Since the beginning of the War on Terror, in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of us tend to look at military service as just that -- service, a gift given to one's country. We see it as something you'd do briefly, probably in one's youth, before going home and entering college or civilian work. However, military service is also a job. Or many jobs, with training programs and paygrades and the like. It wasn't so long ago that many people based the rest of their careers on a skill they learned in the Army or Navy.
There are five branches of the armed services in the United States, and each one offers different opportunities for learning and career advancement, (although there is a lot of overlap). If you've got a yearning to be a pilot, of course you'd think of the Air Force. But the Navy has a proud tradition of putting fighter jets in the air; just think of the famous Blue Angels. And Army pilots fly that branch's helicopter gunships, like the Kiowa and the Apache. Interested in computers? Cyberwarfare and information management are extremely important in the 21st century. There are glamour jobs, if you make the grade, like being an Army Ranger or Navy SEAL. On the other hand, the backbone of the military are the majority of people in unglamorous jobs, from air traffic controllers to mess cooks.
How well do you know the jobs of the armed services? Find out now with our quiz!
Paratroopers were important to the Normandy campaign in WWII. They parachuted into German-held territory the night before the D-Day offensive to aid the French resistance.
SEAL Team Six went on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. If you want to be a Navy SEAL -- Team Six or otherwise -- you'll have to be in superior physical condition and not scare easily.
The word "sonar" compacts the phrase "sound navigation ranging." It locates items underwater using sound waves, and is often done from a submarine.
"Corpsman" is essentially the military term for "medic." It's an enlisted-level job; physicians and surgeons have higher ranks.
We might have said "spiritual needs," if that weren't a dead giveaway. FYI: If you think we're making up the term "photographer's mate," not so! This essential means "photographer," but in Navy-speak, the word "mate" is usually attached to enlisted (non-officer) positions.
The Navy's fighter pilots usually fly from aircraft carriers. The Navy actually saw a bump in recruitments after the release of "Top Gun," in which Tom Cruise played reckless pilot "Maverick."
"JAG" stands for "Judge Advocate General (Corps)," the legal branch of the Army or Navy. The Air Force and Marines have versions of this, too.
Personnelmen are like guidance counselors and HR specialists in one. They also provide advice on health and retirement benefits.
To be a drill instructor requires a bit of acting skill as well as military acumen. That is, it's probably hard not to crack a smile at times, or so show sympathy for the raw recruits under one's training -- but staying in character is important to the job.
This is usually called "IT" in the civilian world. Information systems technicians run computer mainframes, telecommunications systems and more.
This job is not a combat position, but physically and mentally demanding nonetheless. Gooding played Carl Brashear, the first African-American Navy diver.
A gunner's mate maintains ordnance and magazines. They also operate the Navy's missile launching systems.
The term "attache" is best defined as "military diplomat." They are stationed at embassies, and have to be reasonably proficient in a foreign language.
Nowadays, you'll more often see the term "culinary specialist" than "mess cook." But the latter is the longtime, fondly used term.
"Cavalry" is an old-fashioned term, coming from the days when the army used horses. But there's still a Cavalry division in the Army (though made up of motor vehicles), and still a need for the cavalry scout.
You want to say to their faces that there are no hardcore jobs in the Coast Guard? This job can require jumping from helicopters into churning waters to make a rescue.
When we say "a few decades," we're talking about true UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles. They really began to play a role in military work in the 1980s, and pilots operate them and view their surveillance footage from operations centers.
Hull technicians in the Navy do a lot of metalwork, keeping the ship's body in seaworthy condition. They also do a good bit of plumbing work -- flushable toilets are nearly as important as a waterproof hull!
This job is what the name implies: a cross between paratroopers and medics. The development of a highly controllable parachute in the mid-20th century made this job possible (it's hard to be helpful if you land three-quarters of a mile away from the patient).
"Espionage" has fallen out of use, because it has the negative connotation of sneakiness. Intelligence work, though it contains elements of spying, is much more than that: monitoring online "chatter," preparing briefings, and so on.
This is one of the ultimate adrenalin junkie jobs: sitting in the open door of a helicopter and firing at targets on the ground. This job came of age in the Vietnam War, where it was, suffice it to say, not a popular assignment.
Theodore Roosevelt is credited with coining the Rangers' slogan, "Rangers lead the way." In his case, he was saying it in the sense of "Rangers, lead the way!"
Boatswain's mates are the utility infielders of these armed services. They are proficient at navigation, maintenance, crewing and other maritime work.
The current holder of the distance record for a sniper kill is an unnamed Canadian special forces soldier. He made his shot from a distance of 3,871 yards. That's more than two miles.
Want to scold a general or admiral and get away with it? Be a dental technician and get after them for not flossing enough!
"Bombardier" is still the correct term, though it sounds old-fashioned. These aircrew members are responsible for aiming bombs at ground targets.
This job involves the loading and unloading of aircraft, but is far from a heavy-lifting grunt job. Loadmasters must make sure the plane can fly safely in terms of weight and load placement, plan to have the battle-essential equipment ready for quick unloading, and even plan airdrops.
"Stars & Stripes" is the Army's newspaper. Famous former writers and editors include Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes" and cartoonist Bill Mauldin.
All the branches of the military have a public affairs department. The public affairs specialists coordinate with the media, getting reporters embedded with troops, granting (or denying) interview requests, and so on.
Honestly, we'd need frequent changes in underwear to do this job. But that's just us!
Clarke was part of the Enigma team at Bletchley Park. Cryptanalysts are code-breakers, or, increasingly, people who run the computers that break the codes.
Commandos are elite soldiers, but they often work in front-line situations along with infantry. In other words, commandos don't necessarily do the kind of hostage-rescue or covert missions that other elite units might.
Music might seem like a pretty non-essential part of military life, but it has a long tradition. Fife players accompanied troops on the march in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Nowadays, you might get the chance to show off your skills at the annual Army-Navy game.
Engineering has always been key to the success of the U.S. Army. West Point was founded chiefly as an engineering school, and a number of its cadets still major in that field.
Artillery is the name for projectile weapons that aren't launched from aircraft. Artillery is one of the major branches of the U.S. Army, like Infantry and Intelligence.