Branches, Services and Units of the US Armed Forces 

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Branches, Services and Units of the US Armed Forces


The major US armed services – the Army, Navy, and Air Force – are composed of two distinct and equally important components: the active component and the reserve component.

Regardless of component, the armed services conduct both operational and institutional missions. The operational Army, for instance, conducts full spectrum operations around the world. The institutional Army provides the infrastructure necessary to raise, train, equip, deploy, and ensure the readiness of all Army units. Once operational forces are deployed, the institutional Army provides the logistics needed to support them. Without the institutional Army, the operational Army cannot function. Without the operational Army, the institutional Army has no purpose[48].

Within the armed services there are several major commands, most organized functionally or geographically. Each major command is led by a four-star general[49].

U.S. Army

The squad is the smallest element in the US Army organizational structure. Its size (eight to 16 soldiers) is dependent on its function. It is typically led by a sergeant. In a light infantry squad, there are normally nine soldiers and a squad leader. In a mechanized infantry squad, there are up to 16 soldiers, organized into two fire teams. Each team is assigned to a tactical vehicle (e.g., Bradley Fighting Vehicle). In an armor (tank/cavalry) unit the term “section” is used in lieu of squad. A section consists of two vehicles (e.g., M1A2 Abrams). Each tank has a crew consisting of four personnel.

The platoon (16-44 soldiers) is the basic combat unit capable of maneuvering in the conduct of combat operations and is led by a lieutenant who is assisted by a platoon sergeant. A platoon consists of two to four squads/sections depending on the type of unit. For example, an infantry platoon consists of three squads. A mechanized infantry platoon consists of four fighting vehicles (Bradley fighting vehicle), divided into two sections. Each vehicle holds 8-9 soldiers. A tank platoon consists of four tanks organized into two sections of two tanks each.

The company (60 to 200 soldiers) is a cohesive tactical sized unit that can perform a battlefield function on its own. It is capable of receiving and controlling additional combat, combat support (CS)orcombat service support (CSS) elements to enhance its mission capability. The company has a small headquarters element to assist the commander. Typically, three to five platoons form a lettered company, with between 15-25 vehicles. For example, a tank company is composed of five officers, 57 soldiers, 14 M1A2/A3 main battle tanks and several wheeled vehicles. The company is normally commanded by a captain. Depending on the type of unit, a company may be called a troop or battery. Groundorair cavalry units (armor and aviation units specially trained for reconnaissance missions) refer to these elements as troops. Field artillery and air defense artillery units refer to these elements as batteries.

The battalion is a unit that is both tactically and administratively self-sufficient. It has from 300 to 1,000 soldiers. In warfighting, battalions are capable of independent operations of limited duration and scope. The battalion is typically composed of four to six companies, and is commanded by a lieutenant colonel. The commander has a battalion staff of officers and non-commissioned officers to oversee missions, training, administration and logistics. A battalion task force is a battalion-size unit with additional companies attached in direct support to enhance mission capability. An armored or air cavalry unit of equivalent size is referred to as a squadron.

A brigade is a significantly large unit (1,500 to 3,200 soldiers) that can be employed on independent or semi-independent operations. The brigade is normally commanded by a colonel although in some cases a brigadier general may assume command. During combat operations, infantry, armor and cavalry brigades normally have a field artillery battalion, engineer battalion and CSS battalion in direct support. Brigades also exist in CS and CSS branches (e.g., engineer brigade, signal brigade). Armored cavalry units of this size are referred to as regiments (e.g., 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment). Ranger and Special Forces units this size are referred to as groups.

The Division (10,000 to 16,000 soldiers) performs major tactical operations and can conduct sustained battles and engagements. Divisions are numbered (e.g., 1st Armored Division, 82nd Airborne Division) and are categorized by one of five types: light infantry, mechanized infantry, armor, airborne or air assault. The division is commanded by a major general who is assisted by two principal brigadier generals who perform duties as Assistant Division Commanders – one for Maneuver and one for Support. Divisions are comprised of three tactical maneuver brigades (infantry and/or armor) and a division base of CS and CSS elements. There are currently ten divisions in the Active Army and eight divisions in the Army Reserve/National Guard. In October 1999, The Army established two integrated divisions (the 7th Infantry Division and 24th Infantry Division) consisting of an Active Component Headquarters commanded by an Active Component Major General, and three Army National Guard Enhanced Separate Brigades.

