United States Army

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US Army Seal
US Army Seal
HHC, US Army Distinctive Unit Insignia
HHC, US Army Distinctive Unit Insignia

The Army is the branch of the United States armed forces which has primary responsibility for land-based military operations. As of fiscal year 2004 (FY04), it consisted of 485,500 soldiers (including 71,400 women) on active duty and 591,000 in reserve (325,000 in the Army National Guard (ARNG) and 246,000 in the United States Army Reserve (USAR)). The Continental Army was formed on June 14, 1775, before the establishment of the United States, to meet the demands of the American Revolutionary War. Congress created the United States Army on June 3, 1784 after the end of the American Revolutionary War, to replace the disbanded Continental Army.


Components of the U.S. Army

Flag of the U.S. Army
Flag of the U.S. Army

Between 1775 and August 7, 1789, the established Federal Army was the Continental Army. On the latter date, the Continental Army was replaced by the United States Army under the newly-established War Department. The structure of the US Army was constitutionally established as the Regular Army, the units of the State Militias when called to federal service, and units of Volunteers that were established for the duration of the emergency. This remained the normal scheme of things until the Civil War, when the first Conscription took place. The concept of the National Army as a Conscript Army was thus established in all but name, since units were established to accommodate the use of the conscripts in combat. The last time that the Volunteer Units were utilized was the Spanish-American War in 1898. From that time forward, the Regular Army, the State Militias, and the National Army were codified as standard. In 1908, the Organized Reserve Corps was established to provide trained Officers and Enlisted Men for immediate use in time of war.

During the First World War, the "National Army" was organized to fight the conflict. It was demobilized at the end of World War I, and was replaced by the Regular Army, the Organized Reserve Corps, and the State Militias. In the 1920s and 1930s, the "career" soldiers were known as the "Regular Army" with the "Enlisted Reserve Corps" and "Officer Reserve Corps" augmented to fill vacancies when needed.

In 1941, the "Army of the United States" was founded to fight the Second World War. The Regular Army, Army of the United States, the National Guard, and Officer/Enlisted Reserve Corps (ORC and ERC) existed simultaneously. After World War II, the ORC and ERC were combined into the United States Army Reserve. The Army of the United States was re-established for the Korean War and Vietnam War and was demobilized upon the suspension of the draft.

Currently, the Army is divided into the Regular Army, the Army Reserve, and the United States National Guard. Prior to the 21st century, members of the National Guard were considered state Soldiers unless federalized by the Army. Currently, all National Guard members hold dual status: as National Guardsmen under the authority of the State Adjutant General, and as National Guardsmen under the authority of the Army Human Resources Command. Until such time as National Guardsmen retire from National Guard service, they are never considered members of the Army Reserve, but become members of the US Army Retired Reserve upon retirement, and remain in such status until their 60th Birthday, when they become full-fleged Retirees with a status equal to Regular Army Retirees.

Various State Defense Forces also exist, sometimes known as State Militias, which are sponsored by individual state governments and serve as an auxiliary to the National Guard. Except in times of extreme national emergency, such as a mainland invasion of the United States, State Militias are operated independently from the U.S. Army and are seen as state government agencies rather than a component of the military.

By design, the use of the Army Reserve and National Guard has increased since the Vietnam War. Reserve and Guard units took part in the Gulf War, peacekeeping in Kosovo, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. With recent manpower shortages in the military, some U.S. citizens have been concerned regarding a reinstitution of the draft (conscription) force. Federal and state lawmakers, however, have asserted that no such action is being planned.

