United States Army

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Seal of the United States Army

The United States Army is a branch of the United States Armed Forces. From 1789 to 1947 it was part of the War Department; since then the Department of the Army has been part of the United States Department of Defense. The U.S. Army is charged with the land operations in defense of the United States and its allies, especially NATO. The Army's official motto is "This We'll Defend".

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The United States Army was formed during the American Revolution on 14 June 1775, as "the American continental army," [1] and has been in existence since. The Army's main mission down to 1890 was operating coastal defenses near major harbors, and manning interior forts that dealt with Indians. It fought in foreign conflicts, notably theWar of 1812, the Mexican-American War (1846-48), the Spanish-American War of 1898, World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1941-45), the Korean War (1950-53), the Vietnam War (1965-72), and the Gulf War (1990-91). During the American Civil War, the regular army largely remained on the frontier and apart from artillery units played a minor role, as a separate new volunteer army fought the battles.



XVIII Airborne Corps

Formed during the Second World War and a strategic reserve force in the Cold War.

82nd Airborne Division

The U.S. Army's largest paratroop unit.

101st Airborne Division

Created during World War II as a paratroop division and based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It has latterly been deployed as an air assault unit using helicopters rather than parachuting.

160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)

Abbreviated as 160th SOAR (A), this is a special operations force using helicopters to support special operations forces. As its missions are usually conducted at night, the unit is nicknamed the "Night Stalkers". Their base is Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

173rd Airborne Brigade

Specifically an airborne infantry brigade combat team (IBCT), it is based in Vicenza, Italy, as part of the US European Command. The unit was founded in 1915 as the 173rd Infantry Brigade, but later became airborne and served in both World War II and the Vietnam War.


2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment

One of the oldest cavalry units, it has evolved from horses to tanks and on to armed combat vehicles.


3rd Infantry Division

Formerly designated the 24th Mechanized Division. Assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps and based at Fort Stewart, Georgia.


10th Special Forces Group

The first field-deployed Special Forces unit, assigned to the United States European Command based at Bad Tolz, Germany. Its home base has been Fort Carlson, Colorado.

10th Mountain Division

Light infantry division trained and equipped for mountain warfare. Based at Fort Drum in New York State.



The primary individual weapons of the Army are the M16A2/A4 assault rifle [2] and its compact variant, the M4 carbine. [3]

Optionally, the M9 bayonet can be attached to either variant for close-quarters fighting.[4] The 40 mm M203 grenade launcher can also be attached for additional firepower.[5] Some soldiers whose duties require a more compact weapon, such as combat vehicle crew members, staff officers, and military police, are issued a sidearm in lieu of (or in addition to) a rifle. The most common sidearm in the U.S. Army is the 9 mm M9 pistol[6] which is issued to the majority of combat and support units. Other, less commonly issued sidearms include the M11, used by Special Agents of the CID,[7][8] and the MK23, used by some Army Special Forces units.[9]

In addition to these basic rifles and sidearms, many combat units' arsenals are supplemented with a variety of specialized weapons, including the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) light machine-gun, to provide suppressive fire at the fire-team level,[10] the M1014 Joint Service Combat Shotgun[11] or the Mossberg 590 Shotgun[12] for door-breaching and close-quarters combat, the M14 Rifle [13] for long-range marksmen, and the M107 or the M24 Sniper Weapon System for snipers. Hand grenades, such as the M67 fragmentation grenade and M18 smoke grenade, are also commonly used by combat troops.

Crew-served weapon systems

The Army employs various crew-served weapons (so named because they are operated by two or more soldiers in order to transport items such as spare barrels, tripods, base plates, and extra ammunition) to provide heavy firepower at ranges exceeding that of individual weapons. The M240 is the Army's standard medium general-purpose machine gun.[14]

The M240 (left-hand feed) and M240C (right-hand feed) variants are used as coaxial machine guns on the M1 Abrams tank and the M2 Bradley IFV, respectively; the M240B is the infantry variant and can be fired from a bipod or tripod if carried by hand, or employed from a pintle mount atop a vehicle. The M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun has been in use since 1932 in a variety of roles, from infantry support to air defense. The M2 is also the primary weapon on most Stryker ACV variants and the secondary weapon system on the M1 Abrams tank.

The MK 19 40mm grenade machine gun is mainly used by motorized units, such as Stryker Brigades, HMMWV-mounted cavalry scouts, and Military Police.[15] It is commonly employed in a complementary role to the M2.

The Army uses three types of mortar for indirect fire support when heavier artillery may not be appropriate or available. The smallest of these is the 60 mm M224, normally assigned at the infantry company level. [16]

At the next higher echelon, infantry battalions are typically supported by a section of 81 mm M252 mortars. [17]

The largest mortar in the Army's inventory is the 120 mm M120/M121, usually employed by mechanized battalions, Stryker units, and cavalry troops because its size and weight require it to be transported in a tracked carrier or towed behind a truck. [18]


The U.S. Army was the first in the world to achieve 100% automotive mobility, and spends a sizable portion of its military budget to maintain a diverse inventory of vehicles. The U.S. Army maintains the highest vehicle-to-soldier ratio in the world.

