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The Three Services


Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard

With our military units tracing their roots to pre-Revolutionary times, you might say that we are America's oldest department. Many would say we are not only America's largest department, but its busiest and most successful. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps were established in 1775, in concurrence with the American Revolution. The War Department was established in 1789, and was the precursor to what is now the Department of Defense.

The Department of the Navy, was founded in 1798. The Coast Guard (part of Homeland Security in peacetime), can trace it's history back to 1790. Congress, in 1947, established a civilian, Cabinet-level Secretary of Defense to oversee an also newly created National Military Establishment. The U.S. Air Force was also created, along with a new Department of the Air Force. The War Department was converted to the Department of the Army.

Finally, the three services, Army, Navy, and Air Force, were placed under the direct control of the new Secretary of Defense. In 1949, an amendment to the Act consolidated further the national defense structure, creating what we now know as the Department of Defense, and withdrawing cabinet-level status for the three Service secretaries.

Dog Tags

The Prussian Army issued identification tags for its troops at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. They were nicknamed Hundemarke ("dog tags") and compared to a similar identification system instituted by the Kaiser for dogs in the Prussian capital city of Berlin at about the same time.

The military dog tags we know had their origins during WWI (1914-1918). Before that soldiers used various ad hoc methods of tagging themselves for purposes of identification in the event of death on the battle field. Their methods were varied, and all were taken on a soldier's own initiative. The concept of "identification tags" dates back to the Civil War (1861-1865), prior to the battle of Mine's Run in northern Virginia, General Meade's troops wrote their names and unit designations on paper tags and pinned them to their clothing. Many soldiers took great care to mark all their personal belongings. Some troops fashioned their own "ID" (identification) tags (dog tags) were made out of wood with carved holes at the end so they could be worn around the neck on a string and coins were smoothed over for engraving name and unit number.

The commercial sector saw the demand for an identification method and provided products. Harper's Weekly Magazine advertised "Soldier's Pins" which could be mail ordered. Made of silver or gold, these pins were inscribed with an individual's name and unit designation. Private vendors who followed troops also offered ornate identification disks for sale just prior to battles. Still, despite the fact that fear of being listed among the unknowns was a real concern among the rank and file, no reference to an official issue of identification tags by the Federal Government exists. (42% of the Civil War dead remain unidentified.)

The first official advocacy of issuing identification tags took place in 1899. Chaplain Charles C. Pierce, who was tasked to establish the Quartermaster Office of Identification in the Philippines, recommended inclusion of an "identity disc" in the combat field kit as the answer to the need for standard identification. The Army Regulations of 1913 made identification tags mandatory, and by 1917, all combat soldiers wore aluminum discs on chains around their necks. By World War II, the circular disc was replaced by the oblong shape familiar to us today, generally referred to as "dog tags."

The first introduction of a metal "identity disc" took place in 1906 and by 1913 the Army made ID tags mandatory. In 1916 a second tag was added, and by 1917 all combat troops had aluminum id tags hanging from their necks on either a rope or chain. The information on these tags was hand stamped with tool and die. Next came an oblong shape tag with more uniform printing known as the Navy/Marine style tag. The materials used to make this tag included brass and a "Monel" metal which provided more corrosion resistance.

The more familiar rounded-end rectangular stainless steel tags known as the M1940 were introduced by the Army in 1940 during the Second World War (1939-1945). These Army dog tags were embossed with letters and numbers using either manual or electric embossing machines resembling industrial size typewriters. By 1943 the Army was distributing sets of tags including one long chain, one short chain and two stainless steel tags. The chains had flat links-&the beaded chain came later. The purpose of the short chain was to keep the tags separated to prevent them from making noise in the field. In addition, the small chain could be separated from the long chain for purposes of body identification. It was typically placed on the foot and left exposed while the body remained covered.

There is a recurring myth about the notch situated in one end of the dog tags issued to United States Army personnel during World War II. It was rumored that the notch's purpose was so that if a Soldier found one of his comrades on the battlefield, he could take one tag to the commanding officer and kick the other between the teeth of the Soldier to ensure that the tag would remain with the body and be identified. The notch is there simply to hold the tag in place on the embossing machine.

Prior to 1959 the Navy and Marine Corps used a circular metal tag with similar stamping information to the Army dog tag. By 1959 all branches of the U.S. armed forces were using the familiar stainless steel rectangular shaped dog tag which are still being used today. Even though there are slight variations in the format among the branches of the armed forces the content of the embossed information remains the same: Last and first name, social security number, branch of service, initials for both blood type and religious affiliation.

During the Vietnam War (1963-1975) subdued black dog tags were issued to Special Operation Forces operating behind enemy lines. It was also during this time that the WWII white hard plastic or rubber silencers were replaced with a softer black rubber silencer. American Soldiers were allowed to place rubber silencers on their dog tags so the enemy would not hear the metallic clanking. Others chose to tape the two tags together with black tape. Still others chose to wear one tag around the neck, and the other tag on the lace of one boot. All three variations were commonly seen among U.S. troops.

Our most important resource is not tanks, planes or ships, it's ... people. We will never compromise on the quality of our most important resource: the people who have chosen to serve you and serve the nation. They are your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. People of whom we are very proud. These are the best of America. Our bottom line is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of the United States. Everything we do supports that primary mission. Nothing less is acceptable to us, or to the American people.