Although the present-day Army exists as an all volunteer force, augmented by Reserve and National Guard forces, measures exist for emergency expansion in the event of a catastrophic occurrence, such as a large scale attack against the US or the outbreak of a major global war. The current "call-up" order of the United States Army is as follows:

US Army Beret Flash
US Army Beret Flash
  1. Regular Army volunteer force
  2. Army Reserve total mobilization
  3. Full scale activation of all National Guard forces
  4. Recall of all retired personnel fit for military duty
  5. Re-establishment of the draft and creation of a conscript force within the Regular Army
  6. Recall of previously discharged officers and enlisted who were separated under honorable conditions
  7. Activation of the State Defense Forces/State Militias
  8. Full scale mobilization of the unorganized U.S. militia

The final stage of Army mobilization, known as "activation of the unorganized militia" would effectively place all able bodied males in the service of the U.S. Army. The last time an approximation of this occurred was during the American Civil War when the Confederate States of America activated the "Home Guard" in 1865, drafting all males, regardless of age or health, into the Confederate Army. A similar event, albeit in a foreign country, occurred during World War II when Nazi Germany activated the Volkssturm in April and May of 1945.

Structure of the U.S. Army

Officially, a member of the U.S. Army is called a Soldier (always capitalized). The U.S. Army is divided into the following components, from largest to smallest:

U.S. Generals, World War II, Europe: back row (left to right): Stearley, Vandenberg, Smith, Weyland, Nugent; front row: Simpson, Patton, Spaatz, Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges, Gerow.
U.S. Generals, World War II, Europe:
back row (left to right): Stearley, Vandenberg, Smith, Weyland, Nugent;
front row: Simpson, Patton, Spaatz, Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges, Gerow.
HHC, US Army Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
HHC, US Army Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
  1. Field Army
    U.S. 1st Army
    U.S. 1st Army
    : Usually commanded by a General (GEN; note that abbreviations of military rank are given in all capital letters without a period or other punctuation).
  2. Corps: Consists of two or more divisions and organic support brigades. The commander is most often a Lieutenant General (LTG).
  3. Division: Usually commanded by a Major General (MG).
  4. Brigade (or group): Composed of typically three or more battalions, and commanded by a Colonel (COL) or Brigadier General (BG). (See Regiment for combat arms units.)
  5. Battalion (or squadron): A Battalion usually consists of two to six companies and roughly 300 to 1000 soldiers. Most units are organized into battalions. Cavalry units are formed into squadrons. A battalion-sized unit is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC), supported by a Command Sergeant Major/E-9 (CSM). This unit consists of a Battalion Commander (CO, LTC), a Battalion Executive Officer (XO,MAJ), a Command Sergeant Major (CSM) and headquarters, 3-5 Company Commanders (CPT), 3-5 Company Executive Officers (1LT), 3-5 First Sergeants (1SG) and headquarters, 6 or more Platoon Leaders (2LT/1LT), 6 or more Platoon sergeants (SFC),and 12 or more Squad Leaders (any NCO).
  6. Company (or battery/troop): A company usually consists of three to four platoons and roughly 100 to 130 soldiers. Artillery units are formed into batteries. Cavalry units are formed into troops. A company-sized unit is usually led by a Company Commander usually the rank of Captain/O-3 (CPT) supported by a First Sergeant/E-8 (1SG). This unit consists of a Company Commander (CO, CPT), a Company Executive Officer (XO,1LT), A First Sergeant(1SG) and a headquarters, Two or more Platoon Leaders (2LT/1LT), two or more Platoon Sergeants (SFC), and four or more Squad Leaders (any NCO).
  7. Platoon: Usually led by a lieutenant supported by a Sergeant First Class/E-7 (SFC). This unit consists of a Platoon Leader (2LT/1LT), a Platoon Sergeant (SFC), and two or more Squad Leaders (any NCO).
  8. Section (military unit): Usually directed by Staff Sergeants/E-6 (SSG) who supply guidance for junior NCO Squad leaders. Often used in conjunction with platoons at the company level.
  9. Squad: Squad leaders are often Staff Sergeants/E-6 (SSG), Sergeants/E-5 (SGT), or Corporals/E-4 (CPL). This unit consists of eight to ten Soldiers.
  10. Fire team: Usually consists of four Soldiers: a fire team leader, a grenadier, and two riflemen. Fire team leaders are often Corporals/E-4 (CPL).


