Basic Facts About the U.S. Army and American Military
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Basic Facts About the U.S. Army and American Military

A brief overview of the composition of the Department of Defense and some of the uniforms currently worn by various service members within the DoD.

While most people have a basic understanding of the purpose of the military, few individuals that have not been a member of it have difficulty understanding some of the nuances and jargon surrounding the institution. Even those with relatives in the military frequently don't know very much about what exactly the military does. This can often be because they don't know precisely what to ask. There is not a shortage of websites offering rank charts, military branches, and other information, but it can be difficult to connect the dots.

The most ubiquitous part of the military is undoubtedly the uniform. Uniforms of various types are often visible in our nation's airports, and they are a good representation of the approximate mix of the various branches of the military. There are several types of uniforms which each service uses. The uniforms are constantly in flux as the military seeks to adapt to new combat environments. Dress uniforms are worn during ceremonies and for appearances. They are not typically worn every day, and each service has a different variety with different color schemes.

The most commonly confused two are the Army and Marine dress blue uniforms. The Marine uniform utilizes a belt around the waist, while the Army one does not. Additionally, the Marine uniform has a red secondary color stripe while the Army uniform utilizes a yellow pant stripe. Service uniforms are those typically worn in the office, and they can be equated to business dress. The most commonly seen uniforms in public, however, are the field uniforms, which are again different for each branch of the military. ACU's, the digital combat uniform worn by the Army, appear most frequently. They have a faded digital pattern designed to blend into urban environments. DCU's are worn by the Marines, and appear in both a forest green digital pattern and a desert one. The Navy now utilizes a dark blue digital pattern. The Air Force's combat uniform has the same color scheme as the Army's but it appears in a tiger stripe layout.

The Department of Defense lists 1.3 million people as currently serving on active duty (in all branches), 1.1 million serving in the Guard and Reserves, and 684,000 working for DoD as civilians. The U.S. Army boasts the lion's share of the branches, and retains over 548,000 service members in the Active Component and just about as many in the Guard and Reserve Components. The Air Force and Navy come next, each with over 400,000 servicemembers in all components. The Marines have about a quarter of a million personnel, and the Coast Guard has about 50,000. Each of these numbers are constantly in flux as the Department of Defense increases or reduces troop strength requirements, new servicemembers are recruited, and older ones retired.

There is a great deal of information about the U.S. Army which can be learned. Stay tuned to read the upcoming article about rank systems, pay grades, branches within the U.S. Army, and Mission Occupational Specialties (M.O.S.).


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