The United States Army (USA) is the land service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services and is designated as the Army of the United States in the U.S. Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed (14 June 1775) to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself to be a continuation of the Continental Army, and thus considers its institutional inception to be the origin of that armed force in 1775.
The U.S. Army is a uniformed service of the United States and is part of the Department of the Army, which is one of the three military departments of the Department of Defense. The U.S. Army is headed by a civilian senior appointed civil servant, the secretary of the Army (SECARMY) and by a chief military officer, the chief of staff of the Army (CSA) who is also a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is the largest military branch, and in the fiscal year 2020, the projected end strength for the Regular Army (USA) was 480,893 soldiers; the Army National Guard (ARNG) had 336,129 soldiers and the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) had 188,703 soldiers; the combined-component strength of the U.S. Army was 1,005,725 soldiers. As a branch of the armed forces, the mission of the U.S. Army is “to fight and win our Nation’s wars, by providing prompt, sustained land dominance, across the full range of military operations and the spectrum of conflict, in support of combatant commanders”. The branch participates in conflicts worldwide and is the major ground-based offensive and defensive force of the United States.
The United States Army serves as the land-based branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Section 3062 of Title 10, U.S. Code defines the purpose of the army as:
- Preserving the peace and security and providing for the defense of the United States, the Commonwealths and possessions and any areas occupied by the United States
- Supporting the national policies
- Implementing the national objectives
- Overcoming any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States
In 2018, the Army Strategy 2018 articulated an eight-point addendum to the Army Vision for 2028. While the Army Mission remains constant, the Army Strategy builds upon the Army’s Brigade Modernization by adding focus to Corps and Division-level echelons. Modernization, reform for high-intensity conflict, and Joint multi-domain operations are added to the strategy, to be completed by 2028.
The Army’s five core competencies are prompt and sustained land combat, combined arms operations (to include combined arms maneuver and wide-area security, armored and mechanized operations and airborne and air assault operations), special operations, to set and sustain the theater for the joint force, and to integrate national, multinational, and joint power on land.
The Continental Army was created on 14 June 1775 by the Second Continental Congress as a unified army for the colonies to fight Great Britain, with George Washington appointed as its commander. The army was initially led by men who had served in the British Army or colonial militias and who brought much of British military heritage with them. As the Revolutionary War progressed, French aid, resources, and military thinking helped shape the new army. A number of European soldiers came on their own to help, such as Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who taught Prussian Army tactics and organizational skills.
The army fought numerous pitched battles and in the South in 1780 and 1781, at times using the Fabian strategy and hit-and-run tactics, under the leadership of Major General Nathanael Greene, hit where the British were weakest to wear down their forces. Washington led victories against the British at Trenton and Princeton but lost a series of battles in the New York and New Jersey campaign in 1776 and the Philadelphia campaign in 1777. With a decisive victory at Yorktown and the help of the French, the Continental Army prevailed against the British.
After the war, the Continental Army was quickly given land certificates and disbanded in a reflection of the republican distrust of standing armies. State militias became the new nation’s sole ground army, with the exception of a regiment to guard the Western Frontier and one battery of artillery guarding West Point’s arsenal. However, because of continuing conflict with Native Americans, it was soon realized that it was necessary to field a trained standing army. The Regular Army was at first very small and after General St. Clair’s defeat at the Battle of the Wabash, where more than 800 Americans were killed, the Regular Army was reorganized as the Legion of the United States, which was established in 1791 and renamed the United States Army in 1796.
In 1798, during the Quasi-War with France, Congress established a three-year “Provisional Army” of 10,000 men, consisting of twelve regiments of infantry and six troops of light dragoons. By March 1799 Congress created an “Eventual Army” of 30,000 men, including three regiments of cavalry. Both “armies” existed only on paper, but equipment for 3,000 men and horses was procured and stored.
Early wars on the Frontier
The War of 1812, the second and last war between the United States and Great Britain, had mixed results. The U.S. Army did not conquer Canada but it did destroy Native American resistance to expansion in the Old Northwest and it validated its independence by stopping two major British invasions in 1814 and 1815. After taking control of Lake Erie in 1813, the U.S. Army seized parts of western Upper Canada, burned York and defeated Tecumseh, which caused his Western Confederacy to collapse. Following U.S. victories in the Canadian province of Upper Canada, British troops who had dubbed the U.S. Army “Regulars, by God!”, were able to capture and burn Washington, which was defended by militia, in 1814. The regular army, however proved they were professional and capable of defeating the British army during the invasions of Plattsburgh and Baltimore, prompting British agreement on the previously rejected terms of a status quo ante bellum. Two weeks after a treaty was signed (but not ratified), Andrew Jackson defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans and Siege of Fort St. Philip, and became a national hero. U.S. troops and sailors captured HMS Cyane, Levant and Penguin in the final engagements of the war. Per the treaty, both sides (the United States and Great Britain) returned to the geographical status quo. Both navies kept the warships they had seized during the conflict.
