The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States of America. It consists of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. All five armed services are among the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Armed Forces are one of the largest militaries in terms of the number of personnel. It draws its personnel from a large pool of paid volunteers. The U.S. Armed Forces has significant capabilities in both defense and power projection due to its large budget, resulting in advanced and powerful technologies which enables a widespread deployment of the force around the world, including around 800 military bases outside the United States. The U.S. Air Force is the world’s largest air force, the U.S. Navy is the world’s largest navy by tonnage, and the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps combined are the world’s second largest air arm.
The U.S. military has five branches of service. The Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy fall under the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security. Each service has different requirements for joining, unique mission, which is reflected in its training, equipment, locations and military culture.
1. U.S. Army
The Army conducts major ground combat operations. It uses the most powerful, high-tech weapons, tanks, and fighting vehicles available. It’s the largest and oldest service, founded in 1775.
Learn more about the requirements to join the United States (U.S.) Army
2. U.S. Marine Corps
Marines fight on land, sea and air. They provide forces and detachments to naval ships and ground operations. They live by the core values of honor, courage and commitment, on and off the battlefield.
Learn more about the requirements to join the United States (U.S.) Marine Corps
3. U.S. Navy
The Navy makes the seas safe for travel and trade. It;s the largest navy in the world. Its aircraft carriers are like cities, with 5,000 crew members. Its submarines are among the most high-tech vessels in the world.
Learn more about the requirements to join the United States (U.S.) Navy
4. U.S. Air Force
This newest service, created in 1920 as the Army Air Force, became its own military branch in 1947. That same year , it broke the sound barrier. The Air Force’s space program detects ballistic missile launches, tracks satellites, assists with rocket launches, and more.
Learn more about the requirements to join the United States (U.S.) Air Force
5. U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard has 11 official roles. These include search and rescue, drug interdiction, marine environmental protection and defense readiness. It’s the smallest service, with a budget smaller than the New York subway system.
Learn more about the requirements to join the United States (U.S.) Coast Guard
Steps for joining the military
Start by doing some research about your options for joining the military. Learn about the five active-duty branches and their part-time counterparts. Know the main differences between officers and enlisted members. Once you know which branch you’re considering, follow these steps to enlist.
1. Contact a recruiter
A recruiter will give you an overview and answer your questions about that service. If you’re interested in more than one branch, contact a recruiter for each. If you’re interested in joining as an officer, the recruiter will explain any options you may be eligible for.
National Guard: 1-800-GO-GUARD (1-800-464-8273)
- Air Force
Active Duty: 1-800-423-USAF (1-800-423-8723)
National Guard: 1-800-TO-GO-ANG (1-800-864-6264)
Active Duty and Reserve: 1-800-USA-NAVY (1-800-872-6289)
- Marine Corps
Active Duty and Reserve: 1-800-MARINES (1-800-627-4637)
- Coast Guard
2. Report to MEPS
If you decide to enlist, you will report to a military entrance processing station (MEPS). You’ll spend a day or two completing pre-enlistment steps. These include taking the ASVAB, having a physical exam and meeting with a career counselor. If you’re accepted, you will take the oath of enlistment.
3. Await orders for basic training
You will receive orders for basic training, usually to start within a few weeks. If you enrolled in a delayed entry program, you’ll go home and get orders for basic training within a year.