Each service has a uniformed head who is considered the highest-ranking officer within their respective service, with the exception of the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chief of the National Guard Bureau. They are responsible for ensuring personnel readiness, policy, planning and training and equipping their respective military services for the combatant commanders to utilize. They also serve as senior military advisors to the President, the Secretary of Defense, their respective service secretaries, as well as other councils they may be called to serve on. They are as follows:
Taken together, this shortage of ships and qualified mariners is “threaten[ing] our ability to meet national security requirements,” as the outgoing U.S. Transportation Command commander, Gen. Darren McDew, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Our enemies know that, as capable as our military is, it is a paper tiger if it can’t get to the battlefield on time. The deterrent capability of our military is weakened by our inability to deploy combat-ready forces quickly.
The First World War was also responsible for a new kind of military depiction, through poetry. Hitherto, poetry had been used mostly to glorify or sanctify war. The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, with its galloping hoofbeat rhythm, is a prime late Victorian example of this, though Rudyard Kipling had written a scathing reply, The Last of the Light Brigade, criticising the poverty in which many Light Brigade veterans found themselves in old age. Instead, the new wave of poetry, from the war poets, was written from the point of view of the disenchanted trench soldier.
The obligations of military employment are many. Full-time military employment normally requires a minimum period of service of several years; between two and six years is typical of armed forces in Australia, the UK and the US, for example, depending on role, branch, and rank. Some armed forces allow a short discharge window, normally during training, when recruits may leave the armed force as of right. Alternatively, part-time military employment, known as reserve service, allows a recruit to maintain a civilian job while training under military discipline at weekends; he or she may be called out to deploy on operations to supplement the full-time personnel complement. After leaving the armed forces, recruits may remain liable for compulsory return to full-time military employment in order to train or deploy on operations.
In broad usage, the terms "armed forces" and "military" are often treated as synonymous, although in technical usage a distinction is sometimes made in which a country's armed forces may include both its military and other paramilitary forces. Armed force is the use of armed forces to achieve political objectives. There are various forms of irregular military forces, not belonging to a recognized state; though they share many attributes with regular military forces, they are less often referred to as simply "military".
International protocols restrict the use, or have even created international bans on weapons, notably weapons of mass destruction (WMD). International conventions define what constitutes a war crime, and provides for war crimes prosecution. Individual countries also have elaborate codes of military justice, an example being the United States' Uniform Code of Military Justice that can lead to court martial for military personnel found guilty of war crimes.
The military organization is characterized by a strict hierarchy divided by military rank, with ranks normally grouped (in descending order of authority) as officers (e.g. Colonel), non-commissioned officers (e.g. Sergeant), and personnel at the lowest rank (e.g. Private Soldier). While senior officers make strategic decisions, subordinated military personnel (soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen) fulfil them. Although rank titles vary by military branch and country, the rank hierarchy is common to all state armed forces worldwide.
Soldiers and armies have been prominent in popular culture since the beginnings of recorded history. In addition to the countless images of military leaders in heroic poses from antiquity, they have been an enduring source of inspiration in war literature. Not all of this has been entirely complementary, and the military have been lampooned or ridiculed as often as they have been idolised. The classical Greek writer Aristophanes, devoted an entire comedy, Lysistrata, to a strike organised by military wives, where they withhold sex from their husbands to prevent them from going to war.
The rapid growth of movable type in the late 16th century and early 17th century saw an upsurge in private publication. Political pamphlets became popular, often lampooning military leaders for political purposes. A pamphlet directed against Prince Rupert of the Rhine is a typical example. During the 19th century, irreverence towards authority was at its height, and for every elegant military gentleman painted by the master-portraitists of the European courts, for example, Gainsborough, Goya, and Reynolds, there are the sometimes affectionate and sometimes savage caricatures of Rowland and Hogarth.