The United States Armed Forces are the military services of the United States. The term 'United States Armed Forces' refers to the five active components, or more commonly known as, branches of the military services of the United States:
All branches are part of the United States Uniformed Services and are under civilian control with the President serving as commander-in-chief. All branches except the Coast Guard are part of the Department of Defense, which is under the authority of the Secretary of Defense, who is also a civilian. The Coast Guard falls under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security. During wartime, the Coast Guard may be placed under the Department of Defense through the Department of the Navy in times of need acting as a service to the Navy.
Approximately 1,426,713 personnel are currently on active duty in the military with an additional 1,259,000 personnel in the seven reserve components. As it is currently a volunteer military, there is no conscription. Women are not allowed to serve in some combat assignments, but they are allowed to serve in most non-combat specialties. Due to the realities of war some of these non-combat positions see combat regularly.
Much of U.S. military capability is involved in logistics and transportation, which enable rapid buildup of forces as needed. The Air Force maintains a large fleet of C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster, and C-130 Hercules transportation aircraft with an equally large fleet of aerial refuelling tankers. The Marine Corps maintains Marine Expeditionary Units at sea with the Navy's Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. The Navy's fleet of 11 active aircraft carriers, combined with a military doctrine of power projection, enables a flexible response to potential threats. For these reasons, the United States military is widely regarded as the most powerful in the world.
Military history of the United States. Prior to and during the founding of the United States, military forces were supplied by untrained militia commanded by the states. When the Continental Congress first ordered a Continental Army to be formed, it was to be made up of militia from the states. That army, under the command of General George Washington, won the Revolutionary War, but afterwards was disbanded.
However, it soon became obvious that a standing army and navy were required. The United States Navy began when Congress ordered several frigates in 1794, and a standing army was created, however it was still only minimal and it relied mostly on contributions from state militia in times of war.
Between the founding of the nation and the Civil War, American military forces fought and won against Barbary Coast pirates; fought the War of 1812 against the British, which ended in the status quo; and won several southwestern territories from the Mexicans in the Mexican-American War. In 1861, with the beginning of the Civil War, many military forces, including most of the nation's best generals, became part of the Confederate military, and both armies fought a long, bloody struggle which consumed 600,000 lives and ended in Union (U.S.) victory in 1865.
In the period between the Civil War and the 1890s, the military was allowed to languish, although units of the U.S. Army did fight Native Americans as settlers moved into the center of the United States. By the end of the century, though, America was rapidly becoming a new superpower. The military fought the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, along with several Latin American interventions, and Teddy Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world in a display of American power. In addition, the Militia Act of 1903 established the National Guard.
The United States entered World War I in 1917 and played a major role in the Allied victory. It languished in the interwar period, but as tensions mounted leading up to World War II, the force was put back into shape. U.S. Army troops were a large component of the forces that took North Africa, Italy, and landed in France at D-Day, and U.S. Navy, Marine, and Army troops were heavily involved in Pacific campaign against Japan and its allies.
The end of World War II was the start of the Cold War, a large but ultimately non-violent struggle between the United States and its NATO Allies and the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Thousands of U.S. troops were deployed to Europe in anticipation of a struggle that never came.
However, U.S. troops did participate in proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam. The Korean War, with North Korea and China against South Korea, the U.S., and other UN troops, ultimately returned to the status quo. The Vietnam War between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and the U.S., was ultimately a failure, resulting in U.S. pullout and unification of the country under communism.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military fought Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. The United States conducted various combat operations in the Persian Gulf against Iran, most notably Operation Praying Mantis. In addition, the Goldwater-Nichols Act completely reorganized the military. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, the United States entered the Persian Gulf War. The military forces of the U.S. and other nations easily defeated the Iraqi Army with minimal losses, proving the combat readiness of the new all-volunteer military. After this brief war and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the U.S. military had relatively little to do throughout the remainder of the 1990s, barring interventions in Yugoslavia and Kosovo.
After the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, U.S. military forces were an integral part of the War on Terror. U.S. and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and in 2003 the U.S. and several other countries invaded Iraq. The War on Terror, Afghanistan, and Iraq, continue to to this day.