United States Armed Forces
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The United States Armed Forces make up America's military.
 The Army
The United States Army is a branch of the armed forces of the United States (the other four are the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, and the Coast Guard, leading to the symbolism of the shape of their administration building, the Pentagon). The US Army is the oldest of these five branches, and used to have its own cabinet department (the Department of War). Now, however, its administration falls under the auspices of the Department of Defense.
The US Army is still the largest branch of the United States' armed forces, though it tends to get the most ridicule from the other branches. Also, despite having more personnel than either the USAF or USN, it receives only slightly more funding. If Air Force or Navy personnel are ever forced to stay on an Army base, they are compensated for the "poor living conditions."
It was established on June 14, 1775 under the guise of the Continental Army. It is very proud of its traditions (though it is not nearly as tradition-bound as the US Navy). The ethos that has guided the army for most of its history is that of the "citizen-soldier," and it likes to consider itself the most egalitarian of the branches. Which is why it has the lowest standards for joining.
It should be noted that, despite the general perception of intellectual inferiority in the Army, some of the most educated and most influential officers of the modern era (such as General Petraeus and Colonel Gentile) are Army officers.
Due to being constantly understaffed, it is often the easiest branch to get into. In particular, the Army is often more flexible with fitness guidelines than the other branches. Notably, those in support positions have much easier basic training than infantry and direct combat personnel (compare BCT at Fort Benning versus Fort "Relaxin'" Jackson). Despite this, roughly 27% of young Americans are still too obese to join.
Founded on October 13, 1775, the USN was the Yanks' response to the British Royal Navy. Hopelessly outmanned, outgunned, and outfunded, the Americans went to their crepe-eating cousins for help. This was the last time the French helped anyone (except Argentina during the Falklands War).
The years since then have seen the force increase from basically a couple of near-pirates to the world's strongest. A good example of the current strength of the Navy can be seen in the number of aircraft carrier groups that are deployed by different countries, as aircraft carriers are the capital ships of the day. They are the greatest projection of force on the water today. China has one, Russia still has one from the old Soviet Union, and France has one, Britain is building two but probably cannot afford to have any planes to fly from them. The US, by contrast, has eleven. The US maintains a similar advantage in submarines (both ballistic and attack), VSTOL carriers (used amphibious assault, helicopters, STOVL jets), and almost every other kind of ship.
 Rank structure
The US Navy employs a few people that run around and bark orders at their minions. Despite having really cool-looking officers' uniforms, US Naval Officers aren't as cool as the Marines. They are noted for pronouncing 'lieutenant'
completely wrong without an "f" somehow inserted in the middle.
 Warrant Officers
Almost there, but not quite.
Despite having really gay uniforms, enlisted folks in grades E-1 through E-6 work really hard at combating the stereotype produced by The Village People. Those lucky enough to make the cut to the Chief Petty Officer ranks (E-7 through E-9) get to sit in the goat locker.
 The Marines
The United States Marine Corps is one of five branches of the Armed Forces. Although a separate service, it is a department under the United States Navy. Originally called the Continental Marines, it was formed on November 10, 1775 in a bar called Tun Tavern. While the Army is the land infantry, the Marines were originally formed as naval infantry.
The Marine Corps is easily the most socially conservative and tradition bound of the service branches. A certain degree of macho stigma has been attached to Marines, and some jokingly say that the mission of the Marine Corps is to "wage and win wars.." against all the
godless, liberal freaks of the world enemies of freedom and democracy, which pretty much means any autocratic leader who is in power for non-religious reasons.
The modern Marine Corps still retains some of its naval infantry heritage, with its force structure centered around a combined air-ground unit launched from several VSTOL/helicopter carriers, unimaginatively called the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). The most combat-focused of the service branches, the Marine Corps primarily serves as a rapidly deployable expeditionary force. There has been some consternation that the Marines have become a second Army, and there are various debates that the Marines are encroaching on the Army's role and mission. Indeed, aside from pride and differences in heritag, culture and slang, the operational capabilities are becoming increasingly blurred between the Marine and Army infantry. The USMC jealously guards its unique assets from other branches, like STOVL aircraft and amphibious assault capabilities, and despite the (quite extensive) overlap in capabilities with the Army, any suggestions of merging them with the Army will generate a shitstorm to say the least.
Marines love to think they're the toughest guys around, likely because they have the longest and toughest recruit training. They like to think they're better than the Army (and all the other service branches, for that matter). Just look at the last verse of their hymn to see how they view other branches. Of course, they probably don't often mention that many of their core assets (like the Amphibious Assault "Gators") are owned and partly manned by the Navy. Refers to members of other service branches as Doggie, Squid, and Zoomie.
