Joint Task Force – Global Network Operations, Joint Task Force–Computer Network Operations, to Space Command's Joint Task Force–Computer Network Defense on 1 December 1998. Prior to the establishment of Cyber Command, cyber operations were the responsibility of Strategic Command, and before that Space Command. Cyber Command supports the other combatant commands by providing Joint Force Headquarters–Cyber elements.[54]

United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM) is the functional combatant command responsible for United States military special operations. Special Operations Command is headquartered in MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Special Operations Command was established on 16 April 1987.

United States Special Operations Command has one subordinate component command and seven theater special operations commands:

United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM or STRATCOM) is the functional combatant command responsible for United States military nuclear and missile defense operations. Strategic Command is headquartered in Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Strategic Command was established on 1 June 1992, replacing the specified command function of Strategic Air Command.[56]

United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM or TRANSCOM) is the functional combatant command responsible for United States military mobility and transport operations. Transportation Command is headquartered in Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Strategic Command was established on 1 July 1987, replacing the specified command function of Strategic Air Command.[57]

United States Transportation Command has one subordinate command and a reserve unit that are direct reporting elements:[58]

A pie chart showing global military expenditures by country for 2018, in US$ billions, according to SIPRI

The United States has the world's largest military budget. In the fiscal year 2019, $693 billion in funding were enacted for the DoD and for "Overseas Contingency Operations" in the War on Terrorism.[16] Outside of direct DoD spending, the United States spends another $218 to $262 billion each year on other defense-related programs, such as Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons maintenance and DoD.

In FY2016 $146.9 billion was allocated for the Department of the Army, $168.8 billion for the Department of the Navy, $161.8 billion for the Department of the Air Force, and $102.8 billion for DoD-wide spending.[59] By function, $138.6 billion was requested for personnel, $244.4 billion for operations and maintenance, $118.9 billion for procurement, $69.0 billion for research and development, $1.3 billion for revolving and management funds, $6.9 billion for military construction, and $1.3 billion for family housing.[59]

The U.S. Armed Forces is the world's third largest military by active personnel, after the Chinese's People's Liberation Army and the Indian Armed Forces, consisting of 1,359,685 servicemembers in the regular armed forces with an additional 799,845 servicemembers in the reserves as of 28 February 2019.[60]

While the United States Armed Forces is an all-volunteer military, conscription through the Selective Service System can be enacted at the president's request and Congress' approval, with all males ages 18 through 25 who are living in the United States are required to register with the Selective Service.[61] Although the constitutionality of registering only males for Selective Service was challenged by federal district court in 2019, its legality was upheld by a federal appeals court in 2020.[62]

As in most militaries, members of the U.S. Armed Forces hold a rank, either that of officer, warrant officer or enlisted, to determine seniority and eligibility for promotion. Those who have served are known as veterans. Rank names may be different between services, but they are matched to each other by their corresponding paygrade.[63] Officers who hold the same rank or paygrade are distinguished by their date of rank to determine seniority, while officers who serve in certain positions of office of importance set by law, outrank all other officers in active duty of the same rank and paygrade, regardless of their date of rank.[64] In 2012, it was reported that only one in four persons in the United States of the proper age meet the moral, academic and physical standards for military service.[65]

February 2018 Demographic Reports and end strengths for reserve components.[59][66][67][68][69][70]

As of 31 December 2010, U.S. Armed Forces troops were stationed in 150 countries; the number of non-contingent deployments per country ranges from 1 in Suriname to over 50,000 in Germany.[71] Some of the largest deployments are: 103,700 in Afghanistan, 52,440 in Germany (see list), 35,688 in Japan (USFJ), 28,500 in South Korea (USFK), 9,660 in Italy and 9,015 in the United Kingdom. These numbers change frequently due to the regular recall and deployment of units.

Altogether, 77,917 military personnel are located in Europe, 141 in the former Soviet Union, 47,236 in East Asia and the Pacific, 3,362 in North Africa, the Near East and South Asia, 1,355 in sub-Saharan Africa and 1,941 in the Western Hemisphere excluding the United States itself.

