Although some groups engaged in combat, such as militants or resistance movements, refer to themselves using military terminology, notably 'Army' or 'Front', none have had the structure of a national military to justify the reference, and usually have had to rely on support of outside national militaries. They also use these terms to conceal from the MI their true capabilities, and to impress potential ideological recruits.
Prospective service members are often recruited from high school or college, the target age ranges being 18–35 in the Army, 18–28 in the Marine Corps, 18–34 in the Navy, 18–39 in the Air Force and 18–27 (up to age 32 if qualified for attending guaranteed "A" school) in the Coast Guard. With the permission of a parent or guardian, applicants can enlist at age 17 and participate in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), in which the applicant is given the opportunity to participate in locally sponsored military activities, which can range from sports to competitions led by recruiters or other military liaisons (each recruiting station's DEP varies).
There are several different authorized pay grade advancement requirements in each junior-enlisted rank category (E-1 to E-3), which differ by service. Enlistees in the Army can attain the initial pay grade of E-4 (specialist) with a four-year degree, but the highest initial pay grade is usually E-3 (members of the Army Band program can expect to enter service at the grade of E-4). Promotion through the junior enlisted ranks occurs after serving for a specified number of years (which can be waived by the soldier's chain of command), a specified level of technical proficiency or maintenance of good conduct. Promotion can be denied with reason.
The last requirement of the military is for military performance assessment, and learning from it. These two functions are performed by military historians and military theorists who seek to identify failures and success of the armed force, and integrate corrections into the military reform, with the aim of producing an improved force capable of performing adequately, should there be a national defence policy review.
Development of military doctrine is perhaps the more important of all capability development activities, because it determines how military forces were, and are used in conflicts, the concepts and methods used by the command to employ appropriately military skilled, armed and equipped personnel in achievement of the tangible goals and objectives of the war, campaign, battle, engagement, action or a duel. The line between strategy and tactics is not easily blurred, although deciding which is being discussed had sometimes been a matter of personal judgement by some commentators, and military historians. The use of forces at the level of organisation between strategic and tactical is called operational mobility.
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.
As of 31 December 2010, U.S. Armed Forces troops were stationed in 150 countries; the number of non-contingent deployments per country ranges from 1 in Suriname to over 50,000 in Germany. Some of the largest deployments are: 103,700 in Afghanistan, 52,440 in Germany (see list), 35,688 in Japan (USFJ), 28,500 in South Korea (USFK), 9,660 in Italy and 9,015 in the United Kingdom. These numbers change frequently due to the regular recall and deployment of units.
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: