What is the military? In simple terms, the U.S. Armed Forces are made up of the five armed service branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. There are three general categories of military people: active duty (full-time soldiers and sailors), reserve & guard forces (usually work a civilian job, but can be called to full-time military duty), and veterans and retirees (past members of the military). And of course there are the millions of family members and friends of military members, past and present. But you're here to learn more about the military. There is much to learn! So first the basics. Exactly who is in charge?
There are two types of military history, although almost all texts have elements of both: descriptive history, that serves to chronicle conflicts without offering any statements about the causes, nature of conduct, the ending, and effects of a conflict; and analytical history, that seeks to offer statements about the causes, nature, ending, and aftermath of conflicts – as a means of deriving knowledge and understanding of conflicts as a whole, and prevent repetition of mistakes in future, to suggest better concepts or methods in employing forces, or to advocate the need for new technology.
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).
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.
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.
The academy, now celebrating its 75th year of service to the nation, reduced the entering-class size from 350 midshipmen per year to some 270 years ago. The infrastructure is there to support larger classes (but not the budget), making this revitalization of the student body an obvious first step. An increase in class size would assure the nation of additional committed Merchant Marine officers available to man any vessels that the U.S. might need to utilize in a national emergency. As investments in national security go, this one is inexpensive.
Military Sealift Command and the Maritime Administration’s sealift fleets are in even worse shape. Combined, they furnish 61 cargo ships. Yet, even that small number is misleadingly high. Twenty-six of those ships run on steam — to call them outdated would be a compliment. We’re also keeping that 61-ship number artificially high by allowing ships to operate for 50 and even 60 years, long past their life expectancy. These older ships require more maintenance and risk major breakdowns.