The army’s major campaign against the Indians was fought in Florida against Seminoles. It took long wars (1818–1858) to finally defeat the Seminoles and move them to Oklahoma. The usual strategy in Indian wars was to seize control of the Indians’ winter food supply, but that was no use in Florida where there was no winter. The second strategy was to form alliances with other Indian tribes, but that too was useless because the Seminoles had destroyed all the other Indians when they entered Florida in the late eighteenth century.
The U.S. Army fought and won the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), which was a defining event for both countries. The U.S. victory resulted in the acquisition of territory that eventually became all or parts of the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming and New Mexico.
American Civil War
The American Civil War was the costliest war for the U.S. in terms of casualties. After most slave states, located in the southern U.S., formed the Confederate States, the Confederate States Army, led by former U.S. Army officers, mobilized a large fraction of Southern white manpower. Forces of the United States (the “Union” or “the North”) formed the Union Army, consisting of a small body of regular army units and a large body of volunteer units raised from every state, north and south, except South Carolina.
For the first two years Confederate forces did well in set battles but lost control of the border states. The Confederates had the advantage of defending a large territory in an area where disease caused twice as many deaths as combat. The Union pursued a strategy of seizing the coastline, blockading the ports, and taking control of the river systems. By 1863, the Confederacy was being strangled. Its eastern armies fought well, but the western armies were defeated one after another until the Union forces captured New Orleans in 1862 along with the Tennessee River. In the Vicksburg Campaign of 1862–1863, General Ulysses Grant seized the Mississippi River and cut off the Southwest. Grant took command of Union forces in 1864 and after a series of battles with very heavy casualties, he had General Robert E. Lee under siege in Richmond as General William T. Sherman captured Atlanta and marched through Georgia and the Carolinas. The Confederate capital was abandoned in April 1865 and Lee subsequently surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House. All other Confederate armies surrendered within a few months.
The war remains the deadliest conflict in U.S. history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000 men on both sides. Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6.4% in the North and 18% in the South.
Later 19th century
Following the Civil War, the U.S. Army had the mission of containing western tribes of Native Americans on the Indian reservations. They set up many forts and engaged in the last of the American Indian Wars. U.S. Army troops also occupied several Southern states during the Reconstruction Era to protect freedmen.
The key battles of the Spanish–American War of 1898 were fought by the Navy. Using mostly new volunteers, the U.S. Army defeated Spain in land campaigns in Cuba and played the central role in the Philippine–American War.
Starting in 1910, the army began acquiring fixed-wing aircraft. In 1910, during the Mexican Revolution, the army was deployed to U.S. towns near the border to ensure the safety of lives and property. In 1916, Pancho Villa, a major rebel leader, attacked Columbus, New Mexico, prompting a U.S. intervention in Mexico until 7 February 1917. They fought the rebels and the Mexican federal troops until 1918.
The United States joined World War I as an “Associated Power” in 1917 on the side of Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the other Allies. U.S. troops were sent to the Western Front and were involved in the last offensives that ended the war. With the armistice in November 1918, the army once again decreased its forces.
In 1939, estimates of the Army’s strength range between 174,000 and 200,000 soldiers, smaller than that of Portugal’s, which ranked it 17th or 19th in the world in size. General George C. Marshall became Army chief of staff in September 1939 and set about expanding and modernizing the Army in preparation for war.
The United States joined World War II in December 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Some 11 million Americans were to serve in various Army operations. On the European front, U.S. Army troops formed a significant portion of the forces that landed in French North Africa and took Tunisia and then moved on to Sicily and later fought in Italy. In the June 1944 landings in northern France and in the subsequent liberation of Europe and defeat of Nazi Germany, millions of U.S. Army troops played a central role.
The end of World War II set the stage for the East–West confrontation known as the Cold War. With the outbreak of the Korean War, concerns over the defense of Western Europe rose. Two corps, V and VII, were reactivated under Seventh United States Army in 1950 and U.S. strength in Europe rose from one division to four. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops remained stationed in West Germany, with others in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, until the 1990s in anticipation of a possible Soviet attack.
During the Cold War, U.S. troops and their allies fought communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. The Korean War began in June 1950, when the Soviets walked out of a UN Security Council meeting, removing their possible veto. Under a United Nations umbrella, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops fought to prevent the takeover of South Korea by North Korea and later to invade the northern nation. After repeated advances and retreats by both sides and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army’s entry into the war, the Korean Armistice Agreement returned the peninsula to the status quo in July 1953.
