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United States Army

United States Army

The United States Army is a branch of the United States Armed Forces.


The United States Army is the land service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services and is designed as the Army of the United States in the U.S. Constitution. The purpose of the United States Army, as defined by Section 7062 of Title 10, U.S. Code, is defined as being to:

  • preserve the peace and security and provide for the defense of the United States, the Commonwealth and possessions and any areas occupied by the United States;
  • support the national policies;
  • implement the national objectives; and
  • overcome any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.

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 in June 14, 1775 to fight the American Revolutionary War before the United States was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on June 3, 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army.

As one of the uniformed services of the United States, the United States Army is part of the Department of the Army, 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. In the fiscal year 2020, the projected end strength for the regular Army to be 480,893, the Army National Guard had 336,129 soldiers, and the U.S. Army Reserve had 188,703 soldiers, to offer a combined-component strength of the U.S. Army was 1,005,725 soldiers.


In 2018, the Army Strategy 2018 articulated an eight-point addendum to the Army Vision for 2018. 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.

Part of these modernization efforts includes the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning across operations to maintain advantages. This has led the U.S. Army to create the Army Talent Management Task Force intended to address the current and future needs of the war fighter. In particular, the Data and Artificial Intelligence Team shapes the creation and implementation of a holistic Officer, NCO, and Civilian talent management system. This is a work to change the Army's efforts to acquire, develop, employ, and retain a human capital through a hyper-enabled, data-rich environment and is intended to enable the Army to dominate across the spectrum of conflict as a part of the Joint Force.


As a branch of the armed forces, the mission of the United States 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 operational Army consists of numbered armies, corps, divisions, brigades, and battalions that conduct full spectrum operations around the world.

Institutional organizations provide the infrastructure necessary to raise, train, equip, deploy, and ensure the readiness of all Army forces. The training base provides military skills and professional education to every solider, as well as members of sister services and allied forces. It also allows the Army to expand rapidly in time of war. The industrial base provides world-class equipment and logistics for the Army. Army installations provide the power-projection platforms required to deploy land forces promptly to support combatant commanders.

The Army Commands (ACOM)



U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM)

Fort Bragg, North Carolina

FORSCOM trains, mobilizes, deploys, sustains, transforms, and reconstitutes assigned conventional forces, providing relevant land power to combatant commanders.

U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC)

Austin, Texas

AFC is expected to modernize the Army for the future, integrate the future operational environment, develop and deliver future force requirements, design future force organizations, and deliver materiel capabilities.

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)

Fort Eustis, Virginia

TRADOC recruits, trains, and educates the Army's soldiers; develops leaders; supports training units; develops doctrine; establishes standards; and works to build the future Army.

U.S. Materiel Command (AMC)

Redstone Arsenal, Alabama

AMC works to provide superior technology, acquisition support and logistics to ensure dominant land force capability for soldiers, the United States, and its Allies.

The Army Service Component Commands (ASCC)



Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC)

Scott Air Force Base, Illinois

SDDC is assigned to the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and a Major Subordinate Command (MSC) to U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC).

U.S. Army Africa (USARAF)

Vicenza, Italy

USARAF/SETAF is expected to provide mission command and employ forces to set the theater, conduct security force assistance, and provide support to joint and international partners in order to achieve USAFRICOM Theater Campaign Plan objectives.

U.S. Army Central (USARCENT)

Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina

USARCENT is the assigned Army Service Component Command to the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) and is expected to provide continuous oversight and control of Army operations throughout USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility.

U.S. Army Cyber Command (USARCYBER)

Fort Gordon, Georgia

The United States Cyber Command is an operational level Army force, with USARCYBER designated by the Secretary of the Army as an Army Service Component Command to U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). Army Cyber Command directs and conducts integrated electronic warfare, cyberspace, and information operations as authorized , or directed, to ensure freedom of action in and through cyberspace and the information environment, and to deny the same to their adversaries.

U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR)

Wiesbaden, Germany

USAREUR is assigned to the United States European Command (USEUCOM) and is expected to provide oversight and control of Army operations throughout the USEUCOM Area of Responsibility.

The U.S. Army's Direct Reporting Units (DRU)



Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington, Virginia

Arlington National Cemetery lays to rest those who have served the Nation with dignity and honor, treating their families with respect and compassion, and connecting guests to the cemetery's living history, while maintaining the hallowed grounds befitting the sacrifice of those who rest there.

Civilian Human Resources Agency

Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland

The Civilian Human Resources Agency provides comprehensive human resources services for the Army and is part of the Army's initiative to mold human resources functions into a corporate structure, enabling efficient and effective human resources support worldwide.

U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC)

Fort Belvoir, Virginia

The USAASC supports the readiness of the Army by improving the Army's capability through all stages of materiel development, developing a professional acquisition workforce and supporting the acquisition community at all levels.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

Washington, D.C.

USACE provides engineering services and capabilities in support of National interests.