The national security depends on our defense installations and facilities being in the right place, at the right time, with the right qualities and capacities to protect our national resources. Those resources have never been more important as America fights terrorists who plan and carry out attacks on our facilities and our people.

The Defense Department manages an inventory of installations and facilities to keep Americans safe. The Department's physical plant is huge by any standard, consisting of more than several hundred thousand individual buildings and structures located at more than 5,000 different locations or sites. When all sites are added together, the Department of Defense utilizes over 30 million acres of land.

These sites range from the very small in size such as unoccupied sites supporting a single navigational aid that sit on less than one-half acre, to the Army's vast White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico with over 3.6 million acres, or the Navy's large complex of installations at Norfolk, Virginia.

We work for the President of the United States. Along with the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council, the President determines the security needs of the nation, and then take courses of action to ensure that they are met. The President, in the constitutional role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is the senior military authority in the nation and as such is ultimately responsible for the protection of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

As part of the Constitution's system of checks and balances, our budget must be approved by the U.S. Congress, which acts as our board of directors. We accomplish this by working with various committees of both houses, primarily those dealing with funding, military operations, and intelligence. Their decisions affect our well being and range from setting civilian pay raises to funding major troop deployments.

The Army defends the land mass of the United States, its territories, commonwealths, and possessions; it operates in more than 50 countries. The Navy maintains, trains, and equips combat-ready maritime forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas. The U.S. Navy is America's forward deployed force and is a major deterrent to aggression around the world. Our aircraft carriers, stationed in hotspots that include the Far East, the Persian Gulf, and the Mediterranean Sea, provide a quick response to crises worldwide.

The Air Force provides a rapid, flexible, and when necessary, a lethal air and space capability that can deliver forces anywhere in the world in less than forty-eight hours; it routinely participates in peacekeeping, humanitarian, and aeromedical evacuation missions, and actively patrols the skies above Iraq Bosnia. Air Force crews annually fly missions into all but five nations of the world.

The U.S. Marine Corps maintains ready expeditionary forces, sea-based and integrated air-ground units for contingency and combat operations, and the means to stabilize or contain international disturbance. The U.S. Coast Guard provides law and maritime safety enforcement, marine and environmental protection, and military naval support. The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Transportation during peacetime, but becomes part of the Navy's force in times of war. It provides unique, critical maritime support, patrolling our shores, performing emergency rescue operations, containing and cleaning up oil spills, and keeping billions of dollars worth of illegal drugs from flooding American communities.

The National Guard and Reserve forces provide wartime military support. They are essential to humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, and are integral to the Homeland Security portion of our mission. Our National Guard and Reserve forces are taking on new and more important roles, at home and abroad, as we transform our national military strategy. Their personal ties to local communities are the perfect fit for these emerging missions.

An all-service, or "joint" service office supports the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his capacity as the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense. The Chairman plans and coordinates military operations involving U.S. forces and as such is responsible for the operation of the National Military Command Center, commonly referred to as the "war room," from where all U.S. military operations are directed. He meets regularly with the four Service chiefs to resolve issues and coordinate joint service activities.

The unified commanders are the direct link from the military forces to the President and the Secretary of Defense. Five commanders have geographical responsibilities. Four commanders have worldwide responsibilities. The Secretary of Defense exercises his authority over how the military is trained and equipped through the Service secretaries; but uses a totally different method to exercise his authority to deploy troops and exercise military power. This latter authority is directed, with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the nine unified commands.

Northern Command oversees the defense of the continental United States, coordinates security and military relationships with Canada and Mexico, and direct military assistance to U.S. civil authorities. The European Command covers more than 13 million square miles and includes 93 countries and territories, to include Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, more than half of the Atlantic ocean, the Caspian sea, and Russia. This territory extends from the North Cape of Norway, through the waters of the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, most of Europe, and parts of the Middle East to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Central Command oversees the balance of the Mid-East, parts of Africa and west Asia, and part of the Indian Ocean. Southern Command guards U.S. interests in the southern hemisphere, including Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Pacific Command covers 50 percent of the Earth's surface including Southwest Asia, Australia, and shares with U.S. Northern Command responsibility for Alaska.

Joint Forces Command is the "transformation laboratory" for the U.S. military, in this capacity it searches for promising alternative solutions for future operations through joint concept development and experimentation; defines enhancements to joint warfighting requirements; develops joint warfighting capabilities through joint training and solutions; and delivers joint forces and capabilities to warfighting commanders. The Strategic and Space Commands merged in 2002 and is now known as the Strategic Command which is responsible for controlling space; deterring attacks on the United States and its allies, launching and operating the satellites systems that support our forces worldwide and should deterrence fail, direcing the use of our strategic forces. Special Operations Command provides counter-paramilitary, counter-narcotics, guerilla, psychological warfare, civil education, and insurgency capabilities in support of U.S. national and international interests. Special Operations Command is responsible for special military support. The Transportation Command provide air, land, and sea transportation for the Department of Defense in times of peace and war. It moves people and property around the world.

We are warfighters first and as such have no peers. And with the same dedication and patriotism we are proud to be performing a variety of other very important missions for the American people and our allies around the world. Whether it's saving lives, protecting property or keeping the peace, the U.S. military stands at the ready to keep America strong and free.



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