From 2003 onwards, a member of the US Army is officially called a Soldier. This was the result of General Schumacher, then Army Chief of Staff, ordering all official Army publications to capitalize the word Soldier.
The US Army is made up of three components: the active (Regular Army) component; and two reserve components, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. Both reserve components are primarily composed of part-time soldiers who train once a month, known as Battle Assembly, and conduct two to three weeks of annual training each year. Both the Regular Army and the Army Reserve are organized under Title 10 of the United States Code, while the National Guard is organized under Title 32 of the US Code. While the Army National Guard is organized, trained and equipped as a component of the US Army, when it is not in federal service it is under the command of individual state's governors. However the National Guard can be federalized by presidential order and against the governor's wishes; see Perpich v. Department of Defense,496 U.S. 334 (1990).
The US Army is led by a civilian Secretary of the Army, who reports to the Secretary of Defense, and serves as civilian oversight for the US Army Chief of Staff, who is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the service chiefs from each service who, as a body, under the guidance of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff advise the President and Secretary of Defense on military matters.
In 1986, the Goldwater-Nichols Act mandated that operational control of the services follows a chain of command from the President of the United States to the Secretary of Defense directly to the Unified Combatant Commanders, who have control of all armed forces units in their geographic or function area of responsibility. Thus, the Chief of Staff of each service only has the responsibility to organize, train and equip their respective service component. The services provide trained forces to the Combatant Commanders for use as they see fit.
The Army is currently undergoing a period of transformation, which is expected to be finished in 2009. When it is finished, there will be five geographical commands which will line up with the five geographical Unified Combatant Commands (COCOM).
United States Army Central home-headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia
United States Army North headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas
United States Army South headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas
United States Army Europe headquartered at Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg, Germany
United States Army Pacific headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii
Each command will receive a numbered army as operational command, except in the case of US Army Pacific, which will not receive one but will have a numbered army for US Army forces in South Korea.
As part of the same transformation plan, the US Army is currently undergoing a transition from being a division-based force to a brigade-based force. When finished, the active army will have increased its number of combat brigades from 33 to 42, and increases of a similar scale will have taken place in the National Guard and Reserve forces. Division lineage will be retained, but the divisional HQs will be able to command any brigades, not just brigades that carry their divisional lineage. The central part of this plan is that each brigade will be modular, i.e., all brigades of the same type will be exactly the same, and thus any brigade can be commanded by any division. There will be three major types of ground combat brigades:
Heavy brigades will have about 3,700 troops and be equivalent to a mechanized infantry brigade.
Infantry brigades will have around 3,300 troops and be equivalent to a light infantry or airborne brigade.
Stryker brigades will have around 3,900 troops and be based around the Stryker family of vehicles.
In addition, there will be combat support and service support modular brigades. Combat support brigades include Aviation brigades, which will come in heavy and light varieties, and Fires (artillery) brigades. Combat Service support brigades include Sustainment brigades and come in several varieties and serve the standard support role in an army.
Main article: Transformation of the United States Army
The U.S. Army is divided into the following components, from largest to smallest:
U.S. Generals, World War II, Europe:
back row (left to right): Stearley, Vandenberg, Smith, Weyland, Nugent;
front row: Simpson, Patton, Spaatz, Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges, Gerow.
HHC, US Army Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
U.S. 1st ArmyField Army: Usually commanded by a General (GEN; note that abbreviations of military rank within the U.S. Army are given in all capital letters without a period or other punctuation).
Corps: Formerly consisted of two or more divisions and organic support brigades. Now is an "operational unit of employment," that may command a flexible number of modular units. The commander is most often a Lieutenant General (LTG).
Division: Usually commanded by a Major General (MG). Formerly consisted of three maneuver brigades, a division artillery, a division support command, an aviation brigade, an engineer brigade (in heavy divisions only) and other support assets. Until the Brigade Combat Team program was developed, the division was the smallest self-sufficient level of organization in the US Army. Current divisions are "tactical units of employment," and may command a flexible number of modular units, but generally will include four brigade combat teams and a combat aviation brigade.
Brigade (or group): Composed of typically three or more battalions, and commanded by a Colonel (COL) or occasionally a Brigadier General (BG). (See Regiment for combat arms units.) Since the Brigade Unit of Action program was initiated, maneuver brigades have transformed into brigade combat teams, generally consisting of two maneuver battalions, a cavalry squadron, a fires battalion, a special troops battalion (with engineers, signals, and military intelligence), and a support battalion. Stryker Brigade Combat Teams have a somewhat larger structure.
Battalion (or Squadron): A Battalion usually consists of two to six companies and roughly 300 to 1000 soldiers. Most units are organized into battalions. Cavalry units are formed into squadrons. A battalion-sized unit is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC), supported by a Command Sergeant Major/E-9 (CSM). This unit consists of a Battalion Commander (CO, LTC), a Battalion Executive Officer (XO, MAJ), a Command Sergeant Major (CSM) and headquarters, and three to five Companies.
Company (or artillery battery/cavalry troop): A company usually consists of three to four platoons and roughly 100 to 130 soldiers. Artillery units are formed into batteries. Cavalry units are formed into troops. A company-sized unit is usually led by a Company Commander usually the rank of Captain/O-3 (CPT) supported by a First Sergeant/E-8 (1SG). This unit consists of a Company Commander (CO, CPT), a Company Executive Officer (XO, 1LT), A First Sergeant (1SG) and a headquarters, and two or more Platoons.
Platoon: Usually led by a lieutenant supported by a Sergeant First Class/E-7 (SFC). This unit consists of a Platoon Leader (2LT/1LT), a Platoon Sergeant (SFC), a Radio-Telephone Operator (Usually a PFC or SPC) and two or more Squad Leaders (any NCO).
Section: Usually directed by Staff Sergeants/E-6 (SSG) who supply guidance for junior NCO Squad leaders. Often used in conjunction with platoons at the company level.
Squad: Squad leaders are usually Staff Sergeants/E-6 (SSG)and can be Sergeants/E-5 (SGT). This unit consists of eight to ten soldiers.
Fire team: In the Infantry it usually consists of four soldiers: a fire team leader, a grenadier, an automatic rifleman, and a rifleman. Fire team leaders are usually Sergeants/E-5 (SGT), but sometimes Corporals/E-4 (CPL).