The Vietnam War is often regarded as a low point for the U.S. Army due to the use of drafted personnel, the unpopularity of the war with the U.S. public and frustrating restrictions placed on the military by U.S. political leaders. While U.S. forces had been stationed in South Vietnam since 1959, in intelligence and advising/training roles, they were not deployed in large numbers until 1965, after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. U.S. forces effectively established and maintained control of the “traditional” battlefield, but they struggled to counter the guerrilla hit and run tactics of the communist Viet Cong and the People’s Army Of Vietnam (NVA). On a tactical level, U.S. soldiers (and the U.S. military as a whole) did not lose a sizable battle.
During the 1960s, the Department of Defense continued to scrutinize the reserve forces and to question the number of divisions and brigades as well as the redundancy of maintaining two reserve components, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. In 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara decided that 15 combat divisions in the Army National Guard were unnecessary and cut the number to eight divisions (one mechanized infantry, two armored, and five infantry), but increased the number of brigades from seven to 18 (one airborne, one armored, two mechanized infantry and 14 infantry). The loss of the divisions did not sit well with the states. Their objections included the inadequate maneuver element mix for those that remained and the end to the practice of rotating divisional commands among the states that supported them. Under the proposal, the remaining division commanders were to reside in the state of the division base. However, no reduction in total Army National Guard strength was to take place, which convinced the governors to accept the plan. The states reorganized their forces accordingly between 1 December 1967 and 1 May 1968.
The Total Force Policy was adopted by Chief of Staff of the Army General Creighton Abrams in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and involved treating the three components of the army – the Regular Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve as a single force. General Abrams’ intertwining of the three components of the army effectively made extended operations impossible without the involvement of both the Army National Guard and Army Reserve in a predominant combat support role. The army converted to an all-volunteer force with greater emphasis on training to specific performance standards driven by the reforms of General William E. DePuy, the first commander of United States Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The 1980s was mostly a decade of reorganization. The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 created unified combatant commands bringing the army together with the other four military services under unified, geographically organized command structures. The army also played a role in the invasions of Grenada in 1983 (Operation Urgent Fury) and Panama in 1989 (Operation Just Cause).
By 1989 Germany was nearing reunification and the Cold War was coming to a close. Army leadership reacted by starting to plan for a reduction in strength. By November 1989 Pentagon briefers were laying out plans to reduce army end strength by 23%, from 750,000 to 580,000. A number of incentives such as early retirement were used.
In 1990, Iraq invaded its smaller neighbor, Kuwait, and U.S. land forces quickly deployed to assure the protection of Saudi Arabia. In January 1991 Operation Desert Storm commenced, a U.S.-led coalition which deployed over 500,000 troops, the bulk of them from U.S. Army formations, to drive out Iraqi forces. The campaign ended in total victory, as Western coalition forces routed the Iraqi Army. Some of the largest tank battles in history were fought during the Gulf war. The Battle of Medina Ridge, Battle of Norfolk and the Battle of 73 Easting were tank battles of historical significance.
After Operation Desert Storm, the army did not see major combat operations for the remainder of the 1990s but did participate in a number of peacekeeping activities. In 1990 the Department of Defense issued guidance for “rebalancing” after a review of the Total Force Policy, but in 2004, Air War College scholars concluded the guidance would reverse the Total Force Policy which is an “essential ingredient to the successful application of military force”.
On 11 September 2001, 53 Army civilians (47 employees and six contractors) and 22 soldiers were among the 125 victims killed in the Pentagon in a terrorist attack when American Airlines Flight 77 commandeered by five Al-Qaeda hijackers slammed into the western side of the building, as part of the September 11 attacks. In response to the 11 September attacks and as part of the Global War on Terror, U.S. and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, displacing the Taliban government. The U.S. Army also led the combined U.S. and allied invasion of Iraq in 2003; it served as the primary source for ground forces with its ability to sustain short and long-term deployment operations. In the following years, the mission changed from conflict between regular militaries to counterinsurgency, resulting in the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. service members (as of March 2008) and injuries to thousands more. 23,813 insurgents were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.
Until 2009, the army’s chief modernization plan, its most ambitious since World War II, was the Future Combat Systems program. In 2009, many systems were canceled, and the remaining were swept into the BCT modernization program. By 2017, the Brigade Modernization project was completed and its headquarters, the Brigade Modernization Command, was renamed the Joint Modernization Command, or JMC. In response to Budget sequestration in 2013, Army plans were to shrink to 1940 levels, although actual Active-Army end-strengths were projected to fall to some 450,000 troops by the end of FY2017. From 2016 to 2017, the Army retired hundreds of OH-58 Kiowa Warrior observation helicopters, while retaining its Apache gunships. The 2015 expenditure for Army research, development, and acquisition changed from $32 billion projected in 2012 for FY15 to $21 billion for FY15 expected in 2014.
