Overview

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Welcome to the National Guard Family Program e-learning lesson, Military 101. With more than three million members, five different branches, and seven reserve components, the United States’ armed forces are complex, and at times, confusing, even to people who may have experience in one component. This lesson is designed to provide you with the tools, knowledge, and resources needed to maintain a basic understanding of military structure and terminology. At the end of this lesson you will be better equipped to communicate with military members and families using appropriate terminology and recognition, compare and contrast active duty and reserve components, describe the structure of military components within the Department of Defense including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, and recognize and describe the phases of the deployment cycle and the unique challenges faced by family members.

The military is a complex and dynamic organization.

The military can at times seem overwhelming to someone new to the armed forces or to someone who has limited exposure to only one component. Service members can sometimes appear to be speaking a language all their own–a language filled with acronyms, terminology, and seemingly subtle nuances that are, in actuality, very important. At the end of this lesson, you will be better prepared to:

  • Communicate with military members and families using appropriate terminology and recognition;
  • Compare and contrast active duty and reserve components;
  • Describe the structure of military components within the Department of Defense (DOD);
  • Recognize and describe the phases of the deployment cycle and the unique challenges faced by family members.

Access the dictionary of military terms.

A helpful resource to keep close-by during review of this lesson is the Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. At just under 700 pages long, the dictionary captures the definitions–from “abort” to “ZULU time”–that you might encounter when interacting with members of the military.  The dictionary also includes more than 100 pages of acronyms and abbreviations and their meanings. Visit the DoD Dictionary of Military Terms. website to search the dictionary or download a PDF version.