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Difference Between Army vs Navy

United States Army vs Navy: Two branches of the United States Military

  • What sets them apart? 
  • What do they have in common? 
  • What can they do?

Let’s take a dive into what you need to know about the US Army and the US Navy. 

We’ll start this post with a brief introduction to both branches. Let’s kick it off with the army. 

Founded on June 14, 1775, the US Army is the biggest military branch of the United States. 

As the land-based armed forces branch, its five core competencies are prompt and sustained land combat, combined arms operations, special operations to set and sustain the theater for the joint force, and integrating national, multinational, and joint power on land.

It preserves peace and security and provides defense for the United States.

Now onto the Navy. 

Founded on October 13, 1775, the Navy is the third largest branch of the United States, behind the Army and the Air Force. It is the largest and most powerful navy in the entire world, possesses the world’s largest aircraft carrier fleet, and has over 290 deployable combat vessels.

It serves as the maritime-based branch of the armed forces, with its five enduring functions being sea control, power projection, deterrence, maritime security, and sea lift. 

All right, you just got a taste of what both of these elite branches are. 

We’ve got a lot to cover here today. We will compare their mission capabilities, special operations forces, ranks, base locations, entry-level training, requirements, and more. 

If you want to know more about what makes the Army and Navy different, this post is for you. Let’s get into it.

Difference Between Army and Navy: Mission Capabilities

In the army, you’re called a soldier; in the navy, you’re called a sailor. These two branches have had a friendly rivalry going on for years. You see it with the Army-Navy football game every year, how they refer to each other, and a bunch of other little jabs they take at each other on a regular basis.

But through all of that, these two branches are both something to be proud of serving in. 

Let’s go over their official missions.

For the Army, it is to fight and win our nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and the spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders. 

The Navy’s mission is to recruit, train, equip, and organize to deliver combat-ready naval forces to win conflicts and wars while maintaining security and deterrence through sustained forward presence. 

To put that simply, these two branches win wars and maintain defense by means of land, sea, and air, with the army having more of a land-based focus and the navy a maritime one. 

You’re probably thinking, “So what? I know the Army deals with a lot of land, and the Navy deals with water. Tell me something I don’t know.

Well, did you know the army has ships and boats? Yes, even in the army, you can find yourself around more watercraft than some sailors do. You can even be a diver in the army. The army has logistics, support vessels, landing crafts, and tugboats.

Army watercraft provide the critical link between the offshore arrival of combat power loaded aboard strategic sealift ships and placing that power ashore in a ready-to-fight configuration. 

Army watercraft are prepared to deploy at any time to any location. 

So we said the Navy mainly deals with the water, but plenty of sailors never set foot on a ship. 

Some examples of these are the United States Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Navy Seabees, which are the construction battalion force of the Navy and hospital corps, who can spend a lot of time with the Marines and hospitals or clinics. 

Your mileage may vary; some rates are more maritime-focused, but you can always find examples of people who spent their entire careers away from a ship.

As far as opportunities go, there will be some overlap in jobs such as combat medics to hospital corpsmen, cooks to culinary specialists, military police to masters in arms, and the like. However, in the army, you will have more combat opportunities than in the Navy. 

Remember, the army has an infantry, and the Navy does not. 

A large portion of army jobs have a more boots-on-the-ground mission than Navy ones do. This isn’t to say that some sailors don’t go boots on the ground, but depending on what path you take in either of these branches, you have a much better chance to do that in the army. 

Think about it. The army has tanks and strikers, whereas the Navy has submarines, aircraft carriers, and destroyers. Your everyday life and contribution to war fighting will be different in the sense that in the army, you’ll be in the field more often, eating MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) and food from field kitchens. 

And in the Navy, you’ll be performing duties on a ship floating out in the ocean, eating three hot meals a day. As you can probably tell, there’s a give and take here when you compare the lifestyle of these branches. 

On a final note, for this section, you also have the opportunity to serve in the reserves for these branches. For the army. You have the National Guard or the Army Reserves. And for the Navy, you have the Navy Reserves. Your experience may vary in these, and it will be a bit different than active duty life.

It’s a great opportunity to serve your country part-time. All right, we’ve only just started. Let’s continue with another cool part of these branches. 

They’re special operations entities.

Army vs Navy: Special Operations Forces

While the Army and Navy may differ a lot as a whole, special operations forces tend to blur those differences a lot more. 

Special Forces Operations (SOF) units have many of these same capabilities and missions, but each brings unique specialties and abilities to the table. Let’s go over the list of SOF entities in the US Army. 

First, they have their Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, Army Rangers, 160th Soar, Civil Affairs, Psyop, and for their Tier One units, the Creme de la Creme, Delta Force, Regimental Reconnaissance Company, and the Intelligence Support Activity. 

As you can see from that list, you have plenty of opportunities to serve in a Special Forces Operations (SOF) capacity in the army.

Now let’s go over the Navy Special Operations entities. There are the Seals and SWCCs, which are actually classified as Special Warfare, and then there are EODs, Navy Divers, Air Rescue swimmers, Navy SARCs, and for their Tier One unit, DEVGRU, also known as Seal Team Six. The Navy has plenty of opportunities to serve in SOF as well. 

Here’s the catch, though: Keep this in mind. If you’re debating joining either of these branches, remember what we said: the army as a whole is more boots-on-the-ground oriented, so even if you don’t serve in Special Operations Forces, you can still have duties in that ballpark.

The Navy as a whole is not much like its Special Operations, so if you are not careful, you may find yourself chipping paint off the side of a boat. Food for thought.

Now that you know the Special Operations Forces entities of both of these branches.

Differences Between Navy vs Army: Jobs and Ranks

Let’s get into the jobs and ranks of both of them.