By 2017, a task force was formed to address Army modernization, which triggered shifts of units: RDECOM, and ARCIC, from within Army Materiel Command (AMC), and TRADOC, respectively, to a new Army Command (ACOM) in 2018. The Army Futures Command (AFC), is a peer of FORSCOM, TRADOC, and AMC, the other ACOMs. AFC’s mission is modernization reform: to design hardware, as well as to work within the acquisition process which defines material for AMC. TRADOC’s mission is to define the architecture and organization of the Army and to train and supply soldiers to FORSCOM. AFC’s cross-functional teams (CFTs) are Futures Command’s vehicle for sustainable reform of the acquisition process for the future. In order to support the Army’s modernization priorities, its FY2020 budget allocated $30 billion for the top six modernization priorities over the next five years. The $30 billion came from $8 billion in cost avoidance and $22 billion in terminations.
The task of organizing the U.S. Army commenced in 1775. In the first one hundred years of its existence, the United States Army was maintained as a small peacetime force to man permanent forts and perform other non-wartime duties such as engineering and construction works. During times of war, the U.S. Army was augmented by the much larger United States Volunteers which were raised independently by various state governments. States also maintained full-time militias which could also be called into the service of the army.
By the twentieth century, the U.S. Army had mobilized the U.S. Volunteers on four occasions during each of the major wars of the nineteenth century. During World War I, the “National Army” was organized to fight the conflict, replacing the concept of U.S. Volunteers. 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 World War II. 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 Army National Guard. Some states further maintain state defense forces, as a type of reserve to the National Guard, while all states maintain regulations for state militias. State militias are both “organized”, meaning that they are armed forces usually part of the state defense forces, or “unorganized” simply meaning that all able-bodied males may be eligible to be called into military service.
The U.S. Army is also divided into several branches and functional areas. Branches include officers, warrant officers, and enlisted Soldiers while functional areas consist of officers who are reclassified from their former branch into a functional area. However, officers continue to wear the branch insignia of their former branch in most cases, as functional areas do not generally have discrete insignia. Some branches, such as Special Forces, operate similarly to functional areas in that individuals may not join their ranks until having served in another Army branch. Careers in the Army can extend into cross-functional areas for an officer, warrant officer, enlisted, and civilian personnel.
Before 1933, members of the Army National Guard were considered state militia until they were mobilized into U.S. Army, typically on the onset of war. Since the 1933 amendment to the National Defense Act of 1916, all Army National Guard soldiers have held dual status. They serve as National Guardsmen under the authority of the governor of their state or territory and as a reserve members of the U.S. Army under the authority of the president, in the Army National Guard of the United States.
Since the adoption of the total force policy, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, reserve component soldiers have taken a more active role in U.S. military operations. For example, Reserve and Guard units took part in the Gulf War, peacekeeping in Kosovo, Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Army commands and army service component commands
Source: U.S. Army organization
The U.S. Army is made up of three components: the active component, the Regular Army; and two reserve components, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. Both reserve components are primarily composed of part-time soldiers who train once a month – known as battle assemblies or unit training assemblies (UTAs) – and conduct two to three weeks of annual training each year. Both the Regular Army and the Army Reserve are organized under Title 10 of the United States Code, while the National Guard is organized under Title 32. While the Army National Guard is organized, trained and equipped as a component of the U.S. Army, when it is not in federal service it is under the command of individual state and territorial governors. However, the District of Columbia National Guard reports to the U.S. president, not the district’s mayor, even when not federalized. Any or all of the National Guard can be federalized by presidential order and against the governor’s wishes.
The U.S. Army is led by a civilian secretary of the Army, who has the statutory authority to conduct all the affairs of the army under the authority, direction and control of the secretary of defense. The chief of staff of the Army, who is the highest-ranked military officer in the army, serves as the principal military adviser and executive agent for the secretary of the Army, i.e., its service chief; and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a body composed of the service chiefs from each of the four military services belonging to the Department of Defense who advise the president of the United States, the secretary of defense and the National Security Council on operational military matters, under the guidance of the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1986, the Goldwater–Nichols Act mandated that operational control of the services follows a chain of command from the president to the secretary of defense directly to the unified combatant commanders, who have control of all armed forces units in their geographic or function area of responsibility, thus the secretaries of the military departments (and their respective service chiefs underneath them) only have the responsibility to organize, train and equip their service components. The army provides trained forces to the combatant commanders for use as directed by the secretary of defense.
By 2013, the army shifted to six geographical commands that align with the six geographical unified combatant commands (CCMD):
- United States Army Central headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina
- United States Army North headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas
- United States Army South headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas
- United States Army Europe headquartered at Clay Kaserne, Wiesbaden, Germany
- United States Army Pacific headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii
- United States Army Africa headquartered at Vicenza, Italy
The army also transformed its base unit from divisions to brigades. Division lineage will be retained, but the divisional headquarters will be able to command any brigade, not just brigades that carry their divisional lineage. The central part of this plan is that each brigade will be modular, i.e., all brigades of the same type will be exactly the same and thus any brigade can be commanded by any division. As specified before the 2013 end-strength re-definitions, the three major types of brigade combat teams are:
- Armored brigades, with strength of 4,743 troops as of 2014.
