Air Force. The Air Force is the youngest military service. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Air Force was created in 1947 under the National Security Act of 1947. Prior to 1947, the Air Force was a separate Corps of the Army. The primary mission of the Army Air Corps was to support Army ground forces. However World War II showed that air power had much more potential than simply supporting ground troops, so the Air Force was established as a separate service. The primary mission of the Air Force is to defend the United States (and its interests) through exploitation of air and space. To accomplish this mission, the Air Force operates fighter aircraft, tanker aircraft, light and heavy bomber aircraft, transport aircraft, and helicopters (which are used mainly for rescue of downed-aircrew, and special operations missions). The Air Force is also responsible for all military satellites, and controls all of our Nation's strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. There are about 69,000 commissioned officers on active duty in the Air Force, and about 288,000 enlisted members. Like the Army, the active duty Air Force is supplemented by the Air Force Reserves, and the Air National Guard.
Navy. Like the Army, the Navy was officially established by the Continental Congress in 1775. The Navy's primary mission is to maintain the freedom of the seas. The Navy makes it possible for the United States to use the seas where and when our national interests require it. In addition, in times of conflict, the Navy helps to supplement Air Force air power. Navy aircraft carriers can often deploy to areas where fixed runways are impossible. An aircraft carrier usually carries about 80 aircraft. Most of these are fighters or fighter-bombers. Additionally, Navy ships can attack land targets from miles away (with very heavy guns), and cruise missiles. Navy submarines (fast attack and ballistic missile subs) allow stealth attacks on our enemies from right off their shores. The Navy is also primarily responsible for transporting Marines to areas of conflict. The active duty Navy has about 54,000 officers, and 324,000 enlisted personnel. The Navy is supported in times of need by the Naval Reserves. However, unlike the Army and Air Force, there is no Naval National Guard (although a few states have established "Naval Militias.")
Marine Corps. The Marines are often referred to as the "Infantry of the Navy." Marines specialize in amphibious operations. In other words, their primary specialty is to assault, capture, and control "beach heads," which then provide a route to attack the enemy from almost any direction. The Marines were officially established on 10 November 1775 by the Continental Congress, to act as a landing force for the United States Navy. In 1798, however, Congress established the Marine Corps as a separate service. While amphibious operations are their primary specialty, in recent years, the Marines have expanded other ground-combat operations, as well. The Marines are generally a "lighter" force when compared to the Army, so they can generally be deployed fast (although the Army has been making great strides in "rapid deployment" in the past few years). For combat operations, the Marines like to be self-sufficient, as much as possible, so they also have their own air power, consisting primarily of fighter and fighter/bomber aircraft and attack helicopters. Even so, the Marines use the Navy for much of their logistical and administrative support. For example, there are no doctors, nurses, or enlisted medics in the Marine Corps. Even medics that accompany the Marines into combat are specially-trained Navy medics. With the exception of the Coast Guard, the Marines are also the smallest service. There are approximately 18,000 officers and 153,000 enlisted personnel on active duty in the Marines. Like the Navy, there is no Marine Corps National Guard, but Marines are supported in times of need by the Marine Corps Reserves.