Getting to know one another

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rae Perry
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
With the ever-growing number of joint bases and joint service operations it is only a matter of when, not if, you will be working with someone from our sister services. Whether you work in an office, on an aircraft or even behind a camera's lens learning about other branch's backgrounds will likely pay-off dividends for you in the future.

The oldest of the defense department's services is the Army, which was formed 234 years ago on June 14, 1775. This event was closely followed by the Navy, Oct. 13 and the Marine Corps, Nov. 10, all that same year. The Air Force became a branch Sept. 18, 1947, after splitting off from the Army. The Coast Guard, activated Aug. 4, 1790, and transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. As a result, the president may place all or part of the branch under the Navy during times of conflict.

When you see a display of multiple service flags take a moment to note that they are in line according to the branches formation with the exception of the Marine Corps and Navy. This anomaly is due to the fact that the Navy was temporarily disbanded as a separate entity shortly after the American Revolutionary War, making the Marines older than the Navy. In an instance when the Coast Guard is operating as part of the Navy, their flag proceeds the Air Force flag.

The Department of Defense started as the War Department and was restructured when the Air Force was formed through the National Security Act of 1947. The Army is the U.S.'s main ground force and its mission is to protect and defend the U.S. and its interests. The Marines tend to be a "lighter," more easily-deployed force than the Army, specializing in amphibious operations. The Navy's duty is to maintain freedom of the seas. The Air Force's core functions are nuclear deterrence operations and to defend the U.S. through exploitation of air, space and cyberspace. The Coast Guard has responsibilities in the areas of law enforcement, boating safety, sea rescue and illegal immigration.

You don't have to be involved in joint operations to notice differences in uniforms, presence and most of all rank insignias. All services have enlisted and officer grades one through nine. The enlisted ranks look different and have diverse names. The officer ranks look the same. In every branch but the Navy, the officer ranks go by the same names.

You may wonder why officer ranks start with gold then go to silver, since gold is worth more than silver. Traditionally, infantry colonels wore gold eagles on an epaulette of silver and all other colonels donned silver eagles on a golden background. In the case of lieutenants, first lieutenants wore silver bars for 80 years before second lieutenants received the right to display any bars at all, so they were given bronze bars.

In joint operations it is easier to operate as a well-oiled machine when we each take a moment to understand where the others come from and what their roles are.