United States Armed Forces
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The United States Armed Forces make up America's military and about one-third of the cast of any given Michael Bay movie.
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 fleets develop from six pirate hunting badass frigates to what is essentially the world's only blue-water navy. 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 full-size carrier (ie, not a helicopter carrier or amphibious assault ship) which was formerly the Soviet carrier Varyag, is building another and plans at least two more, India has one and is building two, Russia still has the semi-functional Admiral Kuznetsov from the old Soviet Union which has to be accompanied everywhere by a tug (having finally stopped bullshitting that it's an "aviation cruiser" in a failed attempt to get it through the Bosphorus), Italy has one and is building another, France has one, Thailand (!) has one designed for Harriers, though nowadays it only carries helicopters, and Britain has one undergoing sea trials and is building a second but can only afford half the planes and crews needed, so one will be mothballed as soon as they finish building it (because Gordon Brown wrapped them in so much red tape that cancelling them would cost more than building them). The US, by contrast, has eleven (with another under construction and two more ordered). 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.
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.
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 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, according to USMC tradition it was formed on November 10, 1775 in a bar called Tun Tavern, though historians believe it was actually a different bar in the same town called the Conestoga Waggon. While the Army is the land infantry, the Marines were originally formed as naval infantry. Sailors in the Navy will happily remind you that "Marine" stands for "My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment."
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. 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 (though on the other hand their force structure is ring-fenced by the same act that established the Air Force), but can perform a vast variety of missions. May be partly explained by the fact that Marines tend to get second hand stuff from the Army and Navy. Marines are generally the most deployable force, short of special operation forces. They give the taxpayer money the most bang for the buck.
It's no surprise enlisted makes up the vast majority of the Corps. Most people who go through 13 weeks of
summer campboot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California to earn the EGA would serve a 4 year stint. Many get out as salty unmotivated Lance Corporals who got sick of all the crap the Corps doesn't advertise, like those field days every Thursdays where the squad bay is scrubbed and cleaned beyond the point of logic, ego/power tripping Gunnys treating grown adults like kids, and the very existence of the vast majority of First Sergeants.
Non-commissioned officers (NCOs), or E-4 and above, are the backbone of the Marine Corps, but for whatever reason, staff non-commissioned officers (SNCOs) seem to become total dickwads past E-8, leading many to question what the point of a First Sergeant and Sergeant Major even is other than making everyone's lives miserable. Might be because a lot of sensible Marines sees all the fuckery in the system and don't bother reenlisting, while shitbirds stay in and climb the ranks.
Most officers get their commission through the 10 week Officer Candidates School (OCS), and then the 6 month The Basic School (TBS) before going to whatever specialty school they need to and then join the fleet. And most boot lieutenants ("butterbars") somehow think they're Chesty Puller reborn and believe that throwing whatever stereotypical Marine jargon ("It would behoove you...") will make them look super salty and impressive, and that they will know as much as enlisted Marines with 12 years on the job, yet somehow manages to shoot an compass azimuth backwards. On occasion they also need to get Lance Corporal Dumbass out of trouble, usually for something related to alcohol, and thus make weekend liberty safety briefs just that much longer.
The Coast Guard
The service that everyone forgets about, but the US Coast Guard is one of the American Armed Forces. 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.
The United States Air Force was originally formed as the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, a component of the US Army, in 1907, and went through five more names between then and 1947 with "US Army Air Forces" (1941-47) being the most well known, before becoming its own branch with the National Security Act of 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 along with their support systems like tanker aircraft and long-range recon planes: the other main division was Tactical Air Command, responsible for fighters and the like. TAC was notoriously in love with the idea of the fighter as a guided missile bus that would engage the enemy without ever seeing them, and when traditional air-to-air combat reemerged in Vietnam (due to air-to-air missile hit rates in combat being staggeringly lower than expected), the USAF embarrassingly could barely achieve parity with the theoretically much worse equipped North Vietnamese Air Force's legacy MiGs. Even by 1972, the Air Force still hadn't learned its lesson. This, while the USN and USMC pilots were kicking ass and taking names in Operation Linebacker thanks to a little known program called TOPGUN (it distinctly helped that they weren't chugging around in the F-105 Thunderchief, an aircraft originally designed as a low-level tactical nuclear bomber and not in any way for dogfighting). Ever wonder why one of the most iconic films about air combat features Navy pilots?
The modern age of precision guided aerial munitions also began in Vietnam and was specifically because it took US Air Force and US Navy aircraft hundreds of attacks over a period of seven years to blow up a bridge.
Things have gotten better today (though the pendulum has swung so far towards fighters that the US is still fielding a fleet of ancient B-52s: these and old C-130s mean the average age of a US aircraft's airframe is greater than the average age of a US pilot) 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 and changing requirements partway through development means that their programs are notorious for delays and spiraling developmental costs (see the F-111, B-2, F-22, F-35, etc: in fact the last US military aircraft delivered on time and within budget was the B-52), and the budget is not helped by frequent purchasing cuts that increase per-unit costs even more (see the B-2 (132 aircraft cut to 75 and then 21) and F-22 (750 cut to 648, 339, 266 and ultimately 187) in particular).
An increasing part of the USAF is the so-called "chair force," that being drone crews: in March 2017 there were more job positions for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper than any manned aircraft, with over a thousand USAF pilots sitting in trailers watching blurry Arabs go to the toilet and waiting to see if the CIA wanted them blown up today or not. By all accounts this is an utterly thankless task, possibly more stressful than piloting a normal aircraft, and earns these people the scorn of "real" pilots. Needless to say, the other services are less fussy and apply the term "chair force" to the entire Air Force.
Aside from direct air combat and air support, the Air Force provides logistical support to other branches (and most of NATO) 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
- And Russia in World War I. Oh, and aspiring democrats all over Europe after the French Revolution.
- China also owns two Soviet VTOL carriers which have since been turned into hotels for some reason, and until 2002 had a 1950s-era Australian carrier which had been sold to them for scrap in 1985 with the steam catapults still in place.
- 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