Each of the five services employs a single Senior Enlisted Advisor at departmental level. This individual is the highest ranking enlisted member within that respective service and functions as the chief advisor to the service secretary, service chief and Congress on matters concerning the enlisted force. These individuals carry responsibilities and protocol requirements equivalent to three-star general or flag officers. They are as follows:
While considered part of the non-commissioned officer corps by law, senior non-commissioned officers (SNCOs) referred to as chief petty officers in the Navy and Coast Guard, or staff non-commissioned officers in the Marine Corps, perform duties more focused on leadership rather than technical expertise. Promotion to the SNCO ranks, E-7 through E-9 (E-6 through E-9 in the Marine Corps) is highly competitive. Personnel totals at the pay grades of E-8 and E-9 are limited by federal law to 2.5 percent and 1 percent of a service's enlisted force, respectively. SNCOs act as leaders of small units and as staff. Some SNCOs manage programs at headquarters level and a select few wield responsibility at the highest levels of the military structure. Most unit commanders have a SNCO as an enlisted advisor. All SNCOs are expected to mentor junior commissioned officers as well as the enlisted in their duty sections. The typical enlistee can expect to attain SNCO rank after 10 to 16 years of service.
The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief, who is responsible for all final decisions. The Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) has control over the military and each branch - except the Coast Guard, which is under the Dept. of Homeland Security. With over 2 million civilian and military employees, the DoD is the world's largest "company."
As in most militaries, members of the U.S. Armed Forces hold a rank, either that of officer, warrant officer or enlisted, to determine seniority and eligibility for promotion. Those who have served are known as veterans. Rank names may be different between services, but they are matched to each other by their corresponding paygrade. Officers who hold the same rank or paygrade are distinguished by their date of rank to determine seniority, while officers who serve in certain positions of office of importance set by law, outrank all other officers in active duty of the same rank and paygrade, regardless of their date of rank. In 2012, it was reported that only one in four persons in the United States of the proper age meet the moral, academic and physical standards for military service.
The Armed Forces Tuition Assistance (TA) Program allows enlisted servicemembers and offers to enroll in courses at accredited colleges, universities, junior colleges, high schools, and vocational-technical schools. TA will pay up to 100% of the cost of the course and up to 100% of the cost of obtaining a high school degree, with a limit of $250 per credit hour and an aggregate annual limit of $4,500. MGIB benefits may be used to "top up" TA benefits, paying the difference between tuition and the TA benefits. Military.com provides a good overview of the tuition assistance program.
Under the Montgomery GI Bill, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard (and their Reserves and the National Guard) provide a cash education incentive to encourage you to join and serve a tour of duty. The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) provides up to 36 months of education benefits to eligible veterans for college, business, technical or vocational courses, correspondence courses, apprenticeship/job training and flight training. MGIB benefits may be used while on active duty or after a fully honorable discharge from active duty.
Examinees also receive a score on what is called the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). AFQT scores are computed using the Standard Scores from four ASVAB subtests: Arithmetic Reasoning (AR), Mathematics Knowledge (MK), Paragraph Comprehension (PC), and Word Knowledge (WK). AFQT scores are reported as percentiles between 1-99. An AFQT percentile score indicates the percentage of examinees in a reference group that scored at or below that particular score. For current AFQT scores, the reference group is a sample of 18 to 23 year old youth who took the ASVAB as part of a national norming study conducted in 1997. Thus, an AFQT score of 90 indicates that the examinee scored as well as or better than 90% of the nationally-representative sample of 18 to 23 year old youth. An AFQT score of 50 indicates that the examinee scored as well as or better than 50% of the nationally-representative sample.