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.

A major development in infantry tactics came with the increased use of trench warfare in the 19th and 20th centuries. This was mainly employed in World War I in the Gallipoli campaign, and the Western Front. Trench warfare often turned to a stalemate, only broken by a large loss of life, because, in order to attack an enemy entrenchment, soldiers had to run through an exposed 'no man's land' under heavy fire from their opposing entrenched enemy.


The United States has the world's largest military budget. In the fiscal year 2016, $580.3 billion in funding were enacted for the DoD and for "Overseas Contingency Operations" in the War on Terrorism.[4] Outside of direct DoD spending, the United States spends another $218 to $262 billion each year on other defense-related programs, such as Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons maintenance and DoD.
Just as the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, are in charge of the entire military establishment, maintaining civilian control of the military, so too are each of the Defense Department's constitutive military departments headed by civilians. The four DoD branches are organized into three departments, each with civilian heads. The Department of the Army is headed by the Secretary of the Army, the Department of the Navy is headed by the Secretary of the Navy and the Department of the Air Force is headed by the Secretary of the Air Force. The Marine Corps is organized under the Department of the Navy, however it is still considered a separate and equal service. The Coast Guard is under the Department of Homeland Security and receives its operational orders from the Secretary of Homeland Security. However, the Coast Guard may be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the President or Congress during a time of war, thereby placing it within the DoD.[17]
Because most of the concepts and methods used by the military, and many of its systems are not found in commercial branches, much of the material is researched, designed, developed, and offered for inclusion in arsenals by military science organisations within the overall structure of the military. Military scientists are therefore found to interact with all Arms and Services of the armed forces, and at all levels of the military hierarchy of command.

A military brat is a colloquial term for a child with at least one parent who served as an active duty member (vice reserve) in the armed forces. Children of armed forces members may move around to different military bases or international postings, which gives them a childhood differing from the norm. Unlike common usage of the term brat, when it is used in this context, it is not necessarily a derogatory term.

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.
Military law introduces offences not recognised by civilian courts, such as absence without leave (AWOL), desertion, political acts, malingering, behaving disrespectfully, and disobedience (see, for example, Offences against military law in the United Kingdom).[23] Penalties range from a summary reprimand to imprisonment for several years following a court martial.[23] Certain fundamental rights are also restricted or suspended, including the freedom of association (e.g. union organizing) and freedom of speech (speaking to the media).[23] Military personnel in some countries have a right of conscientious objection if they believe an order is immoral or unlawful, or cannot in good conscience carry it out.
The Woman's Army Auxiliary Corps was established in the United States in 1942. Women saw combat during World War II, first as nurses in the Pearl Harbor attacks on 7 December 1941. The Woman's Naval Reserve, Marine Corps Women's Reserve and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) were also created during this conflict. In 1944, WACs arrived in the Pacific and landed in Normandy on D-Day. During the war, 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were captured and spent three years as Japanese prisoners of war. There were 350,000 American women who served during World War II and 16 were killed in action. In total, they gained over 1,500 medals, citations and commendations. Virginia Hall, serving with the Office of Strategic Services, received the second-highest U.S. combat award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for action behind enemy lines in France.
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.[28] 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.

Direct commission: civilians who have special skills that are critical to sustaining military operations and supporting troops may receive direct commissions. These officers occupy leadership positions in law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, intelligence, supply-logistics-transportation, engineering, public affairs, chaplain, oceanography and others.


After World War II, with the onset of the Cold War, the constant technological development of new weapons was institutionalised, as participants engaged in a constant 'arms race' in capability development. This constant state of weapons development continues into the present, and remains a constant drain on national resources, which some[who?] blame on the military-industrial complex.
Limited Duty Officer: due to the highly technical nature of some officer billets, the Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard employ a system of promoting proven senior enlisted members to the ranks of commissioned officers. They fill a need that is similar to, but distinct from that filled by warrant officers (to the point where their accession is through the same school). While warrant officers remain technical experts, LDOs take on the role of a generalist, like that of officers commissioned through more traditional sources. LDOs are limited, not by their authority, but by the types of billets they are allowed to fill. However, in recent times they have come to be used more and more like their more-traditional counterparts.

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