- Stryker brigades, with strength of 4,500 troops as of 2014.
- Infantry brigades, with strength of 4,413 troops as of 2014.
In addition, there are combat support and service support modular brigades. Combat support brigades include aviation (CAB) brigades, which will come in heavy and light varieties, fires (artillery) brigades (now transforms to division artillery) and expeditionary military intelligence brigades. Combat service support brigades include sustainment brigades and come in several varieties and serve the standard support role in an army.
Combat maneuver organizations
The U.S. Army currently consists of 10 active divisions and one deployable division headquarters (7th Infantry Division) as well as several independent units. The force is in the process of contracting after several years of growth. In June 2013, the Army announced plans to downsize to 32 active brigade combat teams by 2015 to match a reduction in active duty strength to 490,000 soldiers. Army chief of staff Raymond Odierno projected that the Army was to shrink to “450,000 in the active component, 335,000 in the National Guard and 195,000 in U.S. Army Reserve” by 2018. However, this plan was scrapped by the new administration and now the Army plans to grow by 16,000 soldiers to a total of 476,000 by October 2017. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.
Within the Army National Guard and United States Army Reserve there are a further 8 divisions, over 15 maneuver brigades, additional combat support and combat service support brigades and independent cavalry, infantry, artillery, aviation, engineer and support battalions. The Army Reserve in particular provides virtually all psychological operations and civil affairs units.
|Combat maneuver units aligned under other organizations|
2nd Cavalry Regiment
|Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany||4 Stryker squadrons, 1 engineer squadron, 1 fires squadron, and 1 support squadron||U.S. Army Europe and Africa|
2nd Infantry Division
|Camp Humphreys, South Korea||2 Stryker BCTs, 1 mechanized brigade from the ROK Army, 1 DIVARTY (under administrative control of 7th ID), 1 sustainment brigade, a stateside ABCT from another active division that is rotated in on a regular basis, and the 81st Stryker BCT of the Washington and California Army National Guard||Eighth Army|
173rd Airborne Brigade
|Camp Ederle, Vicenza, Italy||3 airborne infantry battalions (including 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment of the Texas and Rhode Island Army National Guard), 1 airborne field artillery battalion, 1 airborne cavalry squadron, 1 airborne engineer battalion, and 1 airborne support battalion||U.S. Army Europe and Africa|
Special operations forces
|Name||Headquarters||Structure and purpose|
1st Special Forces Command
|Fort Bragg, North Carolina||Manages seven special forces groups designed to deploy and execute nine doctrinal missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, counterproliferation of weapon of mass destruction, and security force assistance. The command also manages two psychological operations groups—tasked to work with foreign nations to induce or reinforce behavior favorable to U.S. objectives—a civil affairs brigade—that enables military commanders and U.S. ambassadors to improve relationships with various stakeholders via five battalions—and a sustainment brigade—that provides combat service support and combat health support units via three distinct battalions.|
Army Special Operations Aviation Command
|Ft. Bragg, North Carolina||Commands, organizes, mans, trains, resources, and equips Army special operations aviation units to provide responsive, special operations aviation support to special operations forces consisting of five units, including the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne).|
75th Ranger Regiment
|Fort Benning, Georgia||In addition to a regimental headquarters, a special troops battalion, and a military intelligence battalion, the 75th Ranger Regiment has three maneuver battalions of elite airborne infantry specializing in large-scale, joint forcible entry operations and precision targeting raids. Additional capabilities include special reconnaissance, air assault, and direct action raids seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying or securing strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the Nation. The Regiment also helps develop the equipment, technologies, training, and readiness that bridge the gap between special operations and traditional combat maneuver organizations.|
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School
|Ft. Bragg, North Carolina||Selects and trains special forces, civil affairs, and psychological operations soldiers consisting of two groups and other various training units and offices.|
1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta
|Ft. Bragg, North Carolina||Commonly referred to as Delta Force, Combat Applications Group (CAG), “The Unit,” Army Compartmented Element (ACE), or Task Force Green, SFOD–D is the U.S. Army’s Tier 1 Special Mission Unit tasked with performing the most complex, classified, and dangerous missions directed by the National Command Authority. Under the control of Joint Special Operations Command, SFOD–D specializes in hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, direct action, and special reconnaissance against high-value targets via eight squadrons: four assault, one aviation, one clandestine, one combat support, and one nuclear disposal.|
These are the U.S. Army ranks authorized for use today and their equivalent NATO designations. Although no living officer currently holds the rank of General of the Army, it is still authorized by Congress for use in wartime.