Including U.S. territories and ships afloat within territorial waters As of 31 December 2009, a total of 1,137,568 personnel were on active duty within the United States and its territories (including 84,461 afloat).[72] The vast majority (941,629 personnel) were stationed at bases within the contiguous United States. There were an additional 37,245 in Hawaii and 20,450 in Alaska while 84,461 were at sea, 2,972 in Guam and 179 in Puerto Rico.

Rank in the United States Armed Forces is split into three distinct categories: officers, warrant officers, and enlisted personnel. Officers are the leadership of the military, holding commissions from the president of the United States and confirmed to their rank by the Senate. Warrant officers hold a warrant from the secretaries of the military departments, serving as specialist in certain military technologies and capabilities. Upon promotion to chief warrant officer 2, they gain a commission from the president of the United States. Enlisted personnel constitute the majority of the armed forces, serving as specialists and tactical-level leaders until they become senior non-commissioned officers or senior petty officers. Military ranks across the services can be compared by U.S. Uniformed Services pay grade or NATO rank code.[73]

The United States Air Force Academy commissioned the first 86 U.S. Space Force officers on 18 April 2020 from the members of the class of 2020.

Officers represent the top 18% of the armed forces, serving in leadership and command roles.[74] Officers are divided into three categories:[73]

Graduation of the class of 2009 at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Officers are typically commissioned as second lieutenants or ensigns with a bachelor's degree after several years of training and education or directly commissioning from civilian life into a specific specialty, such as a medical professional, lawyer, chaplain, or cyber specialist.[75][76] The three primary commissioning routes include:

United States Air Force pilot officers walk to their F-15 fighter jets prior to take off.

Throughout their careers, officers continue professional military education throughout their careers, typically before major milestones.[77] Professional military education institutions across the services and armed forces include:

During a time of war, officers may be promoted to five-star ranks, with general of the Army, fleet admiral, and general of the Air Force the only five-star ranks currently authorized.[78]

Warrant officers are specialists, accounting for only 8% of the officer corps.[74] Warrant officers hold warrants from their service secretary and are specialists and experts in certain military technologies or capabilities. The lowest-ranking warrant officers serve under a warrant, but they receive commissions from the president upon promotion to chief warrant officer 2. They derive their authority from the same source as commissioned officers but remain specialists, in contrast to commissioned officers, who are generalists. There are no warrant officers in the Air Force or Space Force.[73]

Warrant officers are typically non-commissioned officers before being selected, with the exception of the Army Aviation where any enlisted grade can apply for a warrant. Army Warrant officers attend the Army Warrant Officer Candidate School.[79]

Air Force basic trainees in a base defense exercise at Air Force Basic Military Training.

Enlisted personnel consist of 82% of the armed forces, serving as specialists and tactical leaders.[74] Enlisted personnel are divided into three categories:

The rank of senior enlisted advisor is the highest rank in each service, serving as the primary advisors to their service secretary and service chief on enlisted matters. Prior to entering their service, enlisted personnel must their service's basic training. In the Army, after completing Basic Combat Training recruits then go to advanced individual training for their military occupational specialty. In the Marine Corps, after completing Recruit Training, marines attend the School of Infantry, going to the Infantry Training Battalion for infantry marines, with non-infantry marines completing Marine Combat Training before advancing to technical training for their military occupational specialty. In the Navy, after completing Recruit Training, sailors advance to their "A" schools to complete training for their rating. In the Air Force and Space Force, recruits complete combined Basic Military Training before going to technical training for their Air Force Specialty Codes. In the Coast Guard, after completing Recruit Training, sailors advance to their "A" schools to complete training for their rating.

The Woman's Army Auxiliary Corps was established in the United States in 1942. Women saw combat during World War II, first as nurses in the Pearl Harbor attacks on 7 December 1941. The Woman's Naval Reserve, Marine Corps Women's Reserve, US Coast Guard Women's Reserve, and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) were also created during this conflict.[citation needed] In 1944, WACs arrived in the Pacific and landed in Normandy on D-Day. During the war, 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were captured and spent three years as Japanese prisoners of war. There were 350,000 American women who served during World War II and 16 were killed in action. In total, they gained over 1,500 medals, citations and commendations. Virginia Hall, serving with the Office of Strategic Services, received the second-highest U.S. combat award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for action behind enemy lines in France.[citation needed]