In the army, they’re called MOSs, which is short for Military Occupational Specialty. In the Navy, they’re called rates or ratings. 

Another big difference between these two branches is how you are addressed in the army. If you’re an E5, you’re a Sergeant, no matter what your MOS is; in the Navy, if you’re an E5, you will be addressed as a BM2 if you’re a Boatswain or an HM2 if you’re a Corpsman. We’ll get more into their ranks in a second.

The army tends to have more specific MOS than the Navy. Here’s an example: If you’re a 68 whiskey combat medic in the army, that is your MOS. The Navy’s equivalent is a hospital corpsman. 

However, a 68 Kilo in the Army, which is a medical laboratory specialist, is its own MOS.

Whereas Corpsmen in the Navy can serve in that role without having a different job title. 

With those fun facts out of the way, let’s get into the jobs each of these branches has. 

The Army has 159 jobs, and the Navy has 93. Both of these branches have some of the same opportunities, such as divers, cooks, pilots, and intelligence. 

But there’s a lot of diversity, too.

Below are all of the Army’s and  Navy’s jobs. There’s a common saying in the Navy. Choose your rates.

Choose your fate. 

As you just saw, you have plenty to choose from in both of these branches. 

Now let’s get into the ranks of both of them. You’ll come to find out that the Navy likes to do things differently. 

These are the enlisted ranks of the army, and these are the enlisted ranks of the Navy.

As you can see, they differ a lot. 

Fun fact: the Navy E4s can be mistaken for a colonel by some in the army because it looks a lot like it.

At a quick glance, can you see what we’re talking about? Here are the warrant officer ranks for both branches: These are the service members who outrank enlisted but fall subordinate to all commissioned officers.

And here are the officer ranks of the Army and Navy. 

The Navy does things a bit differently with its titles. They, along with the Coast Guard, are the only branches that have different names for their officers. A captain might be O3 in the army, but a captain in the Navy is O6. That’s a big difference.

And on a last note for this section, the Army’s working uniform looks like this: They’re called OCPS, which stands for Operational Camouflage Pattern. 

The Navy’s main working uniform is the Navy Working Uniform Type 3, which looks as below.

Fun fact: Sailors can be embedded in army units and wear the same uniform as them, except using Navy ranks. 

You know what careers you can have in the Army and Navy and their ranks and uniforms. 

Let’s go over where you can be stationed in both of these branches.

Army vs Navy: Locations

We’re just going to stick with CONUS (Continental U.S.)  locations for the sake of this article. So where can you be stationed? We’ll show you. Now. There are a lot of places.

The green dots are Amy bases, and the blue dots are Navy bases. 

If you get into the finer details, there are plenty of opportunities to be stationed overseas as well as at other service branch bases. 

It should come as no surprise that you’ll naturally find yourself in more landlocked locations in the army as compared to by the water in the Navy. 

Now that you have a general idea of where soldiers and sailors are stationed, let’s go over the training you’ll go through to get into these branches.

Training Differences

We will go over the enlisted and officer sides of the house for the training to get into these branches. The enlisted entry-level training to get into these branches is called two different things.

 For the army, it’s called basic training; for the Navy, it’s called boot camp. 

The Army’s basic training is ten weeks long, and the Navy’s is eight weeks long.  

In the army, you will learn more about how to be a soldier, as well as combatives and basic skills. And in Navy boot camp, there will be a gigantic focus on learning how to be a sailor on a ship, even for those who will never touch one. 

Boot camp, or basic training, is only the first step in your career, though there’s a lot more training for you depending on your job choice.

The follow-on training you get in the army is called Advanced Individual Training, or AIT. This is the training you go to after Basic to learn the inner workings of your MOS. And there are also opportunities to get your AIT and basic training done all at once; it’s called One Station Unit Training, or OSUT.

In the Navy, your follow-on training is known as ‘A’ school. This is where you go to learn your rate. Further down your career, you may go to a ‘C’ school, which is a specialization within your rate. 

Now, for officers in both branches, you can commission through Officer Candidate School ROTC or your respective service academy. There are opportunities to direct commission up to O6, skipping the other ranks, but we won’t get into that.

The Army Service Academy is part of the US Military Academy, also known as West Point. And for the Navy. It’s the Naval Academy. To serve as an officer in these branches, 95% of the time, you will need a bachelor’s degree.

For all intents and purposes, you’ll need a four-year degree to serve as an officer in these branches, and depending on the career field, maybe even a specialized degree. 

For example, if you want to be a civil engineer corps officer in the Navy, you’ll need a degree in some type of engineering. But if you want to be a Navy SWO (Naval Surface Warfare Officer), you could get one in underwater basket weaving. 

Okay, now you know what training you’ll be expected to complete if you embark on either of these journeys. But do you even qualify to give it a shot? Let’s see.


We’re only going to go over the most generic requirements to get into these branches, as there are a multitude of different requirements depending on your career of choice. 

You’ll need a law degree if you want to be a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer. If you want to be a Navy Seal, more will be required of you to get that contract than if you wanted to join as a cook. 

But at the end of the day, there are basic requirements you have to meet to serve in the Army and Navy. Let’s go over them.

For the army, these are the enlisted requirements, and these are the officer requirements. 

See below to take a longer look. And for the Navy, these are the enlisted requirements, and these are the officer requirements. See below as well.

In this article, you’ve learned that the Army and Navy are similar yet quite different. Both of these branches contribute to the US’s safety, security, and warfighting efforts and offer limitless opportunities for those who take the initiative to serve their country. 

There’s a lot to the Army and Navy branches; I could write a lot more. With that said, if you made it this far in the article, which do you prefer, the Army or the Navy? Let us know in the comments section below.


George N.