There are several paths to becoming a commissioned officer including the United States Military Academy, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Officer Candidate School, and Direct commissioning. Regardless of which road an officer takes, the insignia are the same. Certain professions including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers and chaplains are commissioned directly into the Army.
Most army commissioned officers (those who are generalists) are promoted based on an “up or out” system. The Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980 establishes rules for timing of promotions and limits the number of officers that can serve at any given time.
Army regulations call for addressing all personnel with the rank of general as “General (last name)” regardless of the number of stars. Likewise, both colonels and lieutenant colonels are addressed as “Colonel (last name)” and first and second lieutenants as “Lieutenant (last name)”.
|US DoD Pay Grade||O-1||O-2||O-3||O-4||O-5||O-6||O-7||O-8||O-9||O-10||Special grade|
|Service Green |
|Title||Second lieutenant||First lieutenant||Captain||Major||Lieutenant colonel||Colonel||Brigadier general||Major general||Lieutenant general||General||General of the Army|
Warrant officers are single track, specialty officers with subject matter expertise in a particular area. They are initially appointed as warrant officers (in the rank of WO1) by the secretary of the Army, but receive their commission upon promotion to chief warrant officer two (CW2).
By regulation, warrant officers are addressed as “Mr. (last name)” or “Ms. (last name)” by senior officers and as “sir” or “ma’am” by all enlisted personnel. However, many personnel address warrant officers as “Chief (last name)” within their units regardless of rank.
|US DoD Pay Grade||W-1||W-2||W-3||W-4||W-5|
|Title||Warrant officer 1||Chief warrant officer 2||Chief warrant officer 3||Chief warrant officer 4||Chief warrant officer 5|
Sergeants and corporals are referred to as NCOs, short for non-commissioned officers. This distinguishes corporals from the more numerous specialists who have the same pay grade, but do not exercise leadership responsibilities.
Privates and privates first class (E3) are addressed as “Private (last name)”, specialists as “Specialist (last name)”, corporals as “Corporal (last name)” and sergeants, staff sergeants, sergeants first class and master sergeants all as “Sergeant (last name)”. First sergeants are addressed as “First Sergeant (last name)” and sergeants major and command sergeants major are addressed as “Sergeant Major (last name)”.
Training in the U.S. Army is generally divided into two categories – individual and collective. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the first two weeks of basic training — not including processing & out-processing — incorporate social distancing and indoor desk-oriented training. Once the recruits have tested negative for COVID-19 for two weeks, the remaining 8 weeks follow the traditional activities for most recruits, followed by Advanced Individualized Training (AIT) where they receive training for their military occupational specialties (MOS). Some individual’s MOSs range anywhere from 14 to 20 weeks of One Station Unit Training (OSUT), which combines Basic Training and AIT. The length of AIT school varies by the MOS. The length of time spent in AIT depends on the MOS of the soldier. Certain highly technical MOS training requires many months (e.g., foreign language translators). Depending on the needs of the army, Basic Combat Training for combat arms soldiers is conducted at a number of locations, but two of the longest-running are the Armor School and the Infantry School, both at Fort Benning, Georgia. Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey notes that an infantrymen’s pilot program for One Station Unit Training (OSUT) extends 8 weeks beyond Basic Training and AIT, to 22 weeks. The pilot, designed to boost infantry readiness ended in December 2018. The new Infantry OSUT covered the M240 machine gun as well as the M249 squad automatic weapon. The redesigned Infantry OSUT started in 2019. Depending on the result of the 2018 pilot, OSUTs could also extend training in other combat arms beyond the infantry. One Station Unit Training will be extended to 22 weeks for Armor by Fiscal Year 2021. Additional OSUTs are expanding to Cavalry, Engineer, and Military Police (MP) in the succeeding Fiscal Years.
A new training assignment for junior officers was instituted, that they serve as platoon leaders for Basic Combat Training (BCT) platoons. These lieutenants will assume many of the administrative, logistical, and day-to-day tasks formerly performed by the drill sergeants of those platoons and are expected to “lead, train, and assist with maintaining and enhancing the morale, welfare and readiness” of the drill sergeants and their BCT platoons. These lieutenants are also expected to stem any inappropriate behaviors they witness in their platoons, to free up the drill sergeants for training.
The United States Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) was introduced into the Army, beginning in 2018 with 60 battalions spread throughout the Army. The test is the same for all soldiers, men or women. It takes an hour to complete, including resting periods. The ACFT supersedes the Army physical fitness test (APFT), as being more relevant to survival in combat. Six events were determined to better predict which muscle groups of the body were adequately conditioned for combat actions: three deadlifts, a standing power throw of a ten-pound medicine ball, hand-release pushups (which replace the traditional pushup), a sprint/drag/carry 250 yard event, three pull-ups with leg tucks (or a plank test in lieu of the leg tuck), a mandatory rest period, and a two-mile run. On 1 October 2020 all soldiers from all three components (Active Army, Reserve, and National guard) are subject to this test. The ACFT now tests all soldiers in basic training as of October 2020. The ACFT becomes the official test of record 1 October 2020; before that day every Army unit is required to complete a diagnostic ACFT (All Soldiers with valid APFT scores can use them until March 2022. The Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) System is one way that soldiers can prepare.). The ACFT movements directly translate to movements on the battlefield.
