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What Is the Difference Between Military and Army? (Detailed Guide)

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what is the difference between military and army

We often see and hear the words “military” and “Army” used interchangeably. However, they do not share the same meaning. Even though the two are closely related, there is a clear distinction between them. So, what is the difference between Military and Army?

We will tell you in the following paragraphs. Thus, make sure you read thoroughly until the end!

Military vs. Army


Is the Military and the Army the same thing?

No. Technically, the military and Army are not the same things!

The term “military” is used to refer to the U.S Armed Forces, as a whole. Thus, it is an umbrella term. The “Army” is one of the five branches that make up the U.S Armed Forces. As a result, it is a part of the military. The military is broad, encompassing the Army and four other branches: the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard.

Note: The military recently established a new branch: the Space Force. So many places recognize the Armed Forces as having six military branches.

Military and Army differences

The U.S Military

The military is headed by the President who doubles as the commander in chief. Currently, this position is held by President Joe Biden. Biden works with 2 federal executive departments: the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to craft military policies.

  • The DoD is the main cabinet department for military affairs
  • The DHS administers the U.S Coast Guard and ensures civilian control

The Department of Defense (DoD) comprises of;

  • The Department of the Army
  • The Department of the Navy
  • The Department of the Air Force

These civilian-led entities manage the coequal service branches within.

The military’s order of precedence is as follows:

  1. U.S Military Academy Cadets
  2. U.S Naval Academy Midshipmen
  3. U.S Air Force Academy Cadets
  4. U.S Coast Guard Academy Cadets
  5. U.S Merchant Marine Academy Midshipmen
  6. U.S Army
  7. U.S Marine Corps
  8. U.S Navy
  9. U.S Air Force
  10. U.S Space Force
  11. U.S Coast Guard
  12. Army National Guard
  13. Army Reserve
  14. Marine Corps Reserve
  15. Navy Reserve
  16. Air National Guard
  17. Air Force Reserve
  18. Coast Guard Reserve
  19. Army, Marine Corps, Merchant Marine
  20. Civil Air Patrol
  21. Coast Guard Auxiliary

This order is followed for service flag placement display and personnel formation.

The U.S dedicates a significant portion of its budget to the military. Last year (2021), the military received 706 billion dollars. In return, the military contributes about 3%-4% of the nation’s GDP.

The U.S military started in 1775 with the Continental Army on June 14. The Continental Navy was established later on October 13, and the Continental Marines on November 10.

Congress of the Confederation created:

  • The current U.S Army on June 3, 1784
  • The current U.S Navy on March 27, 1794
  • The current U.S Marine Corps on July 11, 1798

All three’s origins trace back to their Continental predecessors. While,

  • The Revenue Cutter Service merged with the Life-Saving Service on January 28, 1915, to establish the Coast Guard
  • The U.S Air Force was formed on September 18, 1947, as an independent service
  • The U.S Space Force was formed on December 20, 2019, as an independent service

The U.S military has about a total of 450 to 500 military bases, with at least one in each state and some 800 U.S military bases exist outside of the nation.

The U.S Army

The Army is a land-service branch founded in 1775, originally as the Continental Army. It is the oldest and most senior branch in the U.S military.

At the top of the Army are the SECArmy, chief military officer, and chief of staff of the Army. At present, these are held by:

  • SECArmy: Christine Wormuth
  • Chief of Staff: General James C. McConville
  • Vice Chief of Staff: General Joseph M. Martin

The Army’s purpose is defined in Section 7063 of Title 10 in the U.S Code as:

  • Preserving peace and security
  • Providing for defense
  • Supporting national policies
  • Enforcing national objectives
  • Overcoming nations with aggressive acts

The five core competencies of the Army are:

  1. Sustained land combat
  2. Combined arms operation
  3. Special operations
  4. Set and sustain joint force theater
  5. Integrate national, multi-national, and joint power on land

To carry out their duties, the Army is equipped with weapons and vehicles, as follows:

Weapons: Individual

  • The M4 Carbine
  • The 7.62xx51mm FN SCAR variant
  • The M17 Pistol
  • The M67 Fragmentation Grenade
  • The M18 Smoke Grenade
  • The M320 Grenade Launcher
  • The M1014 Joint Service Combat Shotgun
  • The Mossberg 590 Shotgun
  • The M14EBR
  • The M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle
  • The M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle
  • The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle

Weapons: Crew

  • The M240 Machine Gun
  • The 40mm MK19 Grenade Machine Gun
  • The 60mm M224 Mortar
  • The 81mm M252 Mortar
  • The 120mm M120/M121 Mortar
  • The 105mm M119A1 & 155mm M777
  • The AT4 Unguided Projectile
  • The FIM-92 Stinger Anti-Aircraft Missile
  • The FGM-148 Javelin & BGM-71 TOW Anti-Tank Guided Missiles


  • Humvee: Carry cargo/troop and doubles as a makeshift ambulance and weapons forum
  • M1A2 Abrams: Primary battle tank
  • M2A3 Bradley: Standard infantry fighting vehicle
  • M113: Armored personnel carrier

Other vehicles include helicopters, planes, and drones.

The Army is recognizable with green uniforms and berets or patrol caps.

Compared to the other branches, the Army has the highest number of active personnel. In 2021, the Army population is over 1.4 million.

Note: Despite the burgeoning 1.4 million personnel population, the U.S Army still falls behind China, with 2 million active soldiers.

Personnel within the Army each fulfill a particular job, known as a MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). There are about 190 different MOSs for Army enlistees to choose from. The MOS is denoted as a 3 digit code, where the first 2 digits stand for the field and the last for the specific job in the field.

Here are some of the most common MOSs:

  • Infantry Branch (11) – You will be a part of the main combat force, fighting enemy forces on the ground.
  • Corps of Engineers (12) – You will be taking part in building systems, civil works programs, etc.
  • Cyber Operations (17) – You will operate offensive and defensive operations to safeguard data and networks.
  • Signal Corps (25) – You will be providing communications between ground troops and those in helicopters over combat zones,
  • Financial Management (36) – You will be receiving and posting funding documents to accounting and budgeting systems.
  • Civil Affairs (38) – You will identify crisis situations and citizen combat requirements.
  • Chaplain (56) – You will be soldiers’ counselor and provide them with support during their time in service.
  • Medical (68) – You will provide medical care to military members and their families. There are a few concentration medics you can choose from, such as dental specialists, pharmacy assistants, and operating room specialists.
  • Transportation (88) – You will be responsible for operating, repairing, and maintaining transport vehicles in the Army. This includes moving troops, equipment, and supplies.

The Army includes commissioned officers, warrant officers, and enlisted personnel.

Commissioned Officers – Are those with pay grade from O-1 to O-10 and OF-1 to OF-10. Their titles are the following (respectively):

  • Second Lieutenant (2LT)
  • First Lieutenant (1LT)
  • Captain (CPT)
  • Major (MAJ)
  • Lieutenant Colonel (LTC)
  • Colonel (COL)
  • Brigadier General (BG)
  • Major General (MG)
  • Lieutenant General (LTG)
  • General (GEN)
  • General of the Army (GA)

Warrant Officers – Are those with specialty or expertise in a specific area, addressed as “Mr.” or “Ms.” (by senior officers) and “sir” or “madam” (by enlisted personnel). They are those with pay grades W-1 to W05 and WO-1 to WO-5. There titles are:

  • Warrant Officer 1 (WO1)
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2)
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3)
  • Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4)
  • Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5)

Enlisted Personnel – Are those with pay grade from E-1 to E-9 and OR-1 to OR-9. Their titles are:

  • Private (PV1)
  • Private (PV2)
  • Private First Class (PFC)
  • Specialist (SPC)
  • Corporal (CPL)
  • Sergeant (SGT)
  • Staff Sergeant (SSG)
  • Sergeant First Class (SFC)
  • Master Sergeant (MSG)
  • First Sergeant (1SG)
  • Sergeant Major (SGM)
  • Command Sergeant Major (CSM)
  • Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA)
  • Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman (SEAC)

To join the Army, military recruits must pass the ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test) and finish both Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training.

Also, check this video below to know what is the difference between military and army:


As you have read, the military is a word used to refer to the entire Armed Forces, while the word Army is only a subset and one of the many branches making up the military. More specifically, it is the land service division of the military.

Although the words are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same. It is important not to be confused between Army vs. military. Hopefully, this has been helpful! Please share this with other readers, and leave any thoughts or questions in the comments. Thank you!

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