Military personnel or military service members are members of the state's armed forces. Their roles, pay, and obligations differ according to their military branch (army, navy, marines, coast guard, air force, and space force), rank (officer, non-commissioned officer, or enlisted recruit), and their military task when deployed on operations and on exercise.

Soldiers standing in formation in a Redeployment Ceremony at Delaware State University, Dover, Delaware April 13, 2014



Those who serve in a typical large ground or land force are soldiers, this branch is the army. Those who serve in seagoing forces are seamen or sailors, and their branch is a navy or coast guard. Naval infantry or marines serve both on land and at sea, and their branch is the marine corps. In the 20th century, the development of powered flight aircraft prompted the development of air forces, serviced by airmen. The United States Space Force service members are known as guardians.[1]

Designated leaders of military personnel are officers. These include commissioned officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers. For naval forces, non-commissioned officers are referred to as petty officers.



Military personnel may be conscripted (recruited by compulsion under the law) or recruited by attracting civilians to join the armed forces. Most personnel at the start of their military career are young adults. For example, in 2013 the average age of a United States Army soldier beginning initial training was 20.7 years.[2]

Most personnel are male. The proportion of female personnel varies internationally; for example, it is approximately 3% in India,[3] 10% in the UK,[4] 13% in Sweden,[5] 16% in the U.S.,[6] and 27% in South Africa.[7] Many state armed forces that recruit women ban them from ground close-quarters combat roles.[8]

Personnel who join as officers tend to be upwardly mobile young adults from age 18.[9][10] Most enlisted personnel have a childhood background of relative socio-economic deprivation.[11][12][13] For example, after the US suspended conscription in 1973, "the military disproportionately attracted African American men, men from lower-status socioeconomic backgrounds, men who had been in nonacademic high school programs, and men whose high school grades tended to be low".[9] However, a 2020 study suggests that U.S. Armed Forces personnel's socio-economic status are at parity or slightly higher than the civilian population, and that the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups are less likely to meet the requirements of the modern U.S. military.[14] As an indication of the socio-economic background of British Army personnel, in 2015 three-quarters of its youngest recruits had the literacy skills normally expected of an 11-year-old or younger, and 7% had a reading age of 5–7.[15]

Initial training


Military personnel must be prepared to perform tasks that in civilian life would be highly unusual or absent. In particular, they must be capable of injuring and killing other people, and of facing mortal danger without fleeing. This is achieved in initial training, a physically and psychologically intensive process which resocializes recruits for the unique nature of military demands.[16][17][18]

According to an expert in military training methods, Lt Col. Dave Grossman, initial training uses four conditioning techniques: role modeling, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and brutalization.[17] For example, throughout initial training:

  • Individuality is suppressed (e.g. by shaving the head of new recruits, issuing uniforms, denying privacy, and prohibiting the use of first names);[16][18]
  • Daily routine is tightly controlled (e.g. recruits must make their beds, polish boots, and stack their clothes in a certain way, and mistakes are punished);[18][19]
  • Continuous stressors deplete psychological resistance to the demands of their instructors (e.g. depriving recruits of sleep, food, or shelter, shouting insults and giving orders intended to humiliate);[17][18][19] and
  • Frequent punishments serve to condition group conformity and discourage poor performance.[18]
  • The disciplined drill instructor is presented as a role model of the ideal soldier.[20]

In conditions of continuous physical and psychological stress, the trainee group normally forms a bond of mutual loyalty, commonly experienced as an emotional commitment. It has been called a "we-feeling", and helps to commit recruits to their military organisation.[21]

Throughout their initial training, recruits are repeatedly instructed to stand, march, and respond to orders in a ritual known as foot drill, which trains recruits to obey orders without hesitation or question. According to Finnish Army regulations,[citation needed] for example, the close-order drill:

  • Is essential for the esprit de corps and cohesion for battlefield conditions;
  • Gets the recruits used to instinctive obedience and following the orders;
  • Enables large units to be marched and moved in an orderly manner; and
  • Creates the basis for action in the battlefield.