After World War II, demobilization led to the vast majority of serving women being returned to civilian life. Law 625, The Women's Armed Services Act of 1948, was signed by President Truman, allowing women to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in fully integrated units during peacetime, with only the WAC remaining a separate female unit. During the Korean War of 1950–1953, many women served in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, with women serving in Korea numbering 120,000[dubious ]during the conflict.[citation needed] During the Vietnam War, 600 women served in the country as part of the Air Force, along with 500 members of the WAC and over 6,000 medical personnel and support staff. The Ordnance Corps began accepting female missile technicians in 1974[82] and female crewmembers and officers were accepted into Field Artillery missile units.[83][84]

In 1974, the first six women naval aviators earned their wings as Navy pilots. The congressionally mandated prohibition on women in combat places limitations on the pilots' advancement,[85] but at least two retired as captains.[86] In 1989, Captain Linda L. Bray, 29, became the first woman to command American soldiers in battle during the invasion of Panama. The 1991 Gulf War proved to be the pivotal time for the role of women in the U.S. Armed Forces to come to the attention of the world media; there are many reports of women engaging enemy forces during the conflict.[87]

In the 2000s, women can serve on U.S. combat ships, including in command roles. They are permitted to serve on submarines.[88] Women can fly military aircraft and make up 2% of all pilots in the U.S. Military. In 2003, Major Kim Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for landing her combat damaged A-10 Thunderbolt II with no hydraulic control and only one functional engine after being struck by hostile fire over Baghdad.[citation needed]

On 3 December 2015, U.S. defense secretary Ashton Carter announced that all military combat jobs would become available to women.[89] This gave women access to the roughly 10% of military jobs which were previously closed off due to their combat nature.[90] The decision gave military services until January 2016 to seek exceptions to the rule if they believe that certain jobs, such as machine gunners, should be restricted to men only.[91] These restrictions were due in part to prior studies which stated that mixed gender units are less capable in combat.[92] Physical requirements for all jobs remained unchanged, though.[92] Many women believe this will allow for them to improve their positions in the military, since most high-ranking officers start in combat positions. Since women are now available to work in any position in the military, female entry into the draft has been proposed.[93]

Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester became the first woman to receive the Silver Star, the third-highest U.S. decoration for valor, for direct participation in combat. In Afghanistan, Monica Lin Brown was presented the Silver Star for shielding wounded soldiers with her body.[94] In March 2012, the U.S. military had two women, Ann E. Dunwoody and Janet C. Wolfenbarger, with the rank of four-star general.[95][96] In 2016, Air Force General Lori Robinson became the first female officer to command a major Unified Combatant Command (USNORTHCOM) in the history of the United States Armed Forces.[97]

No woman has ever become a Navy SEAL. In 2017, a woman who wanted to become the first female Navy SEAL officer quit after one week into initial training.[98][99]

Despite concerns of a gender gap, all personnel, both men and women at the same rank and time of service are compensated the same rate across all branches.[100]

A study conducted by the RAND Corporation also suggests that women who make the military their career see an improved rate of promotion, as they climb through the military ranks at a faster rate.[101]

As per the Department of Defense’s report on sexual assault within the U.S. Army for the fiscal year of 2019, 7,825 cases of sexual assault had been reported with the service members either victims or subjects of the assault. There has been a 3% increase in the number of cases as compared to the 2018 report.[102][103]

Under Department of Defense regulation, the various components of the U.S. Armed Forces have a set order of seniority.[104] Examples of the use of this system include the display of service flags, and placement of soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen, guardians, and coast guardsmen in formation.

While the U.S. Navy is older than the Marine Corps,[105] the Marine Corps takes precedence due to previous inconsistencies in the Navy's birth date. The Marine Corps has recognized its observed birth date on a more consistent basis. The Second Continental Congress is considered to have established the Navy on 13 October 1775 by authorizing the purchase of ships, but did not actually pass the until 27 November 1775.[106] The Marine Corps was established by an act of the Second Continental Congress on 10 November 1775. The Navy did not officially recognize 13 October 1775 as its birth date until 1972, when then–chief of naval operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt authorized it to be observed as such.[105]

The Coast Guard is normally situated after the Space Force, however in the event that it is moved to the Department of the Navy, its place in the order of precedence changes to being situated after the Navy and before the Air Force.[105]