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Which Branch of the Military Should I Join? What To Consider
which branch of the military should i joinwhich branch of the military should i join

Which Branch of the Military Should I Join? What To Consider

The U.S. military contains many branches for military recruits. The first step for many people looking to join the military is to decide which of the unique branches they want to go into. While there are benefits to each one, potential troops have to decide which is the best military branch for them based on the branches’ missions, benefits, and more. For any future recruits, we’re here to help you answer the question, “Which branch of the military should I join?”

Suggested read: Which Armed Forces Branch Has the Hardest Military Training?

Which Branch of the Military Should I Join?

For future American Armed Forces troops, the U.S. military offers many branches and many routes in them to pursue. Many branches offer similar career paths and benefits, though there are unique aspects to each that are worth considering. Below, we break down a ton of questions you should take into account before deciding which branch to join.

What Are the Branches of the Military?

In the U.S. military, there are a lot of branches that are open to recruits; all of these branches are a part of the Department of Defense. How many branches of the military are there? In total, there are six major military branches.

Air Force

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is the national military branch that primarily focuses on aerial warfare. According to their official website, they focus on “aerial military operations, defending U.S. air bases, and building landing strips.” They’re headquartered in Washington, D.C., and there are three major units in the branch: Wings, Squadrons, and Groups. Each unit contributes to the main branch (the USAF) and works to maintain American dominance in the air.

An Air Force operation that you may have heard of is the Cuban Missile Crisis, a markedly notable event in U.S. history serving as a pivotal moment in the Cold War back in October 1962. When the U.S. Intelligence became aware of missile sites being constructed in Cuba, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) “Tasked two officers from the 4080th Strategic Wing, Majors Richard S. Heyser and Rudolf Anderson, Jr., to fly U-2 reconnaissance aircraft over Cuba to verify the presence of the missile sites. The two aircraft flew over Cuba on October 14 and 15, 1962, and photographs taken from the flights confirmed their construction.”

Army

The Army is the largest branch of the United States military forces. The Army serves the U.S. by handling most of the ground combat missions. Headquartered in Virginia, the Army consists of 8 units which are: the Squad, Platoon, Company, Battalion, Regiment, Brigade, Division, and Corps.

There are a lot of notable operations that the U.S. Army has taken part in. One of them was Operation Overlord. This operation took place during the famous battle of Normandy, where “more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France.” This day served as a pivotal moment in the Second World War, as it helped the Allies turn the tide against the Nazis. It stunted the progress of Hitler and his plans to build up his Eastern Front against the advancing Soviets at the time, and the Army was a huge part of that.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard branch provides “national security and search and rescue for the American waterways, seas, and coast.” According to usa.gov, the military Coast Guard is responsible for stopping illegal schemes, such as drug smugglers and others who are breaking maritime law. It also contributes to the protection of marine environment laws.

The Coast Guard is headquartered in Washington, D.C, and they have a total of four components that act as subunits within the branch. They are the Regular, Reserve, Auxiliary, and Coast Guard civilian employees. The Coast Guard is a part of the Maritime Safety and Security Teams, also known as MSST, which was created because of the terrorist attack on 9/11. The purpose of the MSST is to “protect sea ports and maritime facilities from terrorist attacks.”

Marine Corps

The Marine Corps provides “land combat, sea-based, and air-ground operations support for the other branches” when a mission is still in effect. The branch also provides protection for U.S. embassies around the world, as well as classified documents that are stored inside. Headquartered in Arlington County, Virginia, the Marine Corps holds eight units: Fire Team, Squad, Platoon, Company, Battalion, Regiment, Division, and Corps.

One of the more notable Marine Corps operations was during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Another battle during the Second World War, the major battle was with the Marine Corps and the Navy, and together, they captured the island of Iwo Jima. The Battle of Iwo Jima was really important in the history of the Marine Corps because it was one of the bloodiest battles in their history.

Navy

The Navy protects the waterways outside of the Coast Guard’s jurisdiction. Navy warships provide the runways for aircraft to land and take off when at sea, and they are the U.S.’s protection on the seas. The Navy trains recruits to be capable of battling and navigating the seas. Having the capability to navigate the seas is no easy feat, and the Navy prepares the recruits for that difficult task.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Navy has nine units which include the United States Fleet Forces Command, Naval Forces Northern Command, the United States Pacific Fleet, United States Naval Forces Central Command, United States Naval Forces Southern Command, the United States Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, the U.S. Navy Reserve, and the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command.

One of the notable operations for the Navy in their history is the Battle of Midway. Following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States succeeded in destroying four Japanese Aircraft Carriers using their U.S. Pacific Fleet. Against what was perceived as the invincible Japanese navy, the United States was successful in defending the Midway Islands, pushing away Japanese forces, and asserting American naval dominance.

Space Force

The Space Force is the newest addition to U.S. military forces. Created in December 2019, the purpose of the Space Force is to “organize, train, and equip space forces to protect the United States and allied interests in space and provide space capabilities to the joint forces.”

Considering that the Space Force is a newer addition to the United States military, there aren’t any established units yet. The Space Force is still organizing their structure and working on their AI technology training that’s used to mimic realistic events and elevate the skill of the recruits.

All branches of the military listed above make up the defense system for the United States – the most formidable military force in the entire world.

Which Branch of the Military Is Right for Me?

Which Branch of the Military Is Right for Me

When it’s time for military recruits to choose their path, they have to ask themselves, “Which branch of the military should I join?”

While there are six major military branches to choose from, there isn’t such a thing as the “best” military branch to join. It’s mostly based on preference, needs for your lifestyle, and your unique skill set. There are many benefits to choosing any one of these branches, and they all point to one goal: protecting the American people and American allies as well as maintaining the superiority of our military.