The Army is organized by function. Combat Arms include Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, Air Defense Artillery, Combat Engineers, Army Aviation, and Special Forces. Combat Support Arms include Signal Corps, Intelligence Corps, Chemical Corps, and Military Police Corps. Combat Service Support troops include the Judge Advocate General's Corps, Adjutant General's Corps, Finance Corps, Transportation Corps, Quartermaster Corps, Ordnance Corps, Medical Corps, Medical Service Corps, and Nurse Corps.

Rank Structure

See also U.S. Army officer rank insignia.

Comparison of ranking structure available at Ranks and Insignia of NATO.

NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF-D- Student Officer
United States United States
No Equivalent Various
General of the Army1 General Lieutenant General Major General Brigadier General Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain First Lieutenant Second Lieutenant Cadet/Officer Candidate
  • 1 Honorary/War time rank.
NATO Rank WO-5 WO-4 WO-3 WO-2 WO-1
United States United States
Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5) Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4) Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3) Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Warrant Officer 1 (WO1)
NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
United States United States
No Insignia
Sergeant Major of the Army Command Sergeant Major Sergeant Major First Sergeant Master Sergeant Sergeant First Class Staff Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Specialist Private First Class Private E2 Private E1

The Officer Corps provides leadership and managerial functions, and is composed of

There are several sources of commissioned officers:

Officers receive a commission assigning them to the Officer Corps from the President. All newly commissioned officers receive a commission as a reserve officer. Upon attaining the rank of Major, they can be appointed into the Regular Army by the President with the advice and consent of the United States Senate [1]. Commissioned officers are assigned to a branch of service until they reach the rank of Brigadier General, where it is assumed that they are competent to command soldiers of all branches.

Once commissioned, an officer attends several levels of professional education, starting with branch qualification in their respective branch and concluding in Command and General Staff College at Fort_Leavenworth, Kansas. Professional education is required for promotion at certain grades.

The Warrant Officer is a single track specialty officer. Initially appointed an officer by the Secretary of the Army via a warrant, he/she is commissioned by the President upon promotion to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Two (CW2). The warrant officer is managed as a company grade officer, but receives limited field grade privilege upon promotion to Chief Warrant Officer Four (CW4).

The primary source for Warrant Officers is the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

The Non-Commissioned Officer Corps (or NCO Corps) is the first line of leadership for the enlisted members of the Army, and includes the ranks of

  • Corporal (CPL; pay grade E-4) (two stripes pointing up, called chevrons) ),
  • Sergeant (SGT; pay grade E-5) (three chevrons),
  • Staff Sergeant (SSG; pay grade E-6) (three chevrons and one rocker, a curved stripe at the bottom),
  • Sergeant First Class (SFC; pay grade E-7) (three chevrons and two rockers),
  • Master Sergeant (MSG; pay grade E-8) (three chevrons and three rockers),
  • First Sergeant (1SG; pay grade E-8) (which holds the same enlisted pay grade as Master Sergeant, but which carries extra administrative duties - three chevrons and three rockers with a lozenge in the center),
  • Sergeant Major (SGM; pay grade E-9) (three chevrons and three rockers with a star in the center),
  • Command Sergeant Major (CSM; pay grade E-9) (three chevrons and three rockers with a wreathed star in the center)
  • and Sergeant Major of the Army (of whom there is only one, and who advises the Chief of Staff of the Army on matters relating to enlisted personnel - three chevrons and three rockers with a centered eagle accompanied with two stars).
U.S. Army recruitment poster
U.S. Army recruitment poster

Training for NCOs takes place at any of the various NCO training centers around the world.

Until relatively recent history, most countries depended upon their officer corps to micromanage strategy, tactics and virtually every other aspect of military operations. Current military theory in the U.S. and UK has begun to emphasize the "strategic corporal," recognizing that combat decision-making by NCOs is potentially of vast importance.

