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Military of the United States facts for kids

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United States Joint Service Color Guard on parade at Fort Myer

The military of the United States, officially known as the United States Armed Forces, is made of five branches:

The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. All branches except the Coast Guard are part of the Department of Defense, which is controlled by the Secretary of Defense. The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The Marine Corps is a part of the Navy.

About 1.4 million people are currently on active duty in the military with another 1,259,000 people on reserve (with 456,000 people in the Army and Air National Guard). There is currently no drafting. Women cannot serve in some combat positions, but they can serve in most non-combat Military Occupational Specialty. Because of war, some of these non-combat jobs actually see combat regularly.


All branches of the US military have both Officers and Enlisted. Enlisted people with a rank of E-4 and above are called Non-commissioned Officers (NCOs). It is usually their job to make sure that common jobs are done properly every day. Each branch also includes Warrant Officers (Chief Warrant Officers in the Navy) . These were enlisted members who have been made officers. They are considered experts in their field, they are higher rank than other enlisted troops, but below officers. There are four ranks of Warrant Officers: WO-1 through WO-4 (CWO-1 to CWO-4)

Here are some common ranks for the US Army, Air Force and Marines. Each branch of the military uses different names for the enlisted ranks, but they all use the same for officers. The Navy and the Coast Guard have different ranks; for those see United States Navy.

Rank Army Marines Air Force
Enlisted Ranks
E-1 Private Private Airman Basic
E-2 Private Private First Class Airman
E-3 Private First Class Lance Corporal Airman First Class
E-4 Corporal
Specialist 4
Corporal Sergeant
Senior Airman
E-5 Sergeant
Specialist 5
Sergeant Staff Sergeant
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Specialist 6
Staff Sergeant Technical Sergeant
E-7 Sergeant First Class
Specialist 7
Gunnery Sergeant Master Sergeant
E-8 Master Sergeant
First Sergeant
Master Sergeant
First Sergeant
Senior Master Sergeant
E-9 Sergeant Major Sergeant Major
Master Gunnery Sergeant
Chief Master Sergeant
E-9* Sergeant Major
  of the Army*
Sergeant Major of the
  Marine Corps*
Chief Master Sergeant
  of the Air Force*

*Each branch of the military has only one of these specific E-9 grade enlisted personnel and are considered the senior enlisted person of their branch. The Sergeant Major of the Army, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force are the spokespersons of the enlisted force at the highest levels of their services.

Rank Title
Army, Marines, and Air Force Officer Ranks
Navy Officer Ranks
O-1 Second Lieutenant Ensign
O-2 First Lieutenant Lieutenant Junior Grade
O-3 Captain Lieutenant
O-4 Major Lieutenant Commander
O-5 Lieutenant Colonel Commander
O-6 Colonel Captain
O-7 Brigadier General Rear Admiral (Lower Half)
O-8 Major General Rear Admiral
O-9 Lieutenant General Vice Admiral
O-10 General Admiral

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