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The United States Armed Forces - An Overview

Updated on July 22, 2015
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This article will provide an overview of the United States Armed Forces, with a brief history of each branch and key facts for understanding the different components of the most powerful military in the world. There are five branches of the US Armed Forces, the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Air Force. You will often see mentioned that there are SEVEN branches of the United States Uniform Services and there are. The two uniformed services that are not military are the United States Public Health Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps. This article discusses only the Armed Forces. The services are listed in the historical order that the branch was founded.

The civilian head of the armed forces is the Secretary of Defense. The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief.

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Army Theme Song

The United States Army - Motto - "This We'll Defend"

This is the oldest of the five branches of the United States military and is responsible for land based operations. The original army, the Continental Army, was created on June 14, 1775 by the Continental Congress, with General George Washington as its commander. After the Revolutionary War the Continental Army was replaced by the United States Army on June 3, 1784. According to the official website (http://www.army.mil/info/organization/) of the United States Army, the army's mission is "to fight and win our Nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders." Members of the army are known as soldiers. The service academy of the United States Army is the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. As of 2010 there were 561,979 people serving in the army, including 467,537 enlisted and 94,442 officers. The civilian head of the United States Army is the Secretary of the Army. The military head of the army is the Chief of Staff.

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Navy Theme Song

The United States Navy - Motto - "Honor, Courage, Commitment" (unofficial)

The United States Navy traces its origins to October 13, 1775, when the Continental Congress ordered that two armed ships with crews of 80 men each be built to intercept British supply vessels. As of 2012 the navy had 288 ships, including 11 aircraft carriers and 71 submarines. The navy has the smallest number of ships in service since 1916. The navy also operates over 3,700 aircraft. Those who serve in the Navy are known as sailors. The service academy of the United States Navy is the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. As of 2010 there were 323,139 people serving in the navy, including 270,460 enlisted and 52,679 officers. The civilian head of the United States Navy is the Secretary of the Navy. The military head of the navy is the Chief of Naval Operations.

Author's note: I proudly served in the United States Navy, but until I did the research for this article I never heard the motto "Honor, Courage, Commitment."

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Marine Corps Theme Song

The United States Marine Corps - Motto- Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful)

The United States Marine Corps was founded by the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775 as part of the United States Navy. Its purpose was and is to act as a ready expeditionary force to project American power overseas. Historically the marines were infantry troops aboard navy ships to assist in boarding ships and amphibious assaults. It is often said that a marine can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. Members of the Marine Corps are called Marines. Do NOT call a marine a soldier. The service academy of the United States Marine Corps is the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. As of 2010 there were 202,612 people serving in the marine corps, including 181,221 enlisted and 21,391 officers. The civilian head of the United States Marine Corps is the Secretary of the Navy. The military head of the marines is the Commandant of the Marine Corp.

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Coast Guard Theme Song

The United States Coast Guard - Motto - Semper Paratus (Always Prepared)

Founded in 1790 as the Revenue Cutter Service, the Coast Guard is now part of the Department of Homeland Security. In time of war the coast guard becomes part of the US Navy. The coast guard has a wide array of responsibilities as both a military service and a law enforcement agency. According to its official website the coast guard has 11 missions: protecting ports, waterways and coastal security; drug interdiction; maintaining aids to navigation; protecting living marine resources; marine safety; defense readiness; migrant interdiction marine environmental protection; ice operations; other law enforcement. Members of the coast guard are technically known as sailors, but are most often known as "coasties." The service academy of the United States Coast Guard is the Coast Guard Academy in New London Connecticut. As of 210 there were 41,327 people serving in the coast guard. The civilian head of the United States Coast Guard is the Director of Homeland Security during peace and the Secretary of the Navy if war has been declared. The military head of the coast guard is the Commandant of the Coast Guard.

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Air Force Theme Song

The United States Air Force - Motto - No One Comes Close (unofficial)

The United States Air Force is the newest of the service branches, and was formerly the Army Air Corps. It became a separate military branch in 1947 via the National Security Act of 1947. As of 2009 the air force had 5,573 aircraft under its command, including the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard. According to airforce.com, "the mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win … in air, space and cyberspace." Members of the air force are known as airman, but often called zoomies by their grateful service rivals. The service academy of the United States Air Force is the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado. As of 2010 there were 329,640 people serving in the air force, including 263,439 enlisted and 66,201 officers. The civilian head of the air force is the Secretary of the Air Force. The military head of the air force is the Commandant of the Air Force.

All together there are approximately 1,450,000 members of the United States Armed forces on active duty, the largest military force in the world.

Copyright © 2012 by Russell F. Moran

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    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thank you Safiq. Yes, it did take some research.

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Ken. I wanted to put all these things that I was curious about in one place.

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 4 years ago from United States Of America

      Quiet amazing facts and detail. I don't think this type of detail is easy to come by online. Great hub. Thank you.

    • Kenja profile image

      Ken Taub 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      The largest military force in the world is right! It's like comparing WalMart to 400 smaller regional discount stories. In the case of the US military, what, we're larger than the next 14-15 largest combined, which includes China, UK, Germany, France, Russia + 9-10 others! Holy firepower, Batman! You provide such interesting, useful good-to-know information. Love it. KT

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Bill for stopping by. I was curious about a lot of these things myself so I figured why not write a hub.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nice, easy way to learn history! Great overview with all the pertinent facts. Nicely done! I actually learned some things I didn't know.