The lowest enlisted ranks are:

  • Private (PV1; pay grade E-1) (no rank insignia),
  • Private Enlisted Grade 2 (PV2; pay grade E-2) (one chevron),
  • Private First Class (PFC; pay grade E-3) (one chevron and one rocker),
  • and Specialist (SPC; pay grade E-4) (which is the same Enlisted Grade as Corporal, but which requires technical leadership skills, as opposed to the combat leadership skills required of corporal -a dark green patch with an eagle centered). A Specialist ranks below a corporal in terms of chain of command.

Training for enlisted soldiers usually consists of Basic Training, and Advanced Individual Training in their primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) at any of the numerous MOS training facilities around the world.

All members of the Army must take an oath upon being sworn in as members, swearing (or affirming) to "protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, both foreign and domestic." This emphasis on the defense of the United States Constitution illustrates the concern of the framers that the military be subordinate to legitimate civilian authority.


U.S. Army soldiers boarding a plane
U.S. Army soldiers boarding a plane

The civilian executive is the Secretary of the Army who heads the United States Department of the Army, formerly called the Secretary of War who headed the United States Department of War or the War Office for short, at the founding of the Republic.

The professional head of the United States Army is the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA). This position is filled by a four star general who sits on the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. As with the other members of that committee, the Army Chief of Staff is not in the direct chain of command over combatant forces. His function is administrative and policy making. The current Army Chief of Staff is General Peter J. Schoomaker.

The most senior Army generals who are directly in the chain of command are those who command a Unified Combatant Command, known as the Combatant Commanders (COCOM's). An example is General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command. Three star positions in the Army include some deputy commanders of the Combatant Commands, the heads of the army components of the Combatant Commands and general officers commanding an army corps.

Major Commands of the United States Army

Major Command and Commanders Location of Headquarters
Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM) MG John F. Kimmons Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Criminal Investigation Command (CID)
MG Donald J. Ryder
Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Corps of Engineers (USACE)
LTG Carl A. Strock
Washington, D.C.
Medical Command (MEDCOM)
LTG Kevin C. Kiley
Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Army Materiel Command (AMC)
GEN Benjamin S. Griffin
Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)
LTG Anthony R. Jones (acting)
Fort Monroe, Virginia
Forces Command (FORSCOM)
GEN Dan K. McNeill
Fort McPherson, Georgia
US Army South (USARSO)
MG Jack D. Gardner
Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Special Operations Command (USASOC)
LTG Philip R. Kensinger
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC)
MG Charles W. (Charlie) Fletcher, Jr.
Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia
Space & Missile Defense Command (SMDC) LTG Joseph M. Cosumano, Jr. Arlington, Virginia
8th US Army (EUSA)
LTG Charles C. Campbell
Yongsan Army Garrison, Seoul
Army Pacific Command (USARPAC)
LTG John M. Brown III
Fort Shafter, Hawaii
US Army Europe & 7th Army (USAREUR) GEN B. B. Bell Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg, Germany
Army Central Command (ARCENT)
LTG R. Steven Whitcomb
Fort McPherson, Georgia
Army Reserve Command (ARC)
LTG James R. Helmly
Fort McPherson, Georgia
Army National Guard (ARNG)
LTG Roger G. Schultz
Washington, D.C.

Formations of the United States Army

First Army "First In Deed" (Reserve)

78th "Lightning" Division, Edison, NJ (Training Support)
1st Brigade (Training Support)
2d Brigade (Training Support)
3d Brigade (Training Support)
4th Brigade (Training Support)
5th Brigade "We Dare" (Training Support)
85th "Custer" Division (Training Support)
1st Brigade (Training Support)
2d Brigade (Training Support)
3d Brigade (Training Support)
4th Brigade (Training Support)
87th Division "Golden Acorn", Birmingham, AL (Training Support)
1st Brigade (Training Support)
2d Brigade (Training Support)
3d Brigade (Training Support)
4th Brigade (Training Support)
5th Brigade (Training Support)
Army Units
4th Cavalry Brigade (Training Support)
157th Infantry Brigade (Training Support)
188th Infantry Brigade (Training Support)
205th Infantry Brigade (Separate) (Light)