TheCorps is the deployable level of command required to synchronize and sustain combat operations. It has from 20,000 to 40,000 soldiers and provides the framework for multinational operations. The Corps provides command, control and logistical support of two to five divisions. There are currently four Corps in the Active Army ­ three with Headquarters in the CONUS (I, III, and XVIII Corps) and one in Germany (V Corps).

All organizations larger than a Corps are generically termed “Army”. An Army has three levels, all dependent upon the size and scope of the conflict. These levels are a “Theater Army”, a “Field Army”, and an “Army Group”. There are currently three standing Armies ­ the First, Third and Fifth U.S. Army. A Theater Army is the Army component in a unified command, and it has operational and support responsibilities that are assigned by the Theater Commander. The Theater Commander and Theater Army Commander may order formation of a Field Army to direct operations of assigned Corps and Divisions. An Army Group, composed of two or more Field Armies under a designated commander, is the largest tactical formation used in combat operations. However, formations of this type have not been employed since World War II (e.g., General Schwartzkopf commanded a Field Army during Operation Desert Storm; during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Corps was the largest Army organization employed).

There are 24 branches of the US Army currently authorized for active service. Combat branches are: Infantry, Air Defense Artillery (ADA), Field Artillery (FA), Armor, Aviation, Special Forces (SF), and Corps of Engineers (CE). CS branches include the Signal Corps, Military Police Corps (MPC), Chemical Corps, and the Military Intelligence (MI) Corps. Finally, the CSS branches are the remaining 13 branches: Adjutant General Corps (AGC), Chaplain Corps (CHC), Finance Corps (FC), Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC), Ordnance Corps (OrdC), Quartermaster Corps(QMC), Transportation Corps (TC), Medical Corps (MC), Dental Corps (DC), Veterinary Corps (VC), Medical Service Corps (MSC), Army Nurse Corps (ANC), Army Medical Specialist Corps (AMSC).

U.S. Air Force

The organization of operational Air Force units beneath each major command varies widely, depending on the type of unit, aircraft, and mission. The squadron is the basic unit. The number of aircraft in a squadron depends on the squadron’s purpose. There are generally 10 to 20 aircraft in a bomber squadron, 18 to 24 in a fighter squadron, and 8 to 16 in a transport squadron. Four or more squadrons form a wing, which usually includes separate operations, logistics, and support groups. Two or more wings form a division, and two or more divisions make a numbered air force.

U.S. Navy

Since World War II the U.S. Navy has designated fleets in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea with even numbers, and those in the Pacific Ocean with odd numbers. The operating forces of the Navy are divided into five numbered fleets (the Second Fleet, at Norfolk, Virginia; the Third Fleet at San Diego, California; the Fifth Fleet, at Manama, Bahrain; the Sixth Fleet, at Gaeta, Italy; and the Seventh Fleet at Yokusuka, Japan).

The Navy maintains bases. They ensure that American forces are located in important regions continuously. The Navy also maintains a forward presence (a deployment of substantial military force) outside of the United States to demonstrate its commitment to a region or to allied countries. This forward presence also enables the United States to act quickly in response to threats against American interests.


s Answer the questions

1. What are the distinct and equally important components of the major US armed services?

2. What is the difference between operational and institutional missions?

3. What tactical units of the US Army do you know?

4. Give your definition of the term “platoon”.

5. What three different units right above the platoon level do you know?

6. What units are numbered?

7. How many branches are there in the US Army?


> Read, decipher and translate abbreviations



N O Translate into Ukrainian

Tactical vehicle; light infantry squad; infantry platoon; mechanized infantry platoon; tank platoon; platoon sergeant; a cohesive tactical sized unit; battalion task force; maneuver brigade; to conduct sustained battles and engagements; mechanized infantry company; Active Component Headquarters; Theater Army Commander; the largest tactical formation; in response to threats against national interests; to conduct full spectrum operations around the world; to provides infrastructure; to ensure the readiness of all Army units; to be organized functionally or geographically; to be dependenton sth; to be led by sb; field artillery battalion; Assistant Division Commanders; maneuver brigades; integrated divisions; Army National Guard Enhanced Separate Brigade; Theater Commander.


