• Types of Military Service

      Types of Military Service

      Types of Military Service

      The Military is comprised of 12 service branches: five Active Duty and seven part-time duty. Part-time duty consists of five Reserve and two Guard branches. Each branch varies greatly in service commitment, location and how its members contribute to the overall mission of protecting our country, though all branches are on the same rank-based pay scale. Knowing the differences between each type of service will help you choose which branch fits you best.

      More Info: Types of Military Service FAQs
    • Active Duty

      As the most time-intensive service commitment, Active Duty is similar to working at a full-time civilian job. Active-duty service members are full-time members of the Military, living on base or in military housing and immersed in military culture. After attending boot camp, they are stationed at a base either domestically or overseas. Active-duty terms typically last two to six years. Deployment can last up to a year, but the length may vary depending on a unit's specific mission. 

      Explore the Active Duty Service branches:

      Marine Corps
      Air Force
      Coast Guard



      As the newest type of service, the Reserve was created in the twentieth century to provide and maintain trained units at home while active-duty service members are deployed. Each active-duty branch of the Military has a Reserve component under their command, which is available for active-duty deployment in times of war or national emergency.

      Reservists are part-time service members, allowing them time to pursue a civilian career or college education while simultaneously serving their country. Members of the Reserve attend boot camp and are required to participate in training drills one weekend a month as well as a two-week program each year. Some active-duty service members switch to the Reserve to finish out their service commitment.

      Explore the Reserve Service branches:

      Army Reserve
      Marine Corps Reserve
      Navy Reserve
      Air Force Reserve
      Coast Guard Reserve

      National Guard

      The National Guard consists of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. The Guard’s main focus is on homeland security and humanitarian relief. In addition to training drills one weekend a month and two full weeks per year, National Guard units assist communities in their state during emergencies like storms, floods, fires and other natural disasters.

      The two Guard branches are unique in that they are primarily controlled at a state level, comprised of 54 separate organizations: one for each of the fifty states, U.S.-owned territories and the District of Columbia. Each group goes by its state name (for example, the New York National Guard) and reports to that state’s governor. This organization goes back to the founding of the Guard, which began as the militias created by each state during the Revolutionary era.

      During times of conflict, the president can federalize the National Guard and its service members can be deployed overseas. National Guard service members deployed overseas may see combat, but are also assigned noncombat humanitarian tasks such as building schools and hospitals, training local peacekeepers and other community-building.

      Explore the Army National Guard
      Explore the Air National Guard


      Note about the services

      Active Duty and reservists in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense (DoD). The Coast Guard reports to the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and to DoD (by way of the Navy) during wartime. National Guard units fall under the jurisdiction of both the governor of their state and the president.

    • Resources

      Contact a Recruiter

      Schedule a meeting with a recruiter and learn what to expect from your visit.

      Request Info

      Get a free DVD and magazine, plus additional information from each Service, sent to your home.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      View answers to commonly asked questions about the Military.

      The Next Step: Training

      The Next Step: Training

      Once someone has committed to serving in the Military, it's time for them to get the training they need to succeed.