Third Army: Army Central Command (ARCENT)

Army Prepositioned Stock (APS-3)
Army Prepositioned Stock (APS-5)

Fifth Army (Reserve)

7th Infantry Division "Bayonets", Fort Carson, CO (Light)
39th Infantry Brigade (Light) (Separate)
41st Infantry Brigade (Light) (Separate)
45th Infantry Brigade (Light) (Separate)
75th Division, Houston, TX (Training Support)
1st Brigade (Training Support)
2d Brigade (Training Support)
3d Brigade (Training Support)
4th Brigade (Training Support)
91st Division, Houston, TX (Training Support)
1st Brigade (Training Support)
2d Brigade (Training Support)
3d Brigade (Training Support)
4th Brigade (Training Support)
Army Units
5th Armored Brigade (Training Support)
120th Infantry Brigade (Training Support)
166th Aviation Brigade (Training Support)
191st Infantry Brigade (Training Support)

Seventh Army: United States Army Europe

V Corps, Heidelberg, Germany
1st Infantry Division ("The Big Red One") — Würzburg, Germany
1st Armored DivsionWiesbaden, Germany

Eighth Army: South Korea

2d Infantry Division ("Indian Head" Division) — Camp Red Cloud, South Korea
25th Infantry Division (Light) ("Tropic Lightning") — Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
I Corps, Fort Lewis, Washington ("America's Corps")
3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division (Light)
1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light)
III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas
1st Cavalry Division
4th Infantry Division (Mechanized)
--III Corps U.S. Army National Guard
7th Infantry Division (Light) ("Bayonet" Division) — Fort Carson, Colorado
XVIII Airborne Corps
3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) ("Rock of the Marne") — Fort Stewart, Georgia
1st Brigade (Raiders) "E Pluribus Unum"
2d Brigade (Spartan) "Send Me"
3d Brigade (Sledgehammer) "Not Pretty Just Tough"
4th Bridage (Vanguard)
10th Mountain Division (Light) — Fort Drum, New York
1st Brigade
2d Brigade
3d Brigade
27th Brigade (Orions) — New York National Guard
82nd Airborne DivisionFort Bragg, North Carolina
82d Aviation Brigade
325th Airborne Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment
2d Battalion 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment
3d Battalion 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment
504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
2d Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
3d Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
2d Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
3d Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) (Screaming Eagles) — Fort Campbell, Kentucky
101st Aviation Brigade
159th Aviation Brigade
327th Parchute Infantry Regiment ("Bastogne")
1st Battalion 327th PIR
2d Battalion 327th PIR
3d Battalion 327th PIR
502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment ("Strike")
1st Battalion 502nd PIR
2nd Battalion 502nd PIR
3rd Battalion 502nd PIR
187th Parachute Infantry Regiment ("Rakkasans")
1st Battalion 187th PIR
2nd Battalion 187th PIR
3rd Battalion 187th PIR
XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery
18th Field Artillery Brigade
2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment
16th Military Police Brigade (Airborne)
18th Aviation Brigade (Airborne)
20th Engineer Brigade (Combat)(Airborne)
35th Signal Brigade (Airborne)
108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade
229th Aviation Regiment (Attack)
1-229th Attack Helicopter Battalion
3-229th Attack Helicopter Regiment
525th Military Intelligence Brigade (Airborne)

24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) — Fort Riley, Kansas


Infantry equipment

According to internal doctrine, the US Army relies on the best equipped and trained individual soldier as possible as the basic element, and aims to multiply his effectivivity with the most advanced tactics possible. This has indeed made the US Army the most advanced land force in the world, but has also caused new problems. Since this doctrine causes high expenses on each soldier, it has made warfare very expensive, which coming closer to a financial limit to leading a war more and more probable.

Infantry weapons


Other personal equipment


The US Army is highly focussed on mobility, thus, it holds many vehicles.

Armored vehicles



Transport & Supply Vehicles

See also

See also

External/Internal links

Military of the United States
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