The Marines get the smallest share of the defense budget, but can perform a vast variety of missions. Marines are generally the most deployable force, short of special operation forces. They give the taxpayer money the most bang for the buck (just hope the bang is against the proper targets).
 The Coast Guard
Established in 1790 in Newburyport, Massachusetts,. Originally it was known as the Revenue Cutter Service. As the name suggests it was originally involved in counter smuggling and enforcement of duties and tariffs (before the income tax customs duties represented the majority of the federal government's revenue). It was later merged with the United States Lighthouse Service, Steamboat Inspection Service, Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service. Similar in some respects to the Navy, the Coast Guard operates as a maritime force on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the waters around Alaska, and the Great Lakes. The agency has both military and law enforcement duties and is the only branch of the military allowed to enforce civilian laws. They provide defense and border security as well as search and rescue operations. They are sometimes forgotten in comparison to the other branches, and are on occasion erroneously categorized as a civilian police force. They should be familiar to anyone who watches The Deadliest Catch. They operate a fleet of patrol ships ("cutters") and rescue helicopters, and have numerous outposts along the coast (duh). Though perceived and ridiculed as easy and lax, the Coast Guard training is the second toughest of all the branches of the armed forces, after the Marines.
The Coast Guard consists of the Coast Guard proper and the Coast Guard Reserve. The organization's academy is located in New London, Connecticut. Unlike the other branches of the military the USCG is not part of the Defense Department. Currently it is part of the Department of Homeland Security but it started as part of the Treasury Department, but was moved to the Department of Transportation.
 Air Force
The United States Air Force was originally part of the Army before becoming its own branch in 1947. It has over 300,000 active duty members and is headed by the Secretary of the Air Force and is a part of the Department of Defense. The United States Air Force Academy is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The mission of the U.S. Air Force has shifted over the years, since the Army, Navy, and Marines all have their own aircraft; indeed, the Air Force has never been the only branch of service with aircraft at its disposal: the Navy has never given up its combat air arm (indeed, they went so far in its defence as to staunchly oppose the creation of the Air Force as a separate service), and the closest the Army came to surrendering all its airpower to the Air Force was shortly following the 1947 creation of the Air Force, when they retained only such aircraft as were deemed "organic" to the Army, such as those intended for reconnaissance near the front lines or courier functions, with a limit on aircraft weight of 2,500 pounds for fixed-wing aircraft and 4,000 for rotary-wing aircraft. During the Cold War, the Air Force was home to the Strategic Air Command, which was basically the bombers and (land-based) ICBMs capable of waging nuclear war. In fact, courtesy of some generals like Curtis LeMay, the USAF was so focused on the ability to nuke the crap out of everything that when traditional air-to-air combat reemerged in Vietnam, the USAF could barely achieve parity with the much worse equipped North Vietnamese Air Force. If this sounds a lot like the (retrospectively hilarious) "bomber will get through" thinking of the interwar period, that is because they are a lot alike. Even by 1972, the Air Force still hadn't learned its lesson. This, while the USN and USMC pilots were taking names in Operation Linebacker thanks to a little known program called TOPGUN. Ever wonder why one of the most iconic films about air combat features Navy pilots?
Things have gotten better today, and the USAF run the fighters and strike aircraft that operate from land-based airstrips. They even have their own knockoff of TOPGUN (Weapons School and Aggressor Squadrons). That said, USAF's obsession with premature bleeding edge technology means that their programs are notorious for delays and spiraling developmental costs (see B-2, F-22, F-35, and maybe the upcoming LRS-B).
Aside from direct air combat and air support, the Air Force provides logistical support to other branches in its airlift capabilities. The Air Force also maintains extensive space launch capabilities, and are responsible for the GPS satellites that people now take for granted. It also hires numerous civilian employees in its Air Force Research Laboratory, which performs research and development and collaborates with NASA as well as many universities across the United States.
- ↑ Too Fat to Fight
- ↑ http://www.navy.com/
- ↑ And Russia in World War I. Oh, and aspiring democrats all over Europe after the French Revolution.
- ↑ http://www.marines.com/
- ↑ http://newburyport.com/coast-guard/
- ↑ http://www.uscg.mil/history/articles/h_USCGhistory.asp
- ↑ U.S. Air Force: Factsheets
- ↑ Airman Magazine, Volume 54 Number 3, p. 46.
- ↑ United States Air Force Academy
- ↑  U.S. Air Force: Basic Documents on Roles and Missions, pp. 237