WHAT IS THE ARMY?
The Army is the largest military branch in the United States. Its job is to protect the country and its citizens. In this section, you’ll learn about the history of the Army, and about some common terms that you’ll hear often as you explore your career options.
If you need more help, your recruiter can answer any specific questions you may have.
STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION
The Army is a large organization, made up of many different branches and groups. Here are some important terms you should understand as you consider a future in the military. Remember, your recruiter will also be able to answer any questions you may have, and help you understand the paths you could take in the Army.
What it means: You are a Soldier who serves full time. You will generally live on a base, either within the United States or in a foreign country. While on active duty, you will earn a full salary and you will receive health and retirement benefits.
What it means: You are a part-time Soldier, and unlike active duty status, you are required to train and report for duty just one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Serving in the Army Reserve allows you to live where you want, attend school and work a civilian job. You will still earn many benefits, including health care and retirement, and you will also earn part-time duty pay in addition to the income from your civilian job.Learn more about the differences between active duty and Army Reserve Soldiers.
What they do: Enlisted
Soldiers are the most important part of the Army. Like the employees of a company, enlisted Soldiers are responsible for carrying out a mission or task. As an enlisted Soldier, you could serve either on active duty, or in the Army Reserve.
What they do: Officers
are the leaders of the Army. Like the managers of a company, they are responsible for taking charge of enlisted Soldiers, issuing orders, and planning missions. As an Officer, you could serve either on active duty, or the Army Reserve.
Learn more about Officers and Enlisted Soldiers.
Branches of the Army
The Army is made up of many groups and organizations. The Military Occupational Specialty you choose determines your branch.
For example, if you are interested in becoming a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, you will end up in the Aviation branch. If you are interested in nursing, you will join the Nursing Corps. Check out the Advanced Individual Training (AIT) schools page to learn more about the specialized careers, or click the link below to learn about specific Army branches.
Learn more about Army branches.
From the Revolutionary War to Today
From the first skirmishes at Lexington and Concord to the Civil War to the liberation of Nazi-controlled Europe, American Soldiers are celebrated for their vigor and bravery in combat.
AN ARMY FOR FREEDOM
On 14 June 1775, The Second Continental Congress formed the Continental Army as a means for the 13 unified American colonies to fight the forces of Britain. George Washington was unanimously elected Commander-In-Chief of the fledgling Army, and he would lead the colonies to victory and independence.
Lewis and Clark to the War of 1812
Following the acquisition of the Louisiana territories in 1804, Army Officers Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Lt. William Clark lead an expedition into the western frontier. Lewis and Clark arrived at the Pacific Ocean about two years later.
In 1812, still suffering under British-enforced trade restrictions and other unsettled disputes from the American Revolution, the United States declared war on Britain for the second time. The war was a back and forth struggle that is perhaps most notable for the shelling of Baltimore harbor, which became Francis Scott Key’s inspiration for the Star Spangled Banner.
The Mexican War
In 1846, the United States and Mexico went to war following a period of border tensions. This conflict featured several Army Officers who would go on to become important figures in American history, including Gen. Zachary Taylor, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, and Winfield Scott.
The Civil War
In 1860, after a long-standing dispute over states’ rights to allow their citizens to own slaves, southern states began seceding from the Union. The war that followed would become one of the most important conflicts in American history. During the secession, almost one-third of regular Army Officers resigned to join the Confederacy, and more than three million American Soldiers would serve by the time the war ended in 1865.
THE WORLD WARS
As the United States rebuilt in the aftermath of the Civil War, total Army strength grew relatively slowly until the mid 1900s. The World War I era saw the creation of several important Army branches, including the Veterinarian Corps, the Chemical Corps, and the Aviation Section within the Army Signal Corps, the precursor to the Air Force.
World War II led to several more milestones in Army history, including the creation of the Office of Strategic Services, which became the CIA, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s introduction of the G.I. Bill. Two years after the war, the Army established the Medical Service Corps, later renamed the Army Medical Department (AMEDD).
After World War II
Following World War II, the United States entered a standoff period with Soviet Russia, known as the Cold War, leading to conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. During the 1980’s, the Army began to reorganize to focus on training and technology. By the end of the decade, the Pentagon introduced plans to reduce total Army strength. In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the end to the Cold War.
In 1991, American and allied forces responded to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The ground campaign lasted just 100 hours before a ceasefire was declared. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, American and coalition forces would again enter into a conflict in the Middle East against terrorist forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today, the Army is made up of more than 700,000 Soldiers, including active duty and Army Reserve personnel.Army Soldiers fill many roles. They are doctors, lawyers, and engineers; they are electricians, computer programmers and helicopter pilots; they are police officers, logistics experts and civil affairs representatives. The Army’s constant need for a diverse range of individual Soldiers, each with his or her own expertise is what sets it apart from other military branches.