In order to ensure that recruits will kill if ordered to do so, they are taught to objectify (dehumanize) their opponent as an "enemy target" to "be engaged", which will "fall when hit".[17][22] They are also taught the basic skills of their profession, such as military tactics, first aid, managing their affairs in the field, and the use of weaponry and other equipment. Training is designed to test and improve the physical fitness of recruits, although the heavy strain on the body also leads to a rate of injury.[23][24][25][26]

Terms of service


Recruits enter a binding contract of service, which may differ according to rank, military branch, and whether the employment is full-time or part-time.

Minimum service period


Full-time military employment normally requires a minimum period of service of several years; between two and six years is typical of armed forces in Australia, the UK and the US, for example, depending on role, branch, and rank.[15][27][28] The exception to this rule is a short discharge window, which opens after the first few weeks of training and closes a few months later, and allows recruits to leave the armed force as of right.[29]

Part-time military employment, known as reserve service, allows a recruit to maintain a civilian job while training under military discipline for a minimum number of days per year in return for a financial bounty. Reserve recruits may be called out to deploy on operations to supplement the full-time personnel complement.

After leaving the armed forces, for a fixed period (between four and six years is normal in the UK and U.S., for example[28][29]), former recruits may remain liable for compulsory return to full-time military employment in order to train or deploy on operations.

Military law


Military law introduces offenses not recognized by civilian courts, such as absence without leave (AWOL), desertion, political acts, malingering, behaving disrespectfully, and disobedience (see, for example, offences against military law in the United Kingdom).[30] Penalties range from a summary reprimand to imprisonment for several years following a court martial.[30] Certain fundamental rights are also restricted or suspended, including the freedom of association (e.g. union organizing) and freedom of speech (speaking to the media).[30] Military personnel in some countries have a right of conscientious objection if they believe an order is immoral or unlawful, or cannot in good conscience carry it out.

Posting and deployment


Personnel may be posted to bases in their home country or overseas, according to operational need, and may be deployed from those bases on exercises or operations anywhere in the world. The length of postings and deployments are regulated. In the UK, for example, a soldier is expected to be on deployment for no more than six months in every 30 months.[31] These regulations may be waived at times of high operational tempo, however.



Benefits and perks of military service typically include adventurous training, subsidised accommodation, meals and travel, and a pension. Some armed forces also subsidise recruits' education before, during and/or after military service; examples are the Royal Military College Saint-Jean in Canada, the Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College in the UK, and the GI Bill arrangements in the US Conditions for participation normally apply, including a minimum period of formal military employment.



While on duty, military personnel are normally required to wear a military uniform, normally showing their name, rank, and military branch.