Following their basic and advanced training at the individual-level, soldiers may choose to continue their training and apply for an “additional skill identifier” (ASI). The ASI allows the army to take a wide-ranging MOS and focus it into a more specific MOS. For example, a combat medic, whose duties are to provide pre-hospital emergency treatment, may receive ASI training to become a cardiovascular specialist, a dialysis specialist or even a licensed practical nurse. For commissioned officers, training includes pre-commissioning training, known as Basic Officer Leader Course A, either at USMA or via ROTC, or by completing OCS. After commissioning, officers undergo branch specific training at the Basic Officer Leaders Course B, (formerly called Officer Basic Course), which varies in time and location according to their future assignments. Officers will continue to attend standardized training at different stages of their career.
Collective training at the unit level takes place at the unit’s assigned station, but the most intensive training at higher echelons is conducted at the three combat training centers (CTC); the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana and the Joint Multinational Training Center (JMRC) at the Hohenfels Training Area in Hohenfels and Grafenwöhr, Germany. ARFORGEN is the Army Force Generation process approved in 2006 to meet the need to continuously replenish forces for deployment, at unit level and for other echelons as required by the mission. Individual-level replenishment still requires training at a unit level, which is conducted at the continental U.S. (CONUS) replacement center (CRC) at Fort Bliss, in New Mexico and Texas before their individual deployment.
Chief of Staff Milley notes that the Army is suboptimized for training in cold-weather regions, jungles, mountains, or urban areas where in contrast the Army does well when training for deserts or rolling terrain. Post 9/11, Army unit-level training was for counter-insurgency (COIN); by 2014–2017, training had shifted to decisive action training.
The chief of staff of the Army has identified six modernization priorities, in order: artillery, ground vehicles, aircraft, network, air/missile defense, and soldier lethality.
The United States Army employs various weapons to provide light firepower at short ranges. The most common weapon type used by the army is the M4 carbine, a compact variant of the M16 rifle, along with the 7.62×51mm variant of the FN SCAR for Army Rangers. The primary sidearm in the U.S. Army is the 9 mm M9 pistol; the M11 pistol is also used. Both handguns are to be replaced by the M17 through the Modular Handgun System program. Soldiers are also equipped with various hand grenades, such as the M67 fragmentation grenade and M18 smoke grenade.
Many units are supplemented with a variety of specialized weapons, including the M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), to provide suppressive fire at the squad level. Indirect fire is provided by the M320 grenade launcher. The M1014 Joint Service Combat Shotgun or the Mossberg 590 Shotgun are used for door breaching and close-quarters combat. The M14EBR is used by designated marksmen. Snipers use the M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle, the M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle and the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle.
The army employs various crew-served weapons to provide heavy firepower at ranges exceeding that of individual weapons.
The M240 is the U.S. Army’s standard Medium Machine Gun. The M2 heavy machine gun is generally used as a vehicle-mounted machine gun. In the same way, the 40 mm MK 19 grenade machine gun is mainly used by motorized units.
The U.S. Army uses three types of mortar for indirect fire support when heavier artillery may not be appropriate or available. The smallest of these is the 60 mm M224, normally assigned at the infantry company level. At the next higher echelon, infantry battalions are typically supported by a section of 81 mm M252 mortars. The largest mortar in the army’s inventory is the 120 mm M120/M121, usually employed by mechanized units.
60 mm M224 Mortar
Fire support for light infantry units is provided by towed howitzers, including the 105 mm M119A1 and the 155 mm M777.
The U.S. Army utilizes a variety of direct-fire rockets and missiles to provide infantry with an Anti-Armor Capability. The AT4 is an unguided projectile that can destroy armor and bunkers at ranges up to 500 meters. The FIM-92 Stinger is a shoulder-launched, heat seeking anti-aircraft missile. The FGM-148 Javelin and BGM-71 TOW are anti-tank guided missiles.
U.S. Army doctrine puts a premium on mechanized warfare. It fields the highest vehicle-to-soldier ratio in the world as of 2009. The army’s most common vehicle is the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly called the Humvee, which is capable of serving as a cargo/troop carrier, weapons platform, and ambulance, among many other roles. While they operate a wide variety of combat support vehicles, one of the most common types centers on the family of HEMTT vehicles. The M1A2 Abrams is the army’s main battle tank, while the M2A3 Bradley is the standard infantry fighting vehicle. Other vehicles include the Stryker, the M113 armored personnel carrier and multiple types of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
The U.S. Army’s principal artillery weapons are the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), both mounted on tracked platforms and assigned to heavy mechanized units.
