The Armed Services, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Government and Law
The Military

The Armed Services
The armed services are divided into three main branches: the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. The United States Marine Corps, a separate branch of the Navy, provides highly trained shock troops. The United States Coast Guard operates on its own to police the nation's waterways during peacetime, and in wartime comes under the jurisdiction of the Navy.

The President of the United States is Commander in Chief of all American military forces. Administration of the military is in the hands of the Department of Defense. The massive Pentagon building in northern Virginia near the nation's capital of Washington, DC is the administrative home of each of the military's branches.

Military Education. Each of the armed services operate their own academies, universities that operate under military discipline. No tuition is charged, and admission is usually by Congressional appointment. The United States Military (Army) Academy is in West Point, New York, the Naval Academy is in Annapolis, Maryland, the Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Coast Guard Academy is in New London, Connecticut. In exchange for a tuition-free education, most graduates will serve a certain minimum number of years as a commissioned officer in the military. The proportion of women at all these institutions is growing.

Reserves and National Guard. All the armed services operate reserve units. On a volunteer basis, ordinary citizens spend weekends in military training. They can be called up to full time duty in times of national emergency. In addition, individual states maintain National Guard units, which can also be incorporated into the regular armed services in case of war.

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