The Army's most common vehicle is the HMMWV (High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle), which is capable of serving as a cargo/troop carrier, weapons platform, and ambulance, among many other roles.[19]

The M1A2 Abrams is the Army's primary main battle tank, [20] while the M2A3 Bradley is the standard infantry fighting vehicle.[21]

Other vehicles include the M3A3 cavalry fighting vehicle, the Stryker, [22] and the M113 armored personnel carrier.[23]


A U.S. M107 175mm Self-Propelled Gun at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army used the 175mm gun (pictured), a long-range field artillery rifle, outranging the Soviet 130mm gun. The 175 had a longer range but a smaller shell than an 8" howitzer. It was superseded by the introduction of guided missiles and weapons like the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer and the M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), both mounted on tracked platforms and assigned to heavy mechanized units.[24][25]

Fire support for light infantry units has been provided by towed howitzers, including the 105 mm M119 howitzer and the 155 mm M777, which replaced the M198.[26][27]


While the U.S. Army operates few fixed-wing aircraft, it does directly operate several types of rotary-wing aircraft. These include the AH-64 Apache (the AH stands for attack helicopter),[28] the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/armed-scout helicopter,[29] the UH-60 Black Hawk light-utility/medium under-slung lift helicopter,[30] and the CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift transport helicopter.[31]

In addition, the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment operates the MH-6/AH-6 small assault/attack helicopters, as well as highly-modified versions of the Black Hawk and Chinook, primarily in support of US Army Special Operations Forces, but also those of the other US armed forces.[32]


Due to its mobile nature, the Army relies heavily on wireless, line of sight, and satellite communications in order to provide commanders in the field with situational awareness and the ability to quickly communicate with their superior officers. The Signal Corps is the sub branch of the Army charged with missions related to communications.

The SINCGARS radio is the single most recognizable piece of equipment in Army communications. It is analogous to the HMMWV (High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle) in terms of how many of them there are in the Army.[33] There may be, however, a replacement for many Army (and other service) radios and encryption devices with the radically new technology of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS - pronounced "jitters" by military personnel).


  • Allen, Matthew. Military Helicopter Doctrines of the Major Powers, 1945-1992: Making Decisions about Air-Land Warfare (1993) online edition
  • Bluhm, Raymond. U.S. Army: A Complete History, (2005) oversize, heavily illustrated excerpt and text search
  • Brown, Jerold E., ed. Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Army (2001), 660pp online edition
  • Dastrup, Boyd L. The Field Artillery: History and Sourcebook (1994) online edition
  • Doughty, Robert. et al. American Military History And The Evolution Of Western Warfare (1996)
  • Hogan, David W. 225 Years of Service: The U.S. Army, 1775-2000 (2003)
  • Macgregor, Douglas A. Transformation under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights, (2003) online edition
  • Odom, William O. After the Trenches: The Transformation of U.S. Army Doctrine, 1918-1939, (1999) online edition
  • Pogue, Forrest C. The Supreme Command (1996), WW2 Europe online edition
  • Quimby, Robert S. The U.S. Army in the War of 1812: An Operational and Command Study (1997) online edition
  • Sarkesian, Sam C., and Robert E. Connor Jr., eds. America's Armed Forces: A Handbook of Current and Future Capabilities (1994) online edition
  • Weigley Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy. (1977).


  1. June 14th: The Birthday of the U.S. Army. Retrieved on 23 July 2007.
  2. U.S. Army Fact Files: M-16. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  3. U.S. Army Fact Files: M-4. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  4. U.S. Army Fact Files: Bayonet. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  5. U.S. Army Fact Files: M-203. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  6. U.S. Army Fact Files: M-9. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  7. In Praise of the SIG P228 9mm. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  8. History in the Making. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  9. SOCOM Pistol Mk 23 Mod 0. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  10. M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  11. The M1014, Joint Service Combat Shotgun. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  12. Marine Corps Fact File: 12 Gauge Shotgun. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  13. Historic U.S. Small Arms. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  14. U.S. Army Fact Files: M-240. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  15. U.S. Army Fact Files: MK19-3. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  16. U.S. Army Fact Files: M-224. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  17. U.S. Army Fact Files: M-252. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  18. U.S. Army Fact Files: M-120. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  19. U.S. Army Fact Files: HMMWV. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  20. U.S. Army Fact Files: Abrams. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  21. U.S. Army Fact Files: Bradley. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  22. U.S. Army Fact Files: Stryker. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  23. U.S. Army Fact Files: M113. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  24. U.S. Army Fact Files: Paladin. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  25. U.S. Army Fact Files: MLRS. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  26. U.S. Army Fact Files: M119. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  27. M777 Lightweight 155mm howitzer. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  28. U.S. Army Fact Files: Apache. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  29. U.S. Army Fact Files: Kiowa. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  30. U.S. Army Fact Files: Blackhawk. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  31. U.S. Army Fact Files: Chinook. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  32. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment fact sheet. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  33. GlobalSecurity.org The SINCGARS Radio. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.