While the United States Army Aviation Branch operates a few fixed-wing aircraft, it mainly operates several types of rotary-wing aircraft. These include the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, the UH-60 Black Hawk utility tactical transport helicopter and the CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift transport helicopter. Restructuring plans call for reduction of 750 aircraft and from 7 to 4 types.
Under the Johnson-McConnell agreement of 1966, the Army agreed to limit its fixed-wing aviation role to administrative mission support (light unarmed aircraft which cannot operate from forward positions). For UAVs, the Army is deploying at least one company of drone MQ-1C Gray Eagles to each Active Army division.
The Army Combat Uniform (ACU) currently features a camouflage pattern known as Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP); OCP replaced a pixel-based pattern known as Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) in 2019.
On 11 November 2018, the Army announced a new version of ‘Army Greens’ based on uniforms worn during World War II will become the standard garrison service uniform. The blue Army Service Uniform will remain as the dress uniform. The Army Greens are projected to be first fielded in the summer of 2020.
The beret flash of enlisted personnel displays their distinctive unit insignia (shown above). The U.S. Army’s black beret is no longer worn with the ACU for garrison duty, having been permanently replaced with the patrol cap. After years of complaints that it was not suited well for most work conditions, Army chief of staff General Martin Dempsey eliminated it for wear with the ACU in June 2011. Soldiers who are currently in a unit in jump status still wear berets, whether the wearer is parachute-qualified or not (maroon beret), while members of Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) wear brown berets. Members of the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade (tan beret) and Special Forces (rifle green beret) may wear it with the Army Service Uniform for non-ceremonial functions. Unit commanders may still direct the wear of patrol caps in these units in training environments or motor pools.
The Army has relied heavily on tents to provide the various facilities needed while on deployment (Force Provider Expeditionary (FPE)). The most common tent uses for the military are as temporary barracks (sleeping quarters), DFAC buildings (dining facilities), forward operating bases (FOBs), after action review (AAR), tactical operations center (TOC), morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) facilities, as well as security checkpoints. Furthermore, most of these tents are set up and operated through the support of Natick Soldier Systems Center. Each FPE contains billeting, latrines, showers, laundry and kitchen facilities for 50–150 Soldiers, and is stored in Army Prepositioned Stocks 1, 2, 4 and 5. This provisioning allows combatant commanders to position soldiers as required in their Area of Responsibility, within 24 to 48 hours.
The U.S. Army is beginning to use a more modern tent called the deployable rapid assembly shelter (DRASH). In 2008, DRASH became part of the Army’s Standard Integrated Command Post System.
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- M113, U.S. Army Fact Files
- Paladin, Army.mil
- MLRS, U.S. Army Fact Files
- Apache, U.S. Army Fact Files
- Blackhawk, U.S. Army Fact Files
- Chinook, U.S. Army Fact Files
- Stevenson, Beth (22 January 2015), “US Army continues to face financial challenge of rotary fleet maintenance”, Flightglobal, Reed Business Information, archived from the original on 23 January 2015, retrieved 23 January 2015
- Jahner, Kyle (7 August 2017). “Army to build dedicated drone runway at Fort Bliss”. Army Times.
- “U.S. Army to roll out new Army Greens uniform”. Army.mil.
- Joe Lacdan (August 13, 2018) Automated meal entitlement system, food trucks to improve Soldier dining experience Accomplishes paperwork reduction based on reading each soldier’s Common Access Card at each use at DFAC.
- NG, DHS Technologies to support SICPS/TMSS United Press International
- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Army Center of Military History document: “Army Birthdays”.
- “Desert Storm/Shield Valorous Unit Award (VUA) Citations”. US Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- Bailey, Beth. America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force (2009) ISBN 0674035364
- Bluhm, Jr, Raymond K. (Editor-in-Chief); Andrade, Dale; Jacobs, Bruce; Langellier, John; Newell, Clayton R.; Seelinger, Matthew (2004). U.S. Army: A Complete History (Beaux Arts ed.). Arlington, VA: The Army Historical Foundation. p. 744. ISBN 978-0-88363-640-4.
- Chambers, John Whiteclay, ed. The Oxford Guide to American Military History (1999) online at many libraries
- Clark, J. P. Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S. Army, 1815–1917 (Harvard UP, 2017) 336 pp.
- Coffman, Edward M. The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I (1998), a standard history
- Kretchik, Walter E. U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror (University Press of Kansas; 2011) 392 pages; studies military doctrine in four distinct eras: 1779–1904, 1905–1944, 1944–1962, and 1962 to the present.
- Woodward, David R. The American Army and the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 2014). 484 pp. online review