Most military recruits end up choosing one of the following four military branches: Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Navy. In the process of choosing, some may ask themselves the following:

Should I Join the Army?

If recruits are unsure about whether they should join the Army, well, here are a few common questions and answers that recruits have for those who are interested in joining the largest Armed Forces branch:

  • How long is the basic training? 10 weeks.
  • What are the requirements for joining the branch?
    • Age: Between 17-35 years old.
    • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid Green Card.
    • Education: Must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.
    • Are there any signing bonuses for the branch? Yes. There are multiple bonuses that could add up to $50,000 for signing on.
  • What kinds of specific missions are carried out by this branch? The specific missions that the Army carries out are observer missions, peacekeeping missions, and peace enforcement missions.
  • What are some of the most exciting job opportunities for this branch? Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operator, Army Ranger, Golden Knight, Helicopter Pilot, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist (EOD), and Army Veterinarian.

Should I Join the Navy?

If recruits are unsure about whether they should join the Navy, here are a few benefits for those who are interested:

  • How long is the basic training? 7-10 weeks.
  • What are the requirements for joining the branch?
    • Age: Between 17-34 years old.
    • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident (Enlisted).
    • Education: Must have at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent or have a four-year degree from an accredited university.
  • Are there any signing bonuses for the branch? Up to $50,000.
  • What kinds of specific missions are carried out by this branch? Training missions at sea with foreign navies, reconnaissance/intelligence missions to gather enemy data, medical-care programs for the Navy, and dealing with oil spills or other marine cleanups.
  • What are some of the most exciting job opportunities for this branch? Air Traffic Controller, Master At Arms, SEAL, Navy Diver, Navy Pilot, and Navy Nurse.

Should I Join the Marines?

If recruits are unsure on whether they should join the Marine Corps, here are a few benefits for those who are interested:

  • How long is the basic training? 13 weeks.
  • What are the requirements for joining the branch?
    • Age: Between 17-28 years old.
    • Citizenship: Must be a legal U.S. resident.
    • Education: Must have at least a high school diploma.
  • Are there any signing bonuses for the branch? Up to $8,000.
  • What kinds of specific missions are carried out by this branch? Major warfare missions, base/embassy/target security, troop-to-ship warfare missions, and combat-support flight missions.
  • What are some of the most exciting job opportunities for this branch? Dog Handler, Rifleman, Recon Marine, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Machine Gunner, Marine Raider, Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Specialist, Parachute Rigger, and Information Assurance Technician.

Should I Join the Air Force?

If recruits are unsure about whether they should join the Air Force, here are a few benefits:

  • How long is the basic training? 7.5-8.5 weeks.
  • What are the requirements for joining the branch?
    • Age: Between 17-39 years old.
    • Citizenship: Must be a legal U.S. resident or a permanent resident with a valid Green Card.
    • Education: Must have at least a high school diploma or a GED equivalent.
  • Are there any signing bonuses for the branch? Up to $58,000.
  • What kinds of specific missions are carried out by this branch? Air and space superiority, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.
  • What are some of the most exciting job opportunities for this branch? Military Working Dog Handler, Pararescue, Doctor, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Pilot, and Space Systems Operations Specialist.

Which Military Branch Has the Best Benefits?

Considering that there are a lot of branches in the military, for the recruits who are deciding, many ask one burning question: Which branch of the military should I join?

When evaluating which military branch has the best benefits, this is definitely subjective to you and what you prioritize when choosing the branch that you want to follow. For example, if you prioritize sign-on bonuses, then joining the Army or the Air Force might be what you want! They both have the largest sign-on bonuses.

What Is the Best Military Branch for Women?

What Is the Best Military Branch for Women

The best military branch for women would most likely be the Air Force.

Statistically, the Air Force has the most female officers, with 21% compared to the other branches, where the Army has 18%, the Navy has 18 %, and the Marine Corps has 7% female officers.

Additionally, the Air Force has the reputation of having “the best quality of life programs which includes dormitories, family housing, on-base shopping, services, and recreation.”

The Air Force also provides promotion opportunities to advance in your career in that branch with a good work-life balance, which is extremely important in today’s society.

More importantly, the “Air Force has a culture of career equality; Female pilots receive the same training, vocational development and promotion opportunities as [their] male colleagues.”

Which Military Branch Pays the Best?

While the recruits have many branches to choose from, having good pay is important to everyone. With this in mind, this begs the question, which military branch pays the best?

Interestingly enough, in the military, all of the military branches pay the exact same salary based on your experience and rank!

On average, however, the Air Force is the military branch that has the highest pay because, in the Air Force, there are more opportunities to be promoted to the next rank, which leads to many recruits becoming officers. This, in turn, increases the average salary a little bit compared to the other military branches.

To be a pilot in the Air Force, you must first be an officer, which implies a higher level of pay. Since the Air Force has many more pilots than other branches, the Air Force has a higher salary on average.

Additionally, in the Air Force, they offer “more opportunities for special pay.” Special Pay is additional monthly or annual pay given to eligible active duty Service Members who perform specific duties, service in specific geographic locations, occupy specific Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC), or are given certain specific assignments.”

Many Branches, Many Futures

joining the military

To sum it up, the U.S. military offers many career opportunities for those looking to join the ranks. So when we ask, “Which branch of the military should I join?” the answer is… It’s all based on personal preference. The military branches have overlapping perks and benefits, and for those who are interested in operating over the seas, the land, or even the skies, there’s something for everyone.

Read next: Dissecting the Challenges Faced By Women in the Military vs. Their Opportunities

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