N O Translate into English

Командувач ТВД; автономний тактичний підрозділ; батальйонна тактична група; бойова бригада; вести довготривалі бойові дії; взводний сержант; забезпечувати готовність угруповань СВ; залежати від кого-небудь; бойова машина; командувач армії ТВД; механізований взвод; найбільше тактичне угруповання; очолюватись; піхотний взвод; посилена окрема бригада НГ СВ; проводити повномасштабні операції по всьому світі; створювати інфраструктуру; створюватись за функціональними або географічними ознаками; танковий взвод; у відповідь на загрози національним інтересам; штаб регулярних СВ.

ó N O Translate quickly

Розвідувальний аеромобільний полк; Medical Service Corps; артилерійсько-технічна служба; base; вид військового угруповання; light infantry; хімічні війська; Judge Advocate General’s Corps; війська зв’язку; combat support branches; сили спеціальних операцій; Military Intelligence; бронетанкові війська; combat branches; армійська авіація; platoon leader; піхота; Field Artillery; командир роти; corps; флот; an air force; дивізія; active; номерний; institutional mission; standing; Сухопутні війська США; reserve component; буквене найменування; operational Army; зенітна артилерія; Army National Guard; військове угруповання; operational mission; адміністративна складова СВ; major command; з’єднання; fire team; екіпаж; unit; секція; Corps of Engineers; військово-юридична служба; forward presence; механізоване з’єднання; піхотна рота; Quartermaster Corps; транспортна служба; combat service support branches; служба капеланів; Finance Corps; генерал-ад’ютантська служба; Military Police Corps; об’єднання; platoon; батарея; squad; вогнева група; crew; рота; unit size; підрозділ; squadron; взвод; section; розвідувальна рота; company; частина; battery; відділення; battalion; дивізіон; ескадрилья; regiment; батальйон; troop; розвідувальний батальйон; group; ескадра; fleet; бригада; wing; полк; division; дивізіон; brigade; корпус; squad leader; крило; army; повітряна армія; командир взводу; company commander; бойові роди військ; Infantry; командир відділення; Chaplain Corps; регулярне формування; Air Defense Artillery; регулярні СВ; Armor; польова артилерія; element; роди військ бойового забезпечення; Signal Corps; військова поліція; інженерні війська; Special Forces; військова розвідка; Army Aviation; служби тилового забезпечення; Chemical Corps; фінансова служба; Adjutant General Corps; легка піхотна бригада; Ordnance Corps; військово-медична служба; unit type; квартирмейстерська служба; mechanized infantry platoon; бронетанкова дивізія; air cavalry squadron; повітрянодесантна бригада; division base; розвідувальна рота; air defense artillery; повітряно-штурмова дивізія; зенітний дивізіон; Theater Army; окремий батальйон; Field Army; артилерійська батарея; operating forces of the Navy; передове базування.

A Build up your vocabulary


Одиниця (виміру)

caloric unit – калорія; теплова одиниця

fundamental units – основні одиниці виміру

housing unit – одиниця житлового будівництва

mass unit – одиниця маси

monetary unit – грошова одиниця

per unit – на одиницю

phraseological unit – фразеологічна одиниця

production unit – одиниця продукції; виробнича одиниця

the metre is a unit of length – метр є одиницею довжини

thermal unit – фіз. одиниця теплоти; теплова одиниця

unit of account – розрахункова одиниця

unit of density – одиниця щільності

unit of output – одиниця (виміру) продукції

unit of work – одиниця роботи

2. організаційна одиниця(структурний підрозділ)

administrative unit – адміністративно-господарський підрозділ

film unit – кінознімальна група

intensive care unit/ward – мед. відділення інтенсивної терапії

multi-unit enterprise – підприємство з декількома філіями

refuelling unit – бензозаправний пункт

scientific unit – науковий підрозділ

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