U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (USAIDC)

Quantico, Virginia

USAIDC conducts sensitive or special interest investigations as directed by the Secretary of the Army or the Chief of Staff of the Army; plans for and provides personal security for DoD and Department of the Army officials as designated by the Secretary of the Army or the Chief of Staff of the Army; provides criminal investigative support to all Army elements including forensic support; maintains overall responsibility for Army investigations of controlled substances; conducts and controls all Army investigations of serious crimes, less serious crimes, upon request, or as necessary for effective Army law enforcement and fraud; and other crimes arising in Army procurement activitieies.

The Continental Army

The first regular United States fighting force, the Continental Army, was organized by the Second Continental Congress in 1775. It comprised the 22,000 militia troops then besieging Boston and an additional 5,000 militiamen in New York. It was placed under the control of a five-member civilian board, and U.S. military forces have remained in civilian control ever since. George Washington formally took control of these colonial troops on July 3, 1775. In January 1776 the Continental Congress partially responded to Washington's appeals by establishing a single standing force raised from all the colonies.

These "Continentals" were enlisted for longer terms and trained more thoroughly than the militias. And they were able to provide a small but stable nucleus with which to work and a force that Washington could rely on during difficult periods. This was a formal beginning of the regular Army. In 1789, the civilian Department of War, later renamed to the Department of Defense, was established to administer the military forces. Washington worked to persuade Congress following the War for Independence that they needed a larger regular Army, in part due to the increasing frontier conflicts. However, the state militias were concerned a too large standing army would put too much power in the hands of the Federal Government.

The War of 1812

The inadequacy of the resulting arrangement and force strength of the regular army was exposed during the War of 1812. A total of around 60,000 men served in the regular Army during the almost three years of war. This force bore the brunt of conflict with about 70,000 British regulars, 2,000 Canadian militia, and about 10,000 Indigenous, many of which were part of Tecumseh's confederation. At one time or another, nearly 460,000 American militiamen were under arms, but few saw battle.

After the War of 1812, the regular Army was reduced to 10,000 men and was still further reduced in 1821 to 6,127. These strength number gradually rose to around 8,000 by 1838 when the combination of the Second Seminole War and the expansion of the western frontier caused Congress to authorize an increase to 12,577. However, this size was once again decreased to 8,613 and this was still the strength at the outbreak of the Mexican-American war in 1846.

Mexican-American War

The Mexican-American War was significant in that it signaled the virtual abandonment of the militia concept for war purposes. The regular Army was increased to more than 30,000 troops and approximately 60,000 additional volunteers were recruited. Most of the new regulars and volunteers actually served in Mexico during the war, unlike in the War of 1812. Many of the recognizable commanders of the American Civil War served as junior officers during the Mexican-American War, including Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan, James Longstreet, and George Pickett.

Civil War

The U.S. Army underwent an enormous expansion during the Civil War (1861-65), growing from a peacetime strength of about 16,000 troops in December 1860 to a maximum size of 1,000,000 by 1865. The Confederate Army may have reached a strength of 500,000 troops at its height. The volunteer system was again substituted for the workable militia concept, and most militiamen served as volunteers in federal service. Both sides initially relied on voluntary enlistments, but both had to eventually resort to conscription to maintain their vast armies on the field.

On July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, which among other things, legalized the enlistment of African American soldiers in the Union Army. When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, recruitment of African American soldiers began in earnest, and by the end of the war nearly 180,000 troops were enlisted.

Spanish-American War

The Army Reorganization Act of 1866 (formally, an Act to increase and fix the Military Peace Establishment of the United States), provided for a regular Army of 54,000 men, but this figure was gradually decreased until 1874, when authorized strength was set at 25,000, where it remained until the Spanish-American War. About 19,000 troops were stationed in the South to support the military governments of the reconstruction period. Because of the threat posed by the rule of Maximilian in Mexico, General Philip Sheridan was sent to the border with a large command. The remainder of the army dealt with increasingly violent Plains Wars in the West.

Towards the turn of the century, the pay and conditions of service were considered poor in the U.S. Army, and in 1878 its effective strength was less than 20,000, the smallest force proportion since the time of Washington's first term. The Army was well trained; however, as it saw almost constant combat service in the Indian Wars. During the Spanish-American War, the Army was again augmented by volunteers rather than militia units. Calls for volunteers increased its size to 216,029 troops by August 31, 1898; 50,000 of these were regulars.

Because of the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), the president was authorized to keep the strength of the regular Army at a maximum of 65,000 members, and in 1901 this figure was raised to 100,000. The hasty expansion of the Army at the outset of the war with Spain had been chaotic. The War Department was also considered to be inefficient in administration, organization, and operational direction.

Elihu Root

In 1899, When Elihu Root was appointed secretary of war, he set about correcting these deficiencies. He succeeded in reorganizing and revitalizing not only the War Department, but the U.S. military policy as a whole. In the process, he was able to strengthen the traditional concept of civilian control over the military. He contributed to the establishment of an efficient general staff in 1903. Related to this was the development of an extensive and integrated system of postgraduate military education for all levels of responsibility from lieutenant to general. Root was largely responsible for the establishment in 1903 of the Joint Board, comprising senior Army and Navy officers, to avoid future failures in coordination of strategic planning and tactical operations such as had occurred in the Spanish-American War.

