The roles of the different branches of the U.S. military

The United States military is one of the most comprehensive, effective and respected armed forces in the world. Without the tireless commitment of military personnel — from the soldiers on the ground to the support staff behind the scenes — America could not be the world power it is today.

Each branch of the U.S. military has a unique mission, and here is a brief rundown of what those missions entail, courtesy of and the U.S. Department of Defense.

United States Army
The Army is one of the three military departments that reports directly to the Department of Defense. The Army conducts operational and institutional missions around the world, typically handling land-based missions. The Army also guards U.S. installations and properties throughout the world.

United States Navy
Serving to protect the freedom of the seas, the Navy is another branch of the military that reports directly to the Department of Defense. Among its many missions, the U.S. Navy serves to make the seas safe for travel and trade.

United States Air Force
The Air Force also reports directly to the Department of Defense and trains for and maintains global superiority in air, space and cyberspace. Air Force personnel fly planes, helicopters and even satellites.

United States Marine Corps
The Marine Corps is a component of the Department of the Navy. It carries out global missions on both sea and shore and serves as an expeditionary force. Marines are a rapid-reaction team and are usually the first boots on the ground in a conflict.

United States Coast Guard
The Coast Guard safeguards maritime interests through both civil and military missions. The Coast Guard operates around the world and in domestic waterways and ports.

United States Army National Guard
The oldest branch of the U.S. military, the National Guard serves as a complementary force to active duty. Those in the National Guard are trained to be versatile, providing for humanitarian aid, domestic emergencies, combat missions, and homeland security operations. The Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, and Navy Reserve are the other branches made up of servicemen and servicewomen who primarily work civilian jobs but may be called to full-time military duty if necessary.

The U.S. Armed Forces are headed by the President of the United States. The Secretary of the Department of Defense reports directly to the Commander-in-Chief. The DOD controls each military branch, except for the Coast Guard, which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.

Learn more about the U.S. military at

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