Maintaining a strong national defense requires workers who can do such diverse tasks as run a hospital, command a tank, program a computer system, operate a nuclear reactor or repair and maintain a helicopter. The Military provides training and work experience in these and many other fields for more than 2.4 million people. More than 1.4 million people serve in the active Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, and more than 1.0 million serve in their Reserve components and the Air and Army National Guard.
The Military distinguishes between enlisted and officer careers. Enlisted personnel, who make up about 82 percent of the Armed Forces, carry out the fundamental operations of the Military in combat, administration, construction, engineering, health care, human services and other areas. Officers, who make up the remaining 18 percent of the Armed Forces, are the leaders of the Military, supervising and managing activities in every occupational specialty.
The sections that follow discuss the major occupational groups for enlisted personnel and officers.
Enlisted occupational groups. Administrative careers include a wide variety of positions. The Military must keep accurate information for planning and managing its operations. Both paper and electronic records are kept on personnel and on equipment, funds, supplies and all other aspects of the Military. Administrative personnel record information, prepare reports, maintain files and review information to assist military officers. Personnel may work in a specialized area, such as finance, accounting, legal affairs, maintenance, supply or transportation.
Combat specialty occupations include enlisted specialties, such as infantry, artillery and Special Forces, whose members operate weapons or execute special missions during combat. People in these occupations normally specialize by type of weapon system or combat operation. They maneuver against enemy forces and positions, and fire artillery, guns, mortars and missiles to destroy enemy positions. They also may operate tanks and amphibious assault vehicles in combat or on scouting missions. When the Military has especially difficult or specialized missions to perform, it calls upon Special Forces teams. These elite combat forces maintain a constant state of readiness to strike anywhere in the world on a moment's notice. Team members from the Special Forces conduct offensive raids, demolitions, intelligence, search-and-rescue missions and other operations from aboard aircraft, helicopters, ships or submarines.
Construction occupations in the Military include personnel who build or repair buildings, airfields, bridges, foundations, dams, bunkers and the electrical and plumbing components of these structures. Personnel in construction occupations operate bulldozers, cranes, graders and other heavy equipment. Construction specialists also may work with engineers and other building specialists as part of military construction teams. Some personnel specialize in areas such as plumbing or electrical wiring. Plumbers and pipefitters install and repair the plumbing and pipe systems needed in buildings and on aircraft and ships. Building electricians install and repair electrical-wiring systems in offices, airplane hangars and other buildings on military bases.
Electronic and electrical equipment repair personnel repair and maintain electronic and electrical equipment used in the Military. Repairers normally specialize by type of equipment, such as avionics, computers, optical equipment, communications or weapons systems. For example, electronic instrument repairers install, test, maintain and repair a wide variety of electronic systems, including navigational controls and biomedical instruments. Weapons maintenance technicians maintain and repair weapons used by combat forces; most of these weapons have electronic components and systems that assist in locating targets and in aiming and firing the weapon.
Engineering, science and technical personnel in the Military require specific knowledge to operate technical equipment, solve complex problems or provide and interpret information. Personnel normally specialize in one area, such as space operations, information technology, environmental health and safety or intelligence. Space operations specialists use and repair ground-control command equipment related to spacecraft, including electronic systems that track the location and operation of a craft. Information technology specialists develop software programs and operate computer systems. Environmental health and safety specialists inspect military facilities and food supplies for the presence of disease, germs or other conditions hazardous to health and the environment. Intelligence specialists gather and study aerial photographs and use various types of radar and surveillance systems to discover information needed by the military.
Health care personnel assist medical professionals in treating and providing services for men and women in the Military. They may work as part of a patient-service team in close contact with doctors, dentists, nurses and physical therapists. Some specialize in providing emergency medical treatment, operating diagnostic tools such as X-ray and ultrasound equipment, laboratory testing of tissue and blood samples, maintaining pharmacy supplies or patients' records, constructing and repairing dental equipment or eyeglasses or some other health care task.
Human resources development specialists recruit qualified personnel, place them in suitable occupations and provide training programs. Personnel in this career area normally specialize by activity. For example, recruiting specialists provide information about military careers to young people, parents, schools and local communities, and explain the Armed Forces? employment and training opportunities, pay and benefits and service life. Personnel specialists collect and store information about the people in the Military, including information on their previous and current training, job assignments, promotions and health. Training specialists and instructors teach classes, give demonstrations and instruct military personnel on how to perform their jobs.
Machine operator and production personnel operate industrial equipment, machinery and tools to fabricate and repair parts for a variety of items and structures. They may operate engines, turbines, nuclear reactors and water pumps. Often, they specialize by type of work performed. Welders and metalworkers, for instance, work with various types of metals to repair or form the structural parts of ships, submarines, buildings or other equipment. Survival equipment specialists inspect, maintain and repair survival equipment such as parachutes and aircraft life support equipment.
Media and public affairs personnel assist with the public presentation and interpretation of military information and events. They take photographs; film, record and edit audio and video programs; present news and music programs and produce artwork, drawings and other visual displays. Other public affairs specialists act as interpreters and translators to convert written or spoken foreign languages into English or other languages.
Protective service personnel include those who enforce military laws and regulations and provide emergency responses to natural and human-made disasters. For example, military police control traffic, prevent crime and respond to emergencies. Other law enforcement and security specialists investigate crimes committed on military property and guard inmates in military correctional facilities. Firefighters put out, control and help prevent fires in buildings, on aircraft and aboard ships.