World War I

When war came in 1917, the U.S. Army was better prepared than at any previous time in American history. Four main reasons for this included the existence of an efficient general staff for planning and coordination purposes; the combat experience, which most American regular Army officers had gained during the Philippine-American War; the mobilization of an expanded regular Army and 65,000 national guardsmen for duty along the Mexican border; and the repeal of the Militia Act of 1792. A federally coordinated National Guard, with components in each state, was established, as was an Organized Reserve Corps, completely under federal authority.

During the First World War, the Army expanded in eighteen months to 3,685,000 troops, about three-fourths of whom were conscripted under the Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917. About 2,000,000 troops were sent to France to serve in General John J. Pershing's American Expeditionary Force. The role played by U.S. forces in the final Allied victory in November 1918 were evidence of the effectiveness of Root's innovations.

World War II

After the armistice in 1918, The U.S. Army once again decreased its forces. For most of the period from 1919 to 1939, the Army's strength was about 125,000 troops, the smallest of all of the great powers. Following Nazi Germany's successful 1940 invasion of France, the U.S. Government reinstated conscription and raised the Army's strength to 1,640,000 by the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This brought the United States into the war, and through which the Army went through an expansion to 8,300,000 troops, of which about 5,000,000 saw service overseas.

This saw American troops play a central role in the invasion of Europe during the D-Day invasion and the subsequent liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany. In the Pacific, Army solders participated alongside U.S. Marines in capturing the Pacific Islands from Japanese control. Following the Axis surrenders of Germany in May and of Japan in August of 1945, Army troops were deployed to Japan and Germany to occupy the two defeated nations. Two years after World War II, the Army Air Forces separated from the Army to become the United States Air Force. In 1948, the Army desegregated by order of President Harry S. Truman.

Korean and Vietnam War

The end of the conflict of World War II set the stage for the confrontation of the two remaining superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, known as the Cold War. Two of the hot moments of the overall Cold were were the Korean War in 1950 and the Vietnam War which began around 1965.

The Korean War

In the case of the Korean War, the outbreak saw further troops placed in West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom until the 1990s in an anticipation of a possible Soviet attack. The Korean war technically began when Soviet delegates walked out of a U.N. Security meeting, removing a possible veto to the war, and under the umbrella of the United Nations, hundreds of thousands of United States troops fought to prevent a takeover of South Korea by North Korea, and later to invade the northern nation. Following a series of repeated advances and retreats by both sides, and the PRC People's Volunteer Army's entry into the war, the Korean Armistice Agreement returned the peninsula to the status quo in 1953.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War, which is often regarded as a low point for the United States Military and the Army due to the use of drafted personnel and its unpopularity with the American public, formally began in 1965 after the deployment of large forces of American soldiers following the Gulf of Tonkin incident. However, American forces had been stationed in the Republic of Vietnam as of 1959. During the Vietnam War, Army strength increased to nearly 1,000,000 troops, before the commitment of forces in the Vietnam War, which further increased to 1,463,000 at the height of the conflict. At the same time, the Vietnam War saw great improvement in weapons and equipment, the Army organization was revised to ensure effective and flexible employment of troops in a variety of combat tasks, and with the completion of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973, the peacetime draft was ended and the Army was returned to a volunteer status.

Persian Gulf War

During the Persian Gulf War in early 1991, the allied coalition against Iraq reached a strength of over 700,000 troops, including 539,000 American personnel. Following an allied air war which lasted several weeks, the allies sent in large numbers of ground troops to destroy Iraqi fortifications, weapon stockpiles, and tanks, which led to, four days later, President George H.W. Bush declaring a cease fire. Congress proposed to cut the total armed forces by around 22 percent over the next few years.

21st Century

The U.S. Army, in the 21st Century, has primarily been defined by the War on Terror in Afghanistan and the War in Iraq. Although the initial post-September 11, 2001 invasion was of Afghanistan, by 2003, the focus was shifted to Iraq. Afghanistan was treated in some ways as a forgotten war, which allowed the Taliban in the area to regroup and rebuild, while the United States troops assisted with nation-building efforts. The U.S. Army remained in the country in an advisory capacity to help rebuild and allow Afghanistan forces to take on the security burden. The conflict in Afghanistan formally ended on December 28, 2014.

In the case of the Iraq war, the U.S. returned with a fraction of the numbers of soldiers compared to those deployed in 1991. The light footprint strategy relied on the overwhelming technological edge enjoyed by the U.S.-led coalition. This advantage, however, did not stop the security concerns and the United States forces from incurring heavy casualties, which negatively affected recruitment. The U.S. Army, which bore the brunt of these casualties, went to different measures to deploy the numbers necessary in the region, including deploying National Guard units, calling up reservists, and denying troops scheduled for deployment from leaving the military. By the time the United States troops left Iraq in December 2011, almost 4,500 Americans had been killed and some 30,000 had been wounded.



Further Resources



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