See also



  1. ^ "United Space Force tweet announcing name by which their personnel shall be known".
  2. ^ US Army (2013). "Support Army Recruiting". Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  3. ^ Franz-Stefan Gady. "India's Military to Allow Women in Combat Roles". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  4. ^ "UK armed forces biannual diversity statistics: 2017". 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  5. ^ Försvarsmakten. "Historik". Försvarsmakten (in Swedish). Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  6. ^ US Army (2013). "Support Army Recruiting". Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  7. ^ Engelbrecht, Leon (29 June 2011). "Fact file: SANDF regular force levels by race & gender: April 30, 2011 | defenceWeb". Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  8. ^ Fisher, Max (2013-01-25). "Map: Which countries allow women in front-line combat roles?". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  9. ^ a b Segal, D R; et al. (1998). "The all-volunteer force in the 1970s". Social Science Quarterly. 72 (2): 390–411. JSTOR 42863796.
  10. ^ Bachman, Jerald G.; Segal, David R.; Freedman-Doan, Peter; O'Malley, Patrick M. (2000). "Who chooses military service? Correlates of propensity and enlistment in the U.S. Armed Forces". Military Psychology. 12 (1): 1–30. doi:10.1207/s15327876mp1201_1. S2CID 143845150.
  11. ^ Brett, Rachel, and Irma Specht. Young Soldiers: Why They Choose to Fight. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004. ISBN 1-58826-261-8
  12. ^ "Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review: Children and conflict in a changing world". UNICEF. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  13. ^ Iversen, Amy C.; Fear, Nicola T.; Simonoff, Emily; Hull, Lisa; Horn, Oded; Greenberg, Neil; Hotopf, Matthew; Rona, Roberto; Wessely, Simon (2007-12-01). "Influence of childhood adversity on health among male UK military personnel". The British Journal of Psychiatry. 191 (6): 506–511. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.107.039818. ISSN 0007-1250. PMID 18055954.
  14. ^ Asoni, Andrea; Gilli, Andrea; Gilli, Mauro; Sanandaji, Tino (2020-01-30). "A mercenary army of the poor? Technological change and the demographic composition of the post-9/11 U.S. military". Journal of Strategic Studies. 45 (4): 568–614. doi:10.1080/01402390.2019.1692660. ISSN 0140-2390.
  15. ^ a b Gee, David; Taylor, Rachel (2016-11-01). "Is it Counterproductive to Enlist Minors into the Army?". The RUSI Journal. 161 (6): 36–48. doi:10.1080/03071847.2016.1265837. ISSN 0307-1847. S2CID 157986637.
  16. ^ a b McGurk; et al. (2006). 'Joining the ranks: The role of indoctrination in transforming civilians to service members', (in 'Military life: The psychology of serving in peace and combat [vol. 2]'). Westport: Praeger Security International. pp. 13–31. ISBN 978-0275983024.
  17. ^ a b c d Dave., Grossman (2009). On killing : the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society (Rev. ed.). New York: Little, Brown and Co. ISBN 9780316040938. OCLC 427757599.
  18. ^ a b c d e John., Hockey (1986). Squaddies : portrait of a subculture. Exeter, Devon: University of Exeter. ISBN 9780859892483. OCLC 25283124.
  19. ^ a b Bourne, Peter G. (1967-05-01). "Some Observations on the Psychosocial Phenomena Seen in Basic Training". Psychiatry. 30 (2): 187–196. doi:10.1080/00332747.1967.11023507. ISSN 0033-2747. PMID 27791700.
  20. ^ Faris, John H. (2016-09-16). "The Impact of Basic Combat Training: The Role of the Drill Sergeant in the All-Volunteer Army". Armed Forces & Society. 2 (1): 115–127. doi:10.1177/0095327x7500200108. S2CID 145213941.
  21. ^ Dornbusch, Sanford M. (1955-05-01). "The Military Academy as an Assimilating Institution". Social Forces. 33 (4): 316–321. doi:10.2307/2573000. ISSN 0037-7732. JSTOR 2573000.
  22. ^ Gee, D (2017-07-03). "The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment" (PDF). Veterans For Peace UK. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  23. ^ Blacker, Sam D.; Wilkinson, David M.; Bilzon, James L. J.; Rayson, Mark P. (March 2008). "Risk factors for training injuries among British Army recruits". Military Medicine. 173 (3): 278–286. doi:10.7205/milmed.173.3.278. ISSN 0026-4075. PMID 18419031.
  24. ^ Milgrom, C.; Finestone, A.; Shlamkovitch, N.; Rand, N.; Lev, B.; Simkin, A.; Wiener, M. (January 1994). "Youth is a risk factor for stress fracture. A study of 783 infantry recruits". The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. British Volume. 76 (1): 20–22. doi:10.1302/0301-620X.76B1.8300674. ISSN 0301-620X. PMID 8300674.
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  28. ^ a b "What is a Military Enlistment Contract?". Findlaw. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  29. ^ a b "The Army Terms of Service Regulations 2007". Retrieved 2017-12-09.
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  31. ^ Brigadier Nick Cavanagh (2014). "Witness statement of Brigadier Nick Cavanagh". Archived from the original on 2018-09-07. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  •   The dictionary definition of personnel at Wiktionary