Support service personnel provide subsistence services and support the morale and well-being of military personnel and their families. Food service specialists prepare all types of food in dining halls, hospitals and ships. Counselors help military personnel and their families deal with personal issues. They work as part of a team that may include social workers, psychologists, medical officers, chaplains, personnel specialists and commanders. Religious program specialists assist chaplains with religious services, religious education programs and related administrative duties.
Transportation and material-handling specialists ensure the safe transport of people and cargo. Most personnel within this occupational group are classified according to mode of transportation, such as aircraft, motor vehicle or ship. Aircrew members operate equipment on aircraft. Vehicle drivers operate all types of heavy military vehicles, including fuel or water tank trucks, semitrailers, heavy troop transports and passenger buses. Quartermasters and boat operators navigate and pilot many types of small watercraft, including tugboats, gunboats and barges. Cargo specialists load and unload military supplies, using equipment such as forklifts and cranes.
Vehicle and machinery mechanics conduct preventive and corrective maintenance on aircraft, automotive and heavy equipment, heating and cooling systems, marine engines and powerhouse station equipment. These workers typically specialize by the type of equipment that they maintain. For example, aircraft mechanics inspect, service and repair helicopters, airplanes and drones. Automotive and heavy equipment mechanics maintain and repair vehicles, such as Humvees, trucks, tanks, self-propelled missile launchers and other combat vehicles. They also repair bulldozers, power shovels and other construction equipment. Heating and cooling mechanics install and repair air-conditioning, refrigeration and heating equipment. Marine engine mechanics repair and maintain gasoline and diesel engines on ships, boats and other watercraft. They also repair shipboard mechanical and electrical equipment. Powerhouse mechanics install, maintain and repair electrical and mechanical equipment in power-generating stations.
Officer occupational groups. Combat specialty officers plan and direct military operations, oversee combat activities and serve as combat leaders. This category includes officers in charge of tanks and other armored assault vehicles, artillery systems, Special Forces and infantry. Combat specialty officers normally specialize by the type of unit they lead. Within the unit, they may further specialize by type of weapon system. Artillery and missile system officers, for example, direct personnel as they target, launch, test and maintain various types of missiles and artillery. Special operations officers lead their units in offensive raids, demolitions, intelligence gathering and search-and-rescue missions.
Engineering, science and technical officers have a wide range of responsibilities based on their area of expertise. They lead or perform activities in areas such as space operations, environmental health and safety and engineering. These officers may direct the operations of communications centers or the development of complex computer systems. Environmental health and safety officers study the air, ground and water to identify and analyze sources of pollution and its effects. They also direct programs to control safety and health hazards in the workplace. Other personnel work as aerospace engineers, designing and directing the development of military aircraft, missiles and spacecraft.
Executive, administrative and managerial officers oversee and direct military activities in key functional areas, such as finance, accounting, health administration, international relations and supply. Health services administrators, for instance, are responsible for the overall quality of care provided at the hospitals and clinics they operate. They must ensure that all of the departments work together. As another example, purchasing and contracting managers negotiate and monitor contracts for the purchase of the billions of dollars worth of equipment, supplies, and services that the Military buys from private industry each year.
Health care officers provide health services at military facilities on the basis of their area of specialization. Officers who examine, diagnose and treat patients with illness, injury or disease include physicians, registered nurses and dentists. Other officers provide therapy, rehabilitative treatment and additional health care services for patients. Physical and occupational therapists plan and administer therapy to help patients adjust to disabilities, regain independence and return to work. Speech therapists evaluate and treat patients with hearing and speech problems. Dietitians manage food service facilities and plan meals for hospital patients and for outpatients who need special diets. Pharmacists manage the purchase, storage and dispensing of drugs and medicines. Physicians and surgeons in this occupational group provide the majority of medical services to the Military and their families. Dentists treat diseases, disorders and injuries of the mouth. Optometrists treat vision problems by prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses. Psychologists provide mental health care and also conduct research on behavior and emotions.
Human resource development officers manage recruitment, placement and training strategies and programs in the Military. Recruiting managers direct recruiting efforts and provide information about military careers to young people, parents, schools and local communities. Personnel managers direct military personnel functions, such as job assignment, staff promotion and career counseling. Training and education directors identify training needs and develop and manage educational programs designed to keep military personnel current in the skills they need.
Media and public affairs officers oversee the development, production and presentation of information or events for the public. These officers may produce and direct motion pictures, videos and television and radio broadcasts that are used for training, news and entertainment. Some plan, develop and direct the activities of military bands. Public information officers respond to inquiries about military activities and prepare news releases and reports to keep the public informed.
Protective service officers are responsible for the safety and protection of individuals and property on military bases and vessels. Emergency management officers plan and prepare for all types of natural and human-made disasters by developing warning, control and evacuation procedures to be used in the event of a disaster. Law enforcement and security officers enforce all applicable laws on military bases and investigate crimes when the law has been broken.
Support services officers manage food service activities and perform services in support of the morale and well-being of military personnel and their families. Food services managers oversee the preparation and delivery of food services within dining facilities located on military installations and vessels. Social workers focus on improving conditions that cause social problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, racism and sexism. Chaplains conduct worship services for military personnel and perform other spiritual duties according to the beliefs and practices of various religious faiths.
Transportation officers manage and perform activities related to the safe transport of military personnel and material by air and water. These officers normally specialize by mode of transportation or area of expertise, because, in many cases, they must meet licensing and certification requirements. Pilots in the Military fly various types of specialized airplanes and helicopters to execute combat missions and to carry troops and equipment. Navigators use radar, radio and other navigation equipment to determine their position and plan their route of travel. Officers on ships and submarines work as a team to manage the various departments aboard their vessels. Ships? engineers direct engineering departments aboard ships and submarines, including engine operations, maintenance, repair, heating and power generation.