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What are the Different Types of Enlistment?

By C. Daw
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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The United States Armed Forces were organized to fight and protect the country and its citizens. These armed forces make up the strongest military force in the world and consist of both men and women who have dedicated their lives to military service for their country. Most men and women choose enlistment into one of the five branches of the armed forces right out of high school or college. Making the decision for enlistment in the US Armed Forces is a serious commitment of, at a minimum, two or four years. The five major branches of the United States Armed Forces are the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard.

The United States Army is the largest of the military branches and they are responsible for land-based military operations. By being the largest branch, they also have the most educational options available to the men and women who choose an army enlistment. The United States Air Force is the military branch that handles the majority of aerial operations. Men and women who wish to learn to fly military aircraft often opt for an air force enlistment, but it is important to realize that a college education and high test scores will be the only way to qualify to become a fighter pilot.

The United States Navy plays a vital part of all naval warfare operations and is the largest navy in the world. Since a navy deployment most often means living on a ship for months at a time, a person considering a navy enlistment should take this into account. The United States Marines Corps actually fall under the branch of the navy and they work closely with this branch to perform some of the most dangerous operations. The marines are generally the first on the field and the military’s first line of defense. The Coast Guard is controlled by the Department of Homeland Security and is the smallest of all branches. They are responsible for the safety and protection of the United States’ coastal borders.

There are several military enlistment requirements that must be met before anyone can enlist in any of these branches. In order for enlistment in any branch of the United States military, one must be a citizen or a legal permanent immigrant and meet the strict age requirement that vary from branch to branch but usually ranges from ages 18 through 28. People hoping to enlist must also pass a strenuous physical and meet height and weight requirement as well as have no recent drug and alcohol abuse problems. A high school diploma is also required with only rare exceptions being made.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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