A military or an armed force is a professional organization formally authorized by a sovereign state to use lethal or deadly force and weapons to support the interests of the state. It typically consists of branches such as an Army, Navy, Air Force, and in certain countries the Marines and Coast Guard. The task of the military is usually defined as defense of the state, and its citizens, and the prosecution of war against another state. The military may also have additional sanctioned and non-sanctioned functions within a society, including, the promotion of a political agenda, protecting corporate economic interests, internal population control, construction, emergency services, social ceremonies, and guarding important areas. The military may also function as a discrete subculture within a larger civil society, through the development of separate infrastructures, which may include housing, schools, utilities, logistics, health and medical, law, food production, finance and banking.
The rank of General of the Armies is considered senior to General of the Army, but was never held by active duty officers at the same time as persons who held the rank of General of the Army. It has been held by two people: John J. Pershing who received the rank in 1919 after World War I and George Washington who received it posthumously in 1976 as part of the American Bicentennial celebrations. Pershing, appointed to General of the Armies in active duty status for life, was still alive at the time of the first five-star appointments during World War II and was thereby acknowledged as superior in grade by seniority to any World War II–era Generals of the Army. George Washington's appointment by Public Law 94-479 to General of the Armies of the United States was established by law as having "rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present", making him not only superior to Pershing, but superior to any grade in the Army in perpetuity.
Somewhat earlier, in medieval China, gunpowder had been invented, and was increasingly used by the military in combat. The use of gunpowder in the early vase-like mortars in Europe, and advanced versions of the long bow and cross bow, which all had armour-piercing arrowheads, that put an end to the dominance of the armoured knight. After the long bow, which required great skill and strength to use, the next most significant technological advance was the musket, which could be used effectively, with little training. In time, the successors to muskets and cannon, in the form of rifles and artillery, would become core battlefield technology.
In Medieval Europe, tales of knighthood and chivalry, the officer class of the period captured the popular imagination. Writers and poets like Taliesin, Chrétien de Troyes and Thomas Malory wrote tales of derring-do, featuring Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and Galahad. Even in the 21st century, books and films about the Arthurian legend and the Holy Grail continue to appear.
Whereas recruits who join as officers tend to be upwardly-mobile, most enlisted personnel have a childhood background of relative socio-economic deprivation. For example, after the US suspended conscription in 1973, "the military disproportionately attracted African American men, men from lower-status socioeconomic backgrounds, men who had been in nonacademic high school programs, and men whose high school grades tended to be low".
Under the Student Loan Repayment Program, when you enlist the Army will pay back up to $65,000 in qualified education loans (up to $20,000 for reservists), the Navy up to $65,000 and the Air Force up to $10,000. Each year 15% of the loan balance or $500, whichever is greater, will be repaid by SLRP. There may also be annual and cumulative caps on the amount repaid. Participants must score 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT). SLRP must be requested at the time of enlistment or reenlistment. Qualified education loans include federal education loans such as the Perkins, Stafford, PLUS, or Consolidation loans, but not private alternative loans. Defaulted loans are not eligible. Payments made under the SLRP are considered taxable income.
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.