A Quick Overview of the US Armed Forces

The United States divides its military forces into five services. The Army is the largest and is intended to be the primary ground combat force. The Navy is in charge of operations at sea and includes a powerful air component. The Air Force is the youngest service and is in charge of aerial operations. The Marines are primarily intended to deploy combined arms forces in response to crises around the world. Finally the Coast Guard is the smallest of the armed forces and is primarily charged with homeland defense.

Reserve units and personnel join the active duty forces, both federal and National Guard units for the Army and Air Force. These have state and federal missions.

Within this framework there are several chains of command and responsibility. The President is the commander in chief of the Armed Forces. The Secretary of Defense oversees the Department of Defense and provides guidance. The military departments of the DoD train and equip the force. The Joint Chiefs of Staff provide the president with professional advice and provide a means for the services to coordinate their actions. They plan and coordinate. There are also regional commands, which conduct operations.

Probably the most famous of the regional commands is CENTCOM. This is the Central command, which conducts operations in the MidEast, most famously the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. EUCOM controls operations in Europe, much of the territory of the old Soviet Union and Africa. AFRICOM is being formed and will take over operations in Africa. PACOM is in charge of operations in Asia and the Pacific Ocean. SOUTHCOM deals with operations in Latin America, and NORTHCOM deals with operations in North America. There are also four more commands with worldwide responsibility. SOCOM is in charge of special operations, JFCOM provides joint support for worldwide operations, STRATCOM controls the strategic weapons and space operations, and TRANSCOM controls transportation around the world.

Currently the biggest deployment is in Iraq with approximately 130,000 servicemen, but in terms of manpower, the greatest force is in the continental US with 900,000. This is followed by Iraq, then Germany with about 70,000, Japan with just under 50,000, Korea with just over 30,000 and Afghanistan with less than 30,000. Italy and the United Kingdom have just over 10,000 each. There are another 100,000 at sea. In 2003 the US had forces present in 130 nations on bases or military facilities. There are still around 2,000 troops deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo.

US military forces have been present in German, Japan and Korea since the end of WWII. Many older deployments have ended with the end of the Cold War, including the Panama Canal Zone and bases in the Philippines. Guantanamo Bay is one of the oldest, dating back to the end of the Spanish American War in 1898.

There are about 1.4 million active duty personnel in the US Armed Forces, and plans are to increase that number by another 90,000. There are another million in the reserve components.

For more information on the US military please check out the